Baseball Followups

17Apr12

I recently contributed THIS installment on the USS Rock n’ Roll site about my two year drought without a baseball team to call mine.  I can only ramble so much on that site, so here I am.  ’Cause this sites’s all mine.

Basically I’m a recovering/divorced Cubs fan, and I’m afraid I’m backsliding.  I have insisted for two years that this would never happen, but here we are.  The funny thing is that I’ve been considering returning to the Cubs based on nothing the Cubs have done at all.

Ken Burns is more to blame.

Weird story: Henry has discovered his love of remotes, and I am too tired to fight it.  I suppose I could hide them better, but you’d be surprised how well he searches for things. So to combat insanity, the formula for success I have devised is that I put a tape in the VCR* and try to keep the TV on Channel 4.  This way, when Henry inevitably turns on the TV, and inevitably hits “Play” on the VCR remote, something will come from the TV other than static.  This isn’t such negligent parenting since it gives me the opportunity to control the media my child’s young eyes are taking in, but there’s probably better programming available than Ken Burns’ “Baseball” documentary.

Despite petty complaints — which I will get to soon and are oddly relevant — I love “Baseball.”  It’s nostalgia porn for suckers like me.  I’m the kind of guy who gets emotional at sports highlights (old ones, not the ones on the nightly news) (unless it’s really good), so imagine me trying to read “That’s Not My Bear” during the lead-up to Jackie Robinson signing on with the Dodgers and fighting back tears. Don’t laugh.  He went through a lot, and he had a good idea what he was getting into.

The complaint I have always had is that “Baseball” is a very East Coast-centric composition. Said flatly, the few mentions of the Cubs are Cap Anson for being a huge racist and Ernie Banks who apparently said something about wanting to play multiple games on the same day.  I think there’s some talk of the 1900′s “Dynasty” teams, but not that much. Now this isn’t entirely a bias call on Burns. Really, what could you say about a team which essentially has done nothing for 60 years? Still, it’s interesting how the focus on an issue can eliminate an issue and change the attitude completely.  I’ve heard about the 1969 Cubs’ collapse for years, but if you watch “Baseball” it was just a miracle season for the Mets who “came back from a tremendous deficit to win the division.” …against some anonymous team.

ANYWAY… The true power of “Baseball” is that it makes you want to be a Brooklyn Dodgers fan, if not just a fan of something in general. Many speakers and contributors talk about how long they loved X team or Y team (chances are good it’s either the Yankees or Red Sox), and one even expounds sincerely about how you cannot just jump off a team and pick another.

And deep down, I know this to be true. I know that you cannot help whom you love, and you cannot simply squelch feelings you have held for too long.

In the USSRockNRoll.com article, I mentioned how I’ve been a de facto Giants fan this season, and that’s fine for now, but there’s no future in it.  Try as my wife might, Henry will likely become an L.A. Dodgers fan if we remain in this area much longer. It’s just a good possibility. So if that’s going to happen, then he and I will be rivals. And I don’t know that I can consciously semi-root for a team that my son will grow to despise as a rival.

Now I can’t just pick up the Dodgers myself, because my wife won’t allow it.  And I don’t really love them.  That’s the problem: I don’t love ANY TEAM. Except for the Cubs sort of.

I think it’s my insanity creeping in again, because I’m justifying that if I give this a few years, the shit players on the shit team that fell to shit a few years ago will be completely wiped away from the team, and I can start anew… but then I think, “Then aren’t I just cheering for a jersey?” Aren’t we all?

I once asked a friend which year’s team was his favorite (I think we both said 1989, and that might only be because we are about the same age), and it was then when I conceived of the possibility of liking certain aspects of a team without loving the whole team lock, stock and barrel. From here, I further realized (not like a genius, but still…) that Major League Baseball is a business, and any attempt to follow one team from the beginning of the year and expect all those players to play the entire season together with no lost players or additions late in the season is ludicrous, which only further pushes the “You’re Rooting For  A Jersey” hypothesis.

And I don’t want to root for a jersey or a color or a stadium.  I want an Ernie Banks.  I want a Billy Williams or a Mark Grace, Ryne Sandberg and so on. I want Sammy Sosa, warts and all.

(As a quick aside, the recent “10th Inning” addition to the “Baseball” documentary does a good job handling the rise of Sosa and Mark McGwire as they chased Roger Maris’ home run record. It also incidentally did a good job of reminding me just how exciting that season was and how much I still feel conflicted about the steroids era. Sure, I think it was wrong and I wish everyone was on the up and up and doing it natural. But how can you just ignore an entire period of history? Especially when it was so willfully condoned, enjoyed and successful? You’re dumb, baseball.)

I want heroes. I want to believe — or I want to allow myself to believe — that the players wearing that jersey I love happen to love that jersey just as much.

Which they don’t.  Or won’t.  Or at least so rarely do that when they actually make it, what are the chances that they’ll actually play wearing the jersey they love? And be any good?

That’s about it.  I’ll have more on wanting heroes later, but in regards to Batman and not these skilled batsmen.**

*Yeah, we still have one.  Deal with it.

**Swish.

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