One of the beautiful and useful aspects of sports is that they teach us something about “the zone” – that place where we concentrate, think piercingly, aren’t so conscious of time, do better. Roy “Doc” Halladay, the Phillies pitcher who tonight entered the history books by throwing a no-hitter in the post-season opener, was clearly in the zone. His teammates, including the shrewd catcher Carlos Ruiz, were likely there too. Shane Victorino, the Phillies centerfielder, who got a key hit in the game, was surely in the zone. Asked by a Phillies sportscaster after the game when it occurred to him that Halladay was on his way to a no-hitter, Victorino replied that he really hadn’t thought about it. He was concentrating on the game, staying loose, ready. He added that it wasn’t until he realized Halladay had two strikes on the last batter in the ninth that he knew something special was in the making. The same question – when did you think you were on the verge of making history - was posed to Halladay himself. He seemed a little surprised. “After the game,” he said.
When athletes are talking about what they’re thinking or feeling when they’re out on the field, it’s worth listening. They can tell us about being in the zone. On this day, the start of the playoff season, now perhaps lastingly dubbed “Doctober” by Phillies fans in honor of Halladay, Shane Victorino and Roy Halladay have told us something about this heightened level of consciousness: when you’re in the game and in the zone, you’re in the game, and that’s all there is.