Friday, April 1, 2011

How I Learned to Love Baseball

Okay, so I always kind of loved baseball. When I was young I played Little League baseball, and I grew up in Red Sox crazy New England. I had a poster of Wade Boggs on my bedroom wall when I was.  I have very fond memories of sitting behind home plate with my grandfather at Fenway Park. You get the idea.

With that said, it took me awhile to get into baseball the way that I was into say, Star Trek, or theater, or books about dragons.  Why? For one thing, I was TERRIBLE at it.  I couldn't hit.  I was so afraid of the ball hitting my face that I tended to run away from it, so I was even worse at catching.  I mostly played right field, and would literally sit on the ground and pick dandelions until my Dad yelled at me.  I was good at two things- stealing bases, and taking walks.  I was good at taking walks because my strike zone was incredibly small as I was a tiny, tiny human.  And when I went to see the Red Sox, I was more interested in hot dogs and cracker jacks than who was winning the game. I didn't find baseball all that inspiring, as a thing. I tried to. I really did.  I just had no knack for it, and honestly found it kind of boring.

So, how did I learn to stop worrying and love America's Past-time? Well, I discovered baseball as a literary concept.  Specifically, I discovered the Red Sox as a romantic idea.

New England is a very well educated area, and I think the Red Sox might have the highest number of fans who are authors and college professors of any major league team.  Prior to 2004 when they won the World Series for the first time since 1918, there were many, many books, essays, poems, songs, limericks, etc. written about the Red Sox. They were the ultimate under-dog.  They always struggled mightily and failed at the last moment. They had an undefeatable enemy in the New York Yankees.  They were like me- (or, they were like my perception of myself) a little nerd trying to deal with the bully down the street. 

As soon as I hit on that- the Red Sox as the little guy- I had something to relate to in baseball.  The Red Sox were me! But manifested as a baseball team.

That was my gateway.  That's how I got into baseball.  So what kept me coming back? Two things:

1.  Quality- Around the time I started getting really excited about baseball, the Red Sox started getting really good.  Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, Nomar Garciaparra, David Ortiz- these were guys to get excited about.  And then in 2004 (as stated above), they won the whole thing, rewarding generations of fans who'd kept the faith over 86 years.  They did it in dramatic fashion by coming back against the hated NY Yankees from a 3 game deficit. The little guy won!

2.  Stats- In the last few years, baseball stats have become a really huge thing.  Sabermetrics- an obejctive, numbers based approach to analyzing baseball- came to dominate how teams were run.  Applying math to sports- that's an idea a nerd can get behind.

So romance, and stats.  That's why I'm a baseball fan. Being a Red Sox fan is also something that keeps me connected to friends and loved ones.  We may not like all of the same things, but most of my friends and family from home root for the Red Sox.  They are our common cause.

Today is opening day, and all I have to say is Go Red Sox!

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, but baseball is still so predominantly boring. And you don't need to deal with the insufferable fans because you no longer live here. It can be really bad - these people have no perspective and no self awareness. Part of that is fueled by the literary culture you refer to, everyone thinks that the "Red Sox Nation" makes them better than other people, not just as fans, but as people! Ugh.

    ReplyDelete