In my experience, the folks who say, “True love should be easy,” tend to be rom-com characters and high school girls. Everyone else should know better, which is why it’s embarrassing to admit I recently got suckered into that kind of thinking.
My affair with baseball was all giggling-and-makeouts for approximately the first ten games. Now, months later, I’m at a crossroads: I can break it off, or talk to a doctor about lowering my blood pressure.
Until this season, my baseball education was comprised of three Dodgers games, three Giants games, two Cubs games and two games I can’t recall. (Probably the Cleveland Spiders.) I’d heard baseball was sexy, but was too busy messing around with hockey and football to care.
Then one day last fall, I watched a game with my aunt. This famously well-mannered sixty year-old woman was shouting at her television. It was delightful. Soon I was looking up stat acronyms, downloading AtBat Lite on my phone and soaking up information wherever I could find it.
Right at the outset of Ken Burns’ “The Tenth Inning,” Keith Olbermann discusses how easy it is to fall for baseball: “…You come in at the start of the game, or the start of the season, or the start of your own fandom — you feel as if you are joining the river midstream and all that has gone before you can enjoy as if you were there. It’s as simple as that.”
Joining baseball — dating it casually, taking it home for a night — is easy. But being a proper fan? Taking time off work because the team isn’t well and needs you? Finding a way to quiet the inner rage when the pitcher won’t take out the garbage at bat? Paying good money for dinner (even if it is nachos) only to discover at the end of the evening the team refuses to put out?
No, Keith Olbermann, loving baseball is painful.
In the beginning, it was simple: “Stadium food! Look how far my stomach sticks out after three giant beers! Lookit those people! I am people-watching you people! It’s sunny! This is a dang dee-light!”
Then I started paying attention to the actual game and processed as such: “That ball was thrown fast. That man didn’t catch it. My friends are angry now. I think we’re sitting in the Justin Bieber section of the stadium. Oh, we lost. Huhn.”
But time goes by and you learn things about the one you love. He figures out you’ve only got two black lace thongs but 57 pairs of white Mickey Mouse fullback panties with the elastic stretched out. You realize he’s one of those guys who likes to call his mom when he’s drunk. And I realized that just because I really wanted them to win, it didn’t mean my team actually would.
But my love turned ugly last week. I listened to a game on the radio and for the first time, I pictured everything. I saw the scoreboard, I knew the count, I knew which player was where, and what it all meant. I was so proud. And then I was screaming. “WHY WON’T YOU PULL THAT GODDAMNED PITCHER?! I LOVE HIM SO MUCH! YOU ARE KILLING ME!”
Oh, Baseball. I wish I knew how to quit you.