Sunday, June 8, 2014

Take Me Out to the Ballgame; or, because baseball is fun, dammit

A couple of years ago, I was talking to a friend about baseball and he was talking about how he stopped watching because his team wasn't very good. I said, "I'd rather watch the Yankees lose, than not watch them at all." To which he said that I must be a pretty big Yankees' fan. And yes, that is true; but more than that I am a baseball fan. It is a great, great game and it is fun. Fun to watch: win or lose. There is something inherently fun about the challenge of baseball. It is, no matter what else it can become, a game. And the fun is in the playing.

I was reminded of that conversation yesterday, as I watched my beloved New York Yankees lose yet another game. My Yankees are mired in a bit of a slump. Coming off of a mediocre year in which they missed the playoffs for only the second time in 20 years they are hovering at .500 which means that they are losing as often as they win. As a team, the play is anything but sparkling, they are making errors (actual, and mental), their relief pitching is giving away runs, and their bats seem to have nothing but holes in them. And the toughest to take is that my hero, the iconic Derek Jeter--who is playing in his final year (SOB)--is batting .260 and well, just isn't the player he used to be, most of the time. It can be a little painful to watch.

Now, before, I sound like a spoiled Yankees' fan with no ability to reflect on my own experiences, I know, the Yankees don't lose a lot of games. I know that as a fan I have little to complain about. Historically, I am a fan of the most successful team in MLB history with a record 27 World Series championships, the latest one in 2010. In the last 20 years the Yankees have only missed the playoffs twice (in 2006 and last year in 2013). Even, right now, when they are playing terrible, they are still a play-off contender. Some would say this makes me spoiled, and maybe it does, but I would say that it makes me unaccustomed to dealing with mediocrity. So, watching them lose is, well, not a common thing. I know that for other fans of other teams this discussion may feel like salt in a wound. Oh poor Yankees haven't won a World Series in 4 whole years... and they would be right. Oh poor Yankees are still in the playoff hunt. Oh poor Yankees with all their all-stars. But. But. If you are used to success then any failure is that much harder to deal with.

As I write this, I am watching the Yankees play the Kansas City Royals. Literally, just seconds ago the Yankees had the bases loaded with two outs and Derek Jeter was batting. I stopped writing to watch. I found myself holding my breath and praying--perhaps a bit more fervently than I am comfortable with--to the baseball gods that MY Derek Jeter--the iconic Jeter. The lifetime .316 Jeter. The one who is guaranteed admittance into the hall of fame. The one who is number 8 all-time in hits. Captain Clutch with a flair for the dramatic.--would make an appearance. I held my breath hoping... but, no. Instead, in a moment reminiscent of Mighty Casey, he struck out.  And it is painful. It actually physically hurt a little. (There may have been something in my eye for a second). That. That is new for me. So. Would I rather watch that, than nothing?

Yesterday the Dodgers lost, too. I have some family members who are fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Right now they are miserable. Their dreaded rivals the San Francisco Giants have won two World Series Championships in the past four years and they are currently the best team in baseball. The Dodgers. Well, they aren't. They are in second or third place and if the playoffs were today they would be a Wild Card team. Compared to some fan-bases another spoiled team. But, my brother does nothing but moan. He literally curses and bemoans these terrible, terrible Dodgers. Yesterday, after they lost in a walk-off the Colorado Rockies he said he had HAD it. He wasn't going to watch again until September.

My best friend is a Cubs fan. It is something that I have to acknowledge that I do not really understand. I don't have any idea what it is like to watch a baseball team that has not won a World Series in my entire life, in nearly three of my entire lifetimes combined. I can't conceive of what it like to watch a team that is mathematically eliminated from the playoffs for whole chunks of the baseball season. I can't even *get* it. But, what I do get is that it is painful for her. She sometimes can't watch. Doesn't watch. For a while, her husband wouldn't let her watch the Cubs pitch. He said his team couldn't lose when they were batting.

The thing is though, Jeter is up first in the next inning, and I will be watching. My brother will watch the Dodgers, today. My best friend will watch the Cubs (even when they pitch). We will all watch; because it's fun. Because, even when this game breaks our hearts, it is beautiful, and that is fun, dammit.

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