I love baseball. When I listen to a game on the radio, I remember lavender skies that never seemed dark enough at bedtime. I think of nights so hot that a sheet was too much to bear. I’d listen to Ernie Harwell call the game, and the cool timbre of his voice would be enough to lull me to sleep. I hear the hum of my Dad’s mower, and smell the clean grass and watch a cloud of crickets rise with each step forward.
Growing up in Detroit, I knew the heartache of rooting for a team that was great, then bad, then good, then really bad. When my son was young, we lived in Boston, in a time before the curse was broken once and then again for good measure. It was like I was meant to be a Sox fan. Watching the games together reminded me of everything I love about the sport. See the picture? That’s my basement wall. I painted it myself.
The last two summers it’s been hard to be a Sox fan. It’s not that they are losing, although it’s definitely not fun to watch your team suck week after week. It’s that they are no longer the team that I love. They’ve become one of those big budget monolith teams that buy what they want in a cycle of endless name brand players who never live up to their hype. They’re sort of like the Yankees, only under .500.
I used to know every player in the roster. They had distinct personalities. The game had character. I’ve been turning off the games, not so much because we’re losing, but because I’m bored, and I can’t believe I’m saying that. I’ve defended my love of baseball to everyone else who says they can’t stand it because it’s dull.
So here’s my plea to the players. Stop blaming it on the management, and the owners and the press. Sure, they aren’t helping. They aren’t making good decisions. But they pay you, they don’t own you. Your attitude is yours and yours alone. You get millions to play a game you supposedly love. Could you at least look happy to be there?
Not feeling it? Join the rest of the world. We learn to fake it. You can too. Better yet, don’t, or give your job to someone who can’t wait to get in that uniform. I’m sure there’s a line. This is what the rest of us hear every single day–there’s a line forming right behind you to take your job. And we hustle to get it done. We put aside the fact that the dude in the next office is a mouth-breathing idiot, and that the woman in finance will make me run my numbers again, even though I know they are right.
You won Sunday’s game, and I still turned it off, because it was painful to watch. I read the stories about missing Pesky’s funeral, the fight with management, and the big trade with the Dodgers. Are you done with the drama? You get the big foam finger from me, and it doesn’t say “We’re number one.”
I’ll tell you what. I’ll make you a deal. You and I both know the season is over for you. I will still watch and root for you if you make it worth my while. I don’t care if you win. I care if you care. If you do, then I will. Capice? I may throw like a girl, but I root like a beer-soaked dude, so bring it on, and I’ll make the hot dogs. Let’s have some fun out there, okay?