Take me out to the ball game, take me out with the crowd…
Once upon a time, it feels like a million years ago, I loved baseball. Well, that may be a little bit of an exaggeration, I liked baseball…which really means I didn’t mind watching a game, contingent upon appropriate snacks. And I prefer my baseball games outside, not watching from the couch. And they have to be evening games, not too hot, with east-facing seats, because, my sun-fearing skin. And my game-watching companions must either care enough about the game to know what is going on, and be able to talk about it without being a jackass, or care nothing for the game and be present only for the atmosphere and overpriced stadium food. So…maybe I didn’t really like baseball all that much, but I sure as hell knew a lot about it for a little while.
My x-husband, who I don’t talk about very often, was a baseball fanatic. He grew up in Chicago and was a hardcore Chicago Cubs fan, he and his Dad and his brothers had been on the waiting list for Chicago Cubs tickets for years by the time I met him (I just checked, the current wait list is 65,000 people long). In addition to watching almost every single televised game, he played on a local team, and we often went to the minor league games in Salt Lake; our team is the AAA affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels.
Because he loved baseball so much I asked him to explain the game to me, and his analytical brain spent HOURS detailing strategy, and players, and history, and blah blah blah. I mean, kudos to him for providing the extensive information, and triple kudos to me for a) listening and b) actually being somewhat interested. I picked a favorite player based solely on looks–Derrek Lee, a first baseman who had just started with the Cubs–and settled in for a long summer of cracker jack and bratwurst. I learned enough about actual strategy to be able to comment occasionally on a play, or whatever, and my X and his baseball buddies (brothers & friend) playfully dubbed me The Rookie. I distinctly recall the day I questioned a play that was not jiving with Good Baseball Strategy and all four of those dudes turned to stare at me, dumbfounded, “Well, she’s not the rookie anymore!” It was a compliment, and one I was kind of proud to earn. Honestly, in those early days, it was fun to watch part of a game, be able to follow what was going on and understand a little about the outbursts of joy or rage coming from the Baseball Groupies.
The X and I got engaged towards the end of that first baseball season, and married before it started again. Shockingly, the second time around his obsession became kind of tedious. Then a lot tedious. Prior to living together I had no idea how much televised sports he really watched, upwards of 14 or 15 hours a day, any given day, sometimes more. In lieu of season tickets, and actually living in Chicago, X splurged for the Every Televised Baseball Game cable package and then set up two TVs in the basement, both with picture-in-picture capabilities (do you even remember that super fancy technology?!) and proceeded to watch 4 games at a time, all the time, all season long. As the season progressed the summer evening AAA games at our local stadium were fewer and fewer, then non-existent, and the marathon sessions of televised MLB games and sports talk TV about the games intensified.
While we were dating and engaged I was in school and working two jobs and when we went out in the evenings I didn’t realize that he’d simply set the last part of the last games to record and would watch them later. Once we got married he quit the record-watch-later charade, and I was at first charmingly surprised (2 minutes), then irritated (15 minutes), then full on annoyed that this dumb game was more important than anything else (the next 14 months). Baseball was more important than dinners with family, birthday parties for my nieces and nephews, or even regular not-sports-related date nights or quality time together as a couple. I was a baseball widow before we even had a chance, and I resented it, big time. Now, there were a lot of other major factors that contributed to the deterioration of our marriage, obviously. But for me the last straw was during a conversation prior to Baseball Season: Round Three when he told me, in a moment of complete seriousness, that if he had to choose between watching baseball and working to improve our marriage, he would pick baseball. Every time. He actually said that to me, not in a moment of anger or frustration, but in a matter-of-fact conversation about what was and what wasn’t working in our relationship. When I questioned it, wondering if he was just exaggerating for twisted-comedic effect, he doubled down on his stance. I moved out a not long after that; again, a much bigger catalyst led to that decision, but the baseball thing was always there, lurking, reminding me that I didn’t matter nearly as much as a bunch of dudes in pinstripes standing around for hours and occasionally doing something to/with a ball.
I don’t watch baseball anymore, I haven’t paid attention to a game for over a decade. I don’t even really care who makes it to the World Series, or if a home run record is broken. Every year or two a group of friends would go to a minor league game, but we are definitely, solidly, in the camp of “here for the atmosphere and the snacks and the post-game fireworks” and very far away from arguing baseball strategy and comparing stats on the players.
I passed a billboard the other day with a countdown to the beginning of baseball spring training season; I had forgotten all about the Cactus League and the 5 or 6 weeks of intense Baseball Everything in Arizona. I probably won’t go to a game, just passing the billboard brings up enough unpleasant memories as is, but maybe next year, or the year after, I’ll have a couple of friends here who wouldn’t mind spending a warm evening eating overpriced bratwurst and laughing about completely unrelated events while a baseball game goes on in the background.