In the land of Coca-Cola, American Idol, George Bush, over-indulgence and...ahem, conserving water...we find ourselves critical of all that surrounds us. Meanwhile, we forget what is truly important: those things which make us happy.
After a hard week of suffering, chained to a desk (or any other venue of wage slavery we are bound to) we always have something to look forward to. We must! Whether it's taking in a movie, mowing your lawn or renting pornography (hey, I don't judge), we all have that "something special" that we call our pastime, our serenity. For me, that pastime is baseball.
My earliest memory of baseball was when my father and I were walking past the Ebbets Field Apartments in Flatbush, and he looked at me and said,
"Son, that used to be Ebbets Field; where the Brooklyn Dodgers once played, and that's where the most important event in American history took place."
I'll get to what he said in a bit. I look back on that and remember this special feeling I had...not because I had any idea what he was speaking of (after all I'd never set foot in a baseball stadium); I just remember the look on his face: such a passion and devotion for the game.
As the years went by and I began playing ball, it became more clear what he had eluded to. I felt that passion, I felt that love. The smell of hot dogs and wet grass is burned into my memory for a lifetime.
As an adult, I find myself growing more bitter every day. Politics make me angry! My landlord makes me angry! My job makes me angry!
There is nothing I don't over-analyze anymore; everything is just complicated...until springtime, that is.
I see the first absence of frost in the early morning, and it means soon I will hear the Rockies fans cheering inside Coors Field off in the distance. I see the trees budding leaves and it means soon those Saturday games will be taken in at the local pub.
Everything can be lost as our lifetimes pass, but some things will never change, which brings me to my point. Sorry I'm not a cut-to-the chase kinda guy!
What my father told me as we passed by the location of the once-proud cathedral of Brooklyn, Ebbets Field, had nothing to do with politics, nothing to do with his job as a cop, nothing to do with race relations or the struggle for equality. He usually talked about all of those things even when I was too young to understand.
"Son, that used to be Ebbets Field," he said, "where the Brooklyn Dodgers once played, and that's where the most important event in American history took place, where they won their first and only World Series in Brooklyn!"
Baseball, it would seem, was the one thing he knew I would understand. Not Jackie Robinson being the first African American to integrate baseball, or Branch Rickey's laborious struggle to make it happen, but the simple fact that a World Series was played and won only 11 blocks from my home.
Nothing has changed. We might think it has, but it hasn't. Sure, we are deep into a recession. Sure, we have struggled for eight years to stay afloat while our international image has darkened. Sure, we still have to wake up every Monday and welcome another week of desk-job hell.
But the kids haven't changed. The child in us all hasn't changed, and baseball, it hasn't changed either.
Remember the Black Sox? Well, I don't remember either, because I wasn't born, but we can and should refer to history here. It almost crippled baseball until Ruth ushered in a new era we still see today.
When the reserve clause ended, fans feared their favorite player would betray them and team loyalty would decline. Today, players stay with their teams even under free agency, so baseball hasn't changed. The politics might change, but baseball doesn't change.
So put an asterisk on Barry Bonds' record. Place A-Rod under scrutiny. Cringe at the thought of steroids and unbelievable salaries plaguing baseball. Stand around the water cooler and debate baseball ethics. People were saying the same stuff when Ruth made more than the President, but there they were, every game to watch him slug.
Steroids, cheating, I don't give a damn. It won't change the fact that every spring, summer, and October, we welcome baseball with loving arms. We have to, for it's the only sacred tradition that, at its heart, still makes us feel like kids.
We all live contrary to our beliefs, we all live in opposition to each other. We're all just trying to get something to eat (in a matter of speaking). So just enjoy the game for what it is and what it means to all of us.
Let's play two!