There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem – once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit. ~Al Gallagher, 1971
I developed my love of baseball from my dad. I learned very early on that sports was at the core of his heart and if I wanted to spend more time with him, liking sports was the way to do it. And so I started watching sports with him. I remember spending a lot of time cheering and yelling along with him while watching baseball, football, basketball and yes, even professional wrestling. But baseball was his first love and it became mine. I had a blast collecting baseball cards and helping my dad catalog his. We even took ever opportunity to give each other the “Bash Bros.” forearm.
Admittedly it’s been a long while since I have been fanatical about sports in general and baseball in particular. When I once was a repository for random stats for just about every player on the Yankees, I slowly saw that blind, rabid fanaticism fade as I began working in sports. While I thoroughly enjoyed the game while I was working, the last thing I wanted to do was come home and watch SportsCenter and be reminded of work. Maybe there are some doctors that like to watch Grey’s Anatomy but I didn’t really like the idea of being at the stadium for 12 plus hours to come home and watch listen to the talking heads spout about whatever else was going on in some other stadium. Every one else got to come home and leave their jobs at the office and the only way for me to do that was to turn off ESPN.
And so I stopped actively watching baseball and ESPN. It was just too much for me and was a necessary move to keep me from getting burned out. I needed that break from the game even though it did cause me to basically become clueless about all sports. I used to be able to name the starting five for every basketball team in the league and hold court in just about any sports debate but now all I can really do is shrug my shoulders. I didn’t really care but I did feel that burning shame when people instinctively asked me for my opinion not knowing that I was no longer as attuned to the sports world has I used to be. I wanted to be that person but my information was just so old that I had to fake it by being vague. Because the more vague you are, the more accurate you can be.
But now that I’m no longer working in sports for the time being, I’m starting to renew my love affair with it. In the past year I’ve been finding myself actually listening to the games on the radio and tuning in to them a lot more than I had in the previous five years and it feels great. While I probably won’t be watching SportsCenter anymore [it’s now like E! News with sports than anything else] it feels good to get back to the game I love. So much has changed; I need to reacquaint myself with my Yankees and learn who’s who among the pinstripes. I can’t believe Derek Jeter is 36! Wasn’t he just 30 and incredibly productive and effective? Now he’s arguably getting close to the twilight of his career. We all can’t be Ozzie you know.
Will I regain the extreme fanaticism I once had? No, I won’t. That was me before I peered behind the curtain. I can still appreciate the game for what it is and get swept up in those moments as a fan because, no matter how jaded you are, you can’t help but enjoy the feeling of excitement and/or agony that surges through your body when you’re watching your team compete.
And that is what keeps me a fan.