I have always hated Baseball. Okay, maybe not always. When I was in elementary and I didn’t really have any discerning nature to not like a sport, I was indifferent. But it hardly blew my socks off like Basketball or Football. I had NBA Sheets, I played Super Tecmo Bowl. Those guys did things I knew I probably could never do. I played Baseball as a youth. I was husky, so they put me at catcher. The most compelling thing to come of 3 years of Little League was a killer impression I did of the coach. He would always call us “Hoss”. One day, I was doing the impression, and of course, he was right behind me. I knew I was toast. But he just smiled and said “Nice impression, Hoss.” He knew my heart wasn’t in that shit. I was just there because my parents put me there and I kind of liked sports. I HATED Little League. At least, I had fun in Basketball or Soccer, which I did not excel at by any means, but I was out there having a good time.
In any event, Basketball and Football were sports I cared about. Ones that I had a rooting interest in, sports I could truly marvel at. I would think of Baseball: “Some of those guys are as fat as me. They aren’t athletes.” My disposition only worsened as I grew older. I would find every reason I could to hate Baseball: cheating, hypocrisy, rigidness with tradition. People would argue with me on most of those points, but there was one they couldn’t: it’s boring. It’s a slow burn of a sport. This was my biggest bone to pick and I would always bring it up to those who would attempt to explain the merits of a pitcher’s duel. “There’s no equivalent of a running back breaking 5 tackles in baseball. Or a 3-point specialist knocking 9 down in a game. It just isn’t there.” So smug was I, in my fastidious dismissal for America’s pastime. But that would all change only but a year ago.
After I got out of grad school in 2010, I was living at home. I had interned at a fairly big publication and went to a pretty prestigious school. I had been very fortunate, and I was certainly cognizant of how truly lucky I was, but I was still pretty down about there being little to no work out there. My mornings were composed of waking up, watching 2 episodes of “Las Vegas” (of which I’ve seen every episode so many times I can tell which plot it is within 10 seconds), then tackle the day! Everyday, I would look for jobs, and everyday I would feel the proverbial tumbleweeds blow in my inbox. I tried to be proactive, use every contact I knew, still write; all the things you do to keep from going crazy. I wasn’t entitled. I knew all of what I was blessed with and I knew that something eventually would come, but it hurt being in the same house with people who had given so much, and I felt like I wasn’t giving anything back.
Watching sports with my family has always been a joy (my mom watches Basketball, Figure Skating, Gymnastics, no football though). But we never watched Baseball. Now that my dad is retired, he watches anything. I think most of the Swamp People shows are purely patronized by him. He’s maybe the only black guy that watches it. Maybe him and Charles Barkley. Somewhere along in my flying the coupe, he started to watch Baseball. Not all the time, but if nothing better was on. At first, I was shut off. I’d kind of raise an eyebrow as if to say “A gator with sunglasses? Now I’ve seen everything!” and quickly go to my room and watch an SVU marathon. But slowly but surely, I’d stick around and sit on the couch with him (well, him in his chair, me on the couch). Then, it got to a point where I’d be turning the channel before the game, waiting for him to sit in his chair.
Usually this type of thing happens when a team is good, or getting better. This is not the case with the Houston Astros. They literally had their worst season last year. We tuned in for loss after loss after loss after loss, but I couldn’t have been happier. We would talk shit about how slow Carlos Lee is (read: REALLY FUCKING SLOW) and how we hope the new owner would do something like blow our whole team up or let the Houston Texans start at all positions. We really bonded at the sight of our terrible team. And we’d listen to sports radio when we were in the same car, making fun of the starry-eyed hosts who hoped for a trade that wouldn’t happen. It was really great remarking upon something that was really not.
Now I see Baseball from a different angle. I think of the fathers and sons or mothers or daughters, that take in the quiet dignity (or indignity) of the sport. I’ll never be someone who watches a game that my team doesn’t play in. Maybe the playoffs, but I’m turning during commercials. But I get it. People don’t watch to see who’s the fastest or the strongest or the smartest: it’s something to absorb, to take all in. And that’s certainly something to share with loved ones. So now, I try not to judge those who watch so harshly, unless something, anything else better is on.