Members of the Baltimore Orioles swarm Nolan Reimold after he scored the winning run to defeat the Boston Red Sox 4-3 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 28, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Schadenfreude. It's a German word that means "to take pleasure in the suffering of others." Let me just copy and paste a 1,000-word essay on the definition of the word so we can be on the same page:
Now, you see the way your cheeks are jutting out, and how your mouth is curving in an upward arc? This is because you're happy. That's schadenfreude.
So if the internet were a toilet -- and it's not not a toilet -- that wet feeling around your ankles would be liquid schadenfreude flowing up and over the bowl. We hope. Even though the Atlanta Braves have been good for a few decades, and success always creates jealousy, most of the schadenfreude is being directed toward the Boston Red Sox. This is probably because of the "Red Sox Perception Theorem," which posits:
No one likes the Red Sox
The 2011 Red Sox could accomplish a feat that has never been done. They could unseat the 1927 Yankees as the greatest major league team of all time. That would be something to celebrate.
So around the internet, there was pleasure to be had with the Red Sox not making the playoffs. As the collapse became more and more possible, there existed the potential for great, once-in-a-lifetime schadenfreude.
Now that we've set up what schadenfreude is, let's show what it isn't. Here are three pictures. The first two are from Wednesday night, and the third is from the Orioles' celebration after the 1983 World Series. These might be the happiest collections of Orioles players in history.
Now using science!, we can determine which group was happier.
Wednesday night, the Orioles were acting like they won the World Series. Robert Andino was greeted at home plate like he was Bill Mazeroski riding on Joe Carter's shoulders. At no point did they all stop to think, wait, we're the Orioles. There was too much mirth and merriment for anyone to think rationally.
But was it schadenfreude? Was the celebration one that couldn't exist if the Red Sox weren't suffering at the same moment?
I'm going to say no. I'm guessing that was the celebration of a team that spent six months hearing what they couldn't do. Heck, it started earlier than that. From the moment Vladimir Guerrero signed with the Orioles, he was on a punch line of a team. When Mark Reynolds was traded away by the Diamondbacks, he went to a hopeless team that was constantly reminded of just how hopeless they were. The Orioles were in the AL East, where there are only two teams that matter.
It has to be hard to be the best baseball player at every level growing up, only to reach a level and a team where suddenly you're not the best, and neither is the guy on either side of you. Every spring, the Orioles are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs with their first loss in the Grapefruit League.
It's not that they defeated the Boston Red Sox, the team with the stereotypically obnoxious fans who are always on ESPN and just love to make the drive south to Baltimore when their Sox are in town. It's that they defeated the Boston Red Sox, heavy favorites. This was their chance to not be overlooked as they always are for just about every game in every season. In their final ten games, the Red Sox needed to win three games out of seven total against the Orioles to make the playoffs. It was a formality, even considering how poorly as the Red Sox were playing in September, because the Orioles were still the Orioles.
Until they weren't.
And that's why they were celebrating as if they had won something more than a meaningless game. They had. After months, years, decades of not mattering, the Orioles mattered. That's the kind of thing that will make players mob their teammates at home plate. It was an affirmation of something that's hard to remember at the end of a 162-game grind. The Orioles could be proud of how they played, even if just for a couple of series against a much better team.
It also didn't hurt that it was the Red Sox who got hurt in the whole thing. Maybe there was just a pinch of schadenfreude in there too. Because, hey, Red Sox.