Angels Get Yanked From Playoffs, Fans Suffer 5 Stages of Sports Grief


Well, it’s finally over.

After 171 grueling regular and postseason games, after all of the ups and downs, tragedies and triumphs, the Los Angels Angels of Anaheim are getting a preemptive jump on the offseason.

It’s not the Angels’ fault, per say. I cringe to even think it, but though the differences were minor, the New York Yankees were simply the better team, throughout both the regular season and the American League Championship Series.

The starting pitching was fairly evenly matched, but they featured a dominant lefty in CC Sabathia whom the Angels couldn’t touch, while we countered with a sure-fire klutz in Scott Kazmir.

Seriously now, did have one solid inning this postseason?

The Yankees’ bullpen was a bit shaky in the series, but the great Mariano Rivera picked Angels batters apart and helped bolster their creaky relief core.

Meanwhile, the Angels chose to stick with Brian Fuentes, a closer who looked like his mission was actually to blow every save he was handed this year, and just failed 48 times.

More than anything though, the difference between these two teams was the power. Up and down the Yankees’ lineup, guys were belting home runs with ease.

On our side of the dish, it was a struggle just to get the ball out of the infield for everyone who wasn’t named Jeff Mathis.

Now, some fans have taken the Angels to task for their lack of offense and surprising number of defensive miscues, blaming them for the series loss instead of congratulating the hated Yankees.

It’s a reasonable argument, no doubt. The Yanks only mustered four runs in each of the first three games, two of which we had the lead in, but only once did we walk away with a “W.”

The Angels’ glove-related gaffs certainly played their part in this series, but I’m not so sure these fans are in their right minds.

No, I’m not saying they’re crazy, just in mourning.

Sometimes it’s difficult to see the wood for the trees, just as it’s difficult to accept the truth about your team when you’re suffering through “The Five Stages of Sports Grief.”

Allow me to explain:


The first and most striking stage, symptoms of shock generally start to show just as the final seconds are ticking off that vile game clock. Or, if you’re a baseball fan, as the final out is being cradled in your enemy’s glove.

We sit slack-jawed and dumb-founded, staring stupidly at our televisions as if we’re searching for some unseen flag or penalty, some official ruling that would force the to game continue in our favor.

While this is generally the shortest stage, beginning just before the end of the game and clearing up by  the time the post-game interviews are over, Angels fans had a much more prolonged experience.

For us, shock symptoms set in the moment Chone Figgins and Erick Aybar forgot how to catch a pop-up.

That frightening blunder, more common to elementary school playgrounds than professional ballparks, allowed a run to score in the first inning of Game One and set the tone for the defense.

Throughout the rest of the series, we watched in horrified amazement as Maicer Izturis threw a ball into centerfield, Mike Napoli bounced a throw into second base on a pitch-out, and Kazmir lobbed an easy out over the first baseman’s head. Even Torii Hunter made his first error as an Angel.

Our shock lasted far too long, but once it mercifully ended, it was immediately followed by…


That’s right, anger! What else?!

That raging, boiling, lava-fueled hatred that you just can’t hold in any longer so you start blaming everyone in sight including your dog who had to get up and go outside during the eleventh inning of Game Two so you weren’t there to see Fuentes give up that bomb to A-Rod because if you had been in your seat the mojo wouldn’t have shifted and we could have won the game…feeling.

I…sense I’ve gone too far.

So I’ll reel it back a little, as I imagine many Angel fans have done over the last few days. That self-righteous bitter taste has started to fade from our mouths and we no longer want to kill the athletic trainer for not wearing a rally cap at the end of Game Six.

In fact, we feel so bad for wanting to kill…well, anybody, that when the anger subsides, all we’re left with is…


Aside from the final stage (which we’ll get to in a second, so don’t read ahead!), depression can be the longest and most difficult stage, and is often accompanied by a sense of helpless confusion.

Like a drunk stumbling through some lost and forbidden alleyway, we find ourselves wondering aloud, “What’s this? How did I get here? It can’t be…”

It seems like the Angels just went through the offseason.

We just finished losing out on the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes, and watched both Francisco Rodriguez and Garret Anderson trudge off to the murky waters of the National League.

Now we have to go through it all again. More free-agent messes, more filling holes on the roster, more losing longtime Angels we may never see in the Big A again.

How can we be back here so soon? Why is this happening to us?

“Well,” we tell ourselves, “it’s not happening ‘us.’ It’s happening to all of us. Unless your team wins the World Series or Super Bowl every single year, you’re going to have to deal with the letdown of not reaching that ultimate goal.

“Every fan goes through these hard times at some point and survives. Just look at Cubs fans!”

Eventually, with the help of loved ones, counselors, and our faithful dog who forgives us for turning on him, we get through it.

And with that acceptance comes…


This is where the healing truly begins.

Suddenly, we stop blaming random pets, mystic forces, or inanimate objects for our team’s failure and instead focus on all of the good that came out of the season.

Any Angels fan who can’t step back and recognize what a tremendous season they had is a fool.

Just look at what this team had to overcome: replacing Teixeira with an unproven rookie at first base, losing Ervin Santana and John Lackey for the first month and a half of the season, the Nick Adenhart tragedy, losing Vladimir Guerrero for a month, a bullpen that couldn’t hold a lead against little leaguers, losing Guerrero (again) and Torii Hunter for 30+ days in the middle of the season, and having to face the Boston Red Sox in the first round of the playoffs for a third consecutive season.

When you really take it all in, that was quite the year.

And the Angels still won a third straight division title and, even better, we swept the stinkin’ Red Sox right out of the postseason.

Alright, we may not have played up to our abilities in the ALCS, but like I said, the Yankees were clearly the better team and we have to give them their due.

That said, there’s still one more stage of grief that all fans pass through, and that’s…


The shock has cleared up, the anger has subsided, the depression has itself been depressed, and we certainly recognize both our faults and our opponents’ strengths.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t still hate them.

I don’t know about you good folks, but I’ll be rooting vehemently for the Philadelphia Phillies in this Word Series, and it’s got nothing to do with my love for the city of brotherly love.

I have no more connection to the Phightin’ Phils than I do my can opener, but any enemy of the Yankees is a friend of mine.

So it was with great glee that I watched the Phillies silence those Bronx bums in Game One. I can only hope Pedro Martinez picks up where he left off with Red Sox and dominates New York again tonight.

As I said, I’ve accepted that the Yankees are better than the Angels this year, and I am so proud of my boys for getting as far as they did and pushing the ALCS to a hard-fought Game 6.

This isn’t about that bitter taste I got after we lost. It’s about pure, unadulterated fandom.

In terms of sports fanatics (the root word of “fan”), if the Angels are good, the Yankees must inherently be evil.

And so Angels fans look on, comforted by our recognition, but warmed by our fiery hatred.

Go Phils!