Scott Erickson is afraid of many things. It is 1994, the age of having a surplus of hair and of wearing one’s cap backwards, and Scott Erickson can do this. He has spent hours in front of the mirror, perfecting the exact level of carefree indifference he wishes to project upon the world. But there will be a day when it is no longer acceptable to wear one’s cap backward, and when one’s hair becomes something one must attend to. Scott Erickson fears for that day.
Scott Erickson is afraid of failure, but he is more afraid of success. It is May 3, and in his previous start he has just pitched the first no-hitter in Metrodome history. He knows that he can never achieve those heights again, that he has only added a new layer of fraudulence to the fiction that is his life. Expectations swell. Children will ask for strikeouts to cure their cancer. Men will want to talk to him in hotel lobbies. Women will expect a few extra seconds of sexual pleasure.
Scott Erickson is afraid that when it comes down to it, our whole lives are really just small sample size.
Scott Erickson is afraid of John Jaha, and particularly John Jaha’s oversized forearms. He’s afraid Jaha knows exactly what’s coming. After all, it’s not as though his curve is sharp today, and his changeup may as well be blinking, it’s so obvious. And when all you have is a 90 mph fastball, what can you do? Despite his fear, Scott Erickson is a little curious about how poorly this will end. It’s like watching a car accident and he’s both cars at once. Somehow.
Scott Erickson is afraid because they just found out Michael Bolton has plagiarized the Isley Bros. If he can’t trust Michael Bolton, if even those eyes mask deceit, where can he turn? What if Richard Marx runs out of hits? What if he can never get “All That She Wants” by Ace of Base out of his head? What will that do to his pitching?
Scott Erickson is afraid of quicksand. It’s May 3, 1994, and you’d think all the quicksand would be gone by now, paved over to make frozen yogurt shops, but it’s still around somewhere, and once you step in, that’s it. But the worst part is the waiting, the inevitability. A little like his own career, with his ERA rising slowly, like the mud climbing up over his head. There’s nothing to be done except watch silently; struggling only makes it worse.
Scott Erickson is afraid because he has spent so much time worrying during his delivery, he’s forgotten which pitch Matt Walbeck called for.
Scott Erickson is afraid that no one will truly understand him. Is that selfish to think? It’s bad enough that Scott Erickson can never truly exemplify baseball, and that by playing it he tarnishes its ideal form, in some way. It’s even worse to think that baseball does the same to Scott Erickson, transforms him into a two-dimensional figure on a television screen, in a postgame interview, on a bus advertisement. And what if he is nothing more? What if Scott Erickson is meant for nothing more than to eat innings and fill up the box scores of USA Today inserts?
It is May 3, 1994, and Scott Erickson is afraid. He can barely force himself to watch his own pitches reach the plate. No good can come of them. And each one, each day, gets a little bit slower and a little more hittable, and he grows a little older and inches a little closer to death.
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