I have characterized baseball as my favorite sport for some time now and the Cincinnati Reds as my favorite team. The reasons for this are, respectively, the sport’s embrace of failure and the fact that beginning in the early 1980’s I began attending games in Cincinnati, mostly with my dad. One of my favorite non-specific memories is falling asleep to the Reds on the radio when they were out on their frequent West Coast trips (back when the team was in the NL West and there were only two divisions in the National and American Leagues). The sound of the game is comforting and reminds me of spring, summer and, hopefully, fall.
We don’t have ESPN or FoxSports at our house so I have been relegated to once again experiencing the games on the radio the last few years and on an app for my phone. During the night games while I have been writing I have had the game on in the background or ESPN’s Gamecast on my computer desktop, which I peek at far more than I should. The stereotypes can be seen as true about baseball: it is long, boring, and lasts forever. I understand but don’t agree with the boring part. Especially in playoff baseball or in the intensity of a playoff race, the space the game commands just builds the tension for me. But the long and forever of baseball are great teachers. I become invested in the ups and downs of an entire season but I never can get too up or too down. Actually, that’s not true. I find, as I have gotten older, I appreciate the ups as much as ever. It is glorious to experience a week like the Reds have just had (taken 3 of 4 from the Cardinals and sweeping the Dodgers). I recognize now that the hiccups of the season allow me to appreciate the good runs the team has even more. As for those down periods, the common baseball refrain is “we’ll get ’em tomorrow”, which speaks both to a resilience in attitude I aspire to and the recognition that the bad times will not last. The joy that the Pirate’s fans are experiencing this year is enviable and, I imagine, this current little losing streak will make the 82nd win that much sweeter.
One of the beat writers for the Reds, John Fay, maintains a twitter account that is enlightening to me. I guess one of the allures of twitter is the ability to communicate in real time with other (famous-y) people. Fay wrote the other night that when the Reds lose he receives significantly more messages about team than when they win; often, these messages are quite negative. I imagine that when Fay became a beat writer he never anticipated being in real time conversations with fans of the team. Prior to the rise of the internet fans were relegated to talk-radio call-in shows where inane questions like “Do you think the Reds would trade Hannahan to the Dodgers for Clayton Kershaw?” would travel over the airwaves almost simultaneously causing me to scream at my radio. Fay now is the real-time recipient of all this chatter. To deal with it he offers very sarcastic responses to a lot of his followers. I wonder if this gives him relief.
But the thing I really wonder about is the fan on the other end of the message. It feels so stressful for me to take every loss that emotionally. Yes, I wish Dusty Baker wasn’t so reluctant to embrace sabermetrics. Yes, I hate bunting. Yes, the line-up can be a bit perplexing. Yes, I wish Votto would have gotten a hit last night with the bases loaded etc etc. If I get too wrapped up in this the whole experience becomes pretty miserable for me because 1, I have no control over it and 2, feeling overly negative is not something that feels physically satisfying to me. This, however, seems to drive some people emotionally. Or at least this is what the technology leads me to believe. Maybe the venting online gives them some relief.
So, nothing too profound today. Except to say that the baseball season is long and especially glorious when you come to September with your team in contention for the playoffs. Your team will lose, but they will also win. A fan gets to chose which outcome emotionally affects them more. And, if the Reds now lose ten in a row and you see me wandering the streets of Columbus muttering to myself, remind me that there is always next season and of the joy I had experiencing ‘meaningless’ September baseball games in my youth. Maybe give me a hug too.