Midsummer Madness–Orioles Chasing First

Sports Saturday

Baltimore Orioles fans are in a state of disbelief: after having been bad for ever so long and finishing in the division cellar last year, their team is one game behind the division-leading Yankees and one game ahead of the Athletics for the wild card spot with 12 games to go. To get here, they have had to overcome a 10-game Yankee midsummer lead. This they have accomplished in spite of allowing more runs overall than they have scored. (They are setting records for the most games won by one run and the most games won in extra innings.) My son, an ardent Orioles fan who refuses to get his hopes up, keeps telling me he’s just happy that they’re finishing the season with a winning record.

The Orioles bring to mind the passage from Midsummer Night’s Dream where Hellena, chasing after Demetrius, comments on the reversal of roles. The mighty Yankees wouldn’t normally be worried about the lowly Orioles chasing them at this time in the season. In this topsy-turvy season, however, anything is possible:

Run when you will, the story shall be changed:
Apollo flies, and Daphne holds the chase;
The dove pursues the griffin; the mild hind
Makes speed to catch the tiger; bootless speed,
When cowardice pursues and valor flies.

When midsummer madness is in the ascendency, conventional wisdom longer applies. Fairy queens (let’s say that Titania symbolizes playoff victories) make love with lowly ass-headed men. Helena discovers that she is beloved by both Demetrius and Lysander (fair-weather fans?). Puck rules.

I realize it sounds like madness to think that the Orioles can make the playoffs, and the level-headed Theseus has something to say on the score of madness. What he says of the lunatic, the lover, and the poet could also be said of the baseball fan:

[They] have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.

Unfortunately, Theseus, along with Oberon, restore order at the end of the play. Hierarchy is reestablished, people are reunited with their proper mates, and Bottom awakes all alone from his “rare dream.” Perhaps Theseus is one of those experts who tell us that the better team usually wins in the end while informing us that the Yankees are the better team.  Perhaps Theseus is the reality principle.

Have we but slumbered here? Are these vision only a “weak and idle theme/No more yielding than a dream”? If so I say, with Coleridge’s ancient mariner, “O let me be awake, my God! Or let me sleep alway.”

And if nothing comes of it all, at least we will have had a beautiful midsummer night’s dream to remember. Bottom calls his dream “Bottom’s dream” and says that he will recite it for the duke. Given how the Orioles finished last season, we will call ours “from Bottom to Top Dream.”

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