Endings, Both Good and Bad

Sometimes, timing just sucks. Take this week for example. Monday was the series finale of How I Met Your Mother, a great sitcom about not just a man meeting the woman he marries, but a great group of friends. How do I know this? Well, C and I were about halfway through season 6 on Netflix when the finale hit the airwaves.

You know how difficult it is to avoid spoilers in today's social media-overrun world. Yeah, you know where this is going. I know a lot of people liked what happened, and a lot of others didn't. I'd be in the latter category.

I will give a caveat that I did not actually watch the season finale, and I haven't watched any of season 7, 8, or 9 either. But I will say that some of the creative decisions weren't bad, necessarily, it was more a question of execution.

If you're going to pull those kind of plot and character punches, then you've got to have development to back them up. I don't think they had that, not after 9 seasons. I think a braver, tougher choice for the producers would have been to potentially revisit their original ending and revise it to fit a show that ran seven seasons longer than they really expected it would.

The HIMYM finale also got me thinking about other finales, good and bad. My favorite show for a long time (with periods of utter loathing thrown in--it's primary dependability was its inconsistency) was Gossip Girl, which ended last year after six seasons.

Listening to fans who loved Barney and Robin together this week made me all the more grateful that when GG did end, it ended in a way that I wanted. Sometimes we see the ending we want as inevitable, because so many other things in our lives are tailored to fit our desires. But television shows?What we want out of them only matters to us, not to the producers, or the directors, or the writers.

I was sad to see GG end, but this week reminded me of just how lucky I was--to get the ending I wanted (well, mostly. That Dan revelation is still ridiculous).

For those of you who loved Chuck and Blair and their sometimes insane, but always epic love story, this gorgeous fan video I found last night is for you.

And for those of you who are like, who gives a rat's ass about Chuck and Blair and Gossip Girl (don't lie, you are totally out there), another excerpt from The Lucky Charm, in honor of Major League Baseball's Opening Day.

Opening Day was pretty much the greatest day of the entire season, Jack thought as he took the dugout steps and gazed around at the bustling field, finally active for the first time after a long winter.  Someday, when hell froze over and pigs flew and the Pioneers actually made the playoffs, the beginning, when anything was still possible, wouldn’t be the highlight of his year anymore.

Maybe then he’d finally be able to look his twelve year old self in the eye. After the way last year ended, they hadn’t really been on speaking terms. It hadn’t mattered that he’d done everything he personally could to reverse the Pioneers’ losing streak, he still blamed himself.

After all, it was a little hard to blame Foxy when the guy was already a wreck.

“Best day of the year,” Noah said, stretching out his lanky form, echoed as Jack dropped to the outfield grass next to him. For Portland, it was a pretty nice day for April, cloudy with a few tantalizing hints of sun, with none of the cliché torrential downpours that the city was known for in the spring.

Jack leaned back and squinted as one of the clouds parted and sun dappled the flawlessly maintained swath of green grass. “Only one day that’s better.”

Foxy shook his head ruefully. “Man, you care too much. Just gotta take the cash and the chance to play and let the rest go."

And that was precisely the philosophy that had landed Noah Fox in Portland. He’d played for the Diamondbacks in Arizona for the length of his rookie contract, then had turned three good years into a lucrative free agent contract for the Pioneers, catching the team at a point when they’d needed to build some interest from the home crowd. Once, Jack had asked why he’d chosen Portland, and for Foxy, it had been totally cut and dry—they’d been the team to offer the best deal.

Maybe Foxy was right. Maybe he did care too much about winning. Some days, Jack thought he might even be willing to pay the team, if only the Pioneers could get out of their own damn way and figure out how to be the last guy standing.

“It’s abnormal how you don’t care about winning.”

Foxy just shrugged. “It’s not like I like losing. If anyone’s abnormal it’s you.” He glanced down the first baseline, and Jack didn’t even have to look in that direction to see what had caught Foxy’s eye.

Izzy, her long dark hair tousled from the breeze, wearing one of those ridiculously hot pencil skirts she tended to favor making her legs look miles long. Jack looked down at the turf and swore under his breath.

“I told you,” he nearly growled. “She turned me down flat.”

Sighing, Foxy switched from his right to his left side, curling his body across one leg. “Of course she did.  You only asked her once.”

He asked the question before he could stop himself. “How many times did Tabitha make you ask?”

There was a long silence.

“A lot,” Noah finally said. “I asked her a lot. Too many times to count. And even the way it ended, it was almost worth it.”

“Almost,” Jack retorted sardonically.

“You know, while they technically aren’t forbidden to date players, it’s really discouraged. I had to convince Tabitha I was worth breaking the unwritten rule.”

Jack shifted and let his head hit the turf, staring up at the sky. “So you think I should ask her out again.”

“Depends on how much you like her. If you’re going to moon after her all season like a pimply teenage boy, then for your sake and mine, you’d better.” Foxy hoisted himself to his feet and walked over to Finn, the right fielder, who’d just made his way onto the field for his own warmup.

Jack stared at the sky as the clouds shifted above him. He wanted to forget Izzy, wanted to pretend that since he’d asked and she’d said no, they owed each other nothing. Not even a stray thought when they passed each other in a random hallway in some random city. But he knew himself better than that.

The publication date for The Lucky Charm is April 30, 2014.

Baseball in October

October is one of my favorite times of year and not because of apple recipes or carving pumpkins.  For me, October is all about playoff baseball.  Baseball in the summer is always great--I love hanging out in the stands in the middle of a hot day, a cold beer in one hand and a hot dog in the other.  But October baseball is a completely different breed. October baseball is win-or-go-home, tense-pit-in-the-bottom-of-your-stomach, all-out-reach-for-eternal-glory, wrapped up in a cold snap package.

The heroes of October are players that their fan bases remember forever.  David Freese was unknown in September, but now he's considered a hero by the people of St. Louis.

As a fanatic of Red Sox Nation, my October squeeze is Curt Schilling of Bloody Sock fame.  He pitched with a torn tendon sheath literally stitched together on his ankle.  His postseason pitching performance is one of the grittiest, toughest, most amazing of all time.  How he was able to dig deep and find a way to make the pitches he needed to bring the Red Sox a win when they needed it most.

Hopefully this year the Red Sox won't need another Curt Schilling-like performance--I don't want to consider the possibility that the Sox could struggle enough to need those kind of heroics, but the truth is, those heroics are what make October baseball so special.

Maybe we'll see Jon Lester return to 2010 form and record a season-high number of strikeouts.  Maybe we'll see one-hit baseball from Clay Buccholz.  Personally, I want to see David Ortiz smack a homer in a late inning to give the Sox the lead.  David, or Big Papi as he's known to the Fenway faithful, has the kind of dramatic flair that, for me, defines October.

So for the next few weeks, I'll be wrapped up in a snuggie, on my couch, fists clenched tight, as my team fights to be the last one standing.  Maybe they'll win, maybe they won't.  But the good news is that whatever happens, however the games shake out, you're guaranteed more than one unforgettable moment.

Those unforgettable moments are what made me want to write a novel about baseball, and when I created Jack Bennett, the scrappy, talented, but always underdog player, October made me want to create some of those moments for him.

P.S. When I wrote this two weeks ago, I didn't know that I'd be predicting an actual event.  But I did.

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Gives me goosebumps, even days later.