It seems appropriate that my sports-writing gig should end now, with the baseball season concluded. This is the sports-time of year when I find it hard to get too excited about much
of anything. Sure, I like wasting a Sunday afternoon via football as much as any other red-blooded American. (Although I’m still waiting lab results to prove that my blood is, in fact, red.) I now look forward to making picks and watching them get completely destroyed. I enjoy watching grown men tights try to kill one another for several hours. I even root for the Jets, an act of masochism usually not undertaken by the casual fan.
But I simply don’t live for football the way I do for baseball. I’m under no illusions that one game is superior to the other. It’s simply an end result of growing up in a Baseball-Centric Metropolitan Area, in a Baseball-Centric Family. In my house, football was enjoyed, but baseball was worshipped. If I’d grown up in, say, Alabama, I have a feeling I might feel differently. But I didn’t, and I don’t.
The NBA season is starting tonight, and it would not be possible for me to care less. I followed the league whilst getting paid to follow sports in general, but it should have been obvious to any casual reader that my heart wasn’t exactly in the enterprise. From November to February, I’d pay attention as much I could stand and try to choke out a basketball-related post at least once a day. But I found it as interesting as being six years old and visiting an ancient relative without a TV and nothing to read but old Reader’s Digests.
Maybe if this was twenty years ago, and we had an NBA full of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and Hakeem Olajuwon and Isiah Thomas and so on and so on, then I might feel different. But we don’t, and I don’t. There simply is no one star, or one Fantastic Team, who screams out at that they deserve attention and reverence for their skills.
And I’ve been trying to get into hockey for many years. Every season, I declare THIS IS IT! THIS IS MY HOCKEY YEAR! As if it’s some New Year’s resolution I’ve made, like trying to lose weight or take that pottery class I keep talking about.* And if I’m at home and there’s not a damn thing on and through some miracle I have nothing else to do, I can watch a hockey game–for like 5 minutes.
I have friends who are absolute die-hard hockey fans, and I think that really is the only kind of hockey fan that there is. Either you’re absolutely out of your skull over hockey, or you don’t particularly care for it. And while I do enjoy watching it every now and then, I’ve
come to the conclusion that I’m just never going to be one of those Blood Thirsty Monstro-Fans.
And then there’s the rest. I can watch college football or basketball if it’s a good matchup. But the NCAA is so exploitive in the way it’s run–backing up dump trucks full of money to schools and coaches and administrators, but they’ll roast a kid if he dares to try and make any dough before he blows out his knee on behalf of the alma mater–that it really turns me off. Part of me likes watching Premier League soccer, but another part of me never feels quite right enjoying it, like I’m trying way too hard to be elitist and English-y. Like, Madonna-hard (even though, spiritually speaking, the vast majority of English soccer fans have more in common with your average American Bubba than an Oxbridge grad). Plus, I’m always reminded of my grandfather, who (supposedly) refused to play for a British team, and it makes me feel like I’m a traitor by merely rooting for Tottenham**.
So ultimately, I’m left counting down the minutes until Pitchers And Catchers. The Mets have already announced they’re taking payments on ticket plans for next year, and I ponder what plan to opt for in 2007. In fact, I have credit coming to me for two unused tickets to Game 4 of the World Series (/shaking fist at Tony LaRussa in my mind). I check the news for the latest ridiculous trade/free agent rumors. I watch games from this season still nestled on in the bowels of my DVR–just a a few days ago, I rewatched Opening Day, feeling as chilled as did that day. The difference is, on Opening Day, I knew it would get warmer soon. I can not say that now.
My last post on Scratchbomb before The Long Drought was a chronicle of the Mets’ first ever Workout Day, when they let fans into the stadium to watch the teams workout, one day before Opening Day. I remember that day so distinctly now, watching the teams run onto the field, stretch their ligaments, take swings in the cage. The Wife and I thought it was just the two of us, but we were wrong. She was pregnant, though we didn’t know it yet.
After the “workout”, we rode around Flushing desperately looking for parking so we could go to a Chinese place we’d heard good things about. To pass the time, The Wife called up Steve Somers on WFAN and told him how good Carlos Delgado looked at the plate. We eventually gave up and wound up at a Thai place in Woodside that we’d wind up returning to several times over the course of the season. In a few months, we’d be living only blocks away, something else we couldn’t have known at the time.
When Opening Day rolls around next year, I’ll be a father. I have visions of bringing The Tyke to the big day, but she’ll still be too little, and the weather too nasty, to even think of subjecting her to several hours outside. Not to mention that there’s zero chance she could appreciate the experience, or remember it one day.
My impatience to take The Tyke to a game is really an impatience for her to be born. And for the new season to be here. Baseball is unique among the sports in that, when it’s in season, it’s played every day. Every single day. There will be a million ups and downs, things you could never foresee occurring. In October, April will seem a million years ago at times, just yesterday at others. And then one day, it’s all over, and you have to get on without it–at a time of year with short days a long nights, truly in need of some daily distractions.
Bart Giamatti said it best:
“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”
* I have never, ever talked about taking a pottery class.
** For the record, I picked Tottenham as my team before Bill Simmons did. I have no proof of this, so you’ll have to take my word for it.