I’m often asked what the “best” game I’ve ever been to was, and I’m terrible at answering the question, because there is little about fandom that holds up under the microscope of analytics. The Villanova-UNC title game was great; so was Game 7 of the 2016 World Series; so was Super Bowl LI. But in those games, I was a dispassionate observer. (All right, maybe I was rooting for the Indians.) It can’t truly be the greatest game I’ve ever attended if what the outcome was didn’t make any difference to me. What fun is that?
So, thus, the best game I’ve ever been to, to you, a dispassionate observer, probably seemed like a terrible one. It was Game Five of the 2006 World Series between the Detroit Tigers and my St. Louis Cardinals. In any impartial accounting, it was a terrible game. It was a poorly played series, more famous for the odd factoid that Tigers pitchers made errors in every game of the series than anything positive that happened on the field. It was cold, rainy and miserable, with one game rained out and the Game Five wracked with a completely miserable freezing rain all evening. Albert Pujols, the one likely Hall of Famer in the series, hit .200 and looked terrible. That Cardinals team had won only 83 regular season games. It was not an inspiring series.
But for me, it was beautiful. It was perfect. The Cardinals had not won the World Series since 1982, when I was seven years old, and yet there I was, on that frigid October night, with my parents, losing my mind. When your team wins the World Series, no context to the evening matters. For one otherwise miserable, punishingly cold night, I watched my team win the World Series, with my family, screaming and hugging and screaming some more. You might not think that was a great game. But I have thought about it every single day since. And I am certain I always will.