Friday, April 22, 2005
I love this time of year. The weather is terrific, and so are the sports.
Throughout high school I viewed organized athletics as a mandatory requirement (which they were). I loathed playing football (my bum knees and weak wrists are a testament to the breaks and fractures I experienced playing the wretched game), and although I did enjoy basketball and baseball more, the daily commitment and my athletic inadequacy made the games both boring and frustrating. I was an especially lousy batter; my coach screamed, "Jesus, Reiger! Hit the ball!" with disheartening regularity. Standing in the outfield, I longed to be elsewhere. The time would have been better spent, I thought, taking a walk in the woods, playing Civilization, or reading in the library. My basketball success stories were equally limited, though I did manage to avoid shooting on my own basket, something not everybody on the "3rds team" accomplished (that's right, "3rds," one level under Junior Varsity).
In college, I gave up sports altogether. I didn't watch them and I didn't play them. Visits to the gym, paintball battles, and midnight games of Capture-the-flag were more my speed. (So much so, in fact, that for a time I became the Capture-the-flag coordinator.) How then, did I come to love the NBA and MLB? Honestly, I'm not really sure. One day I just started following the teams and players. Before I knew it I was "in the know."
I believe part of the charm is rooted in the operatic silliness of professional sports: the ugly excess; the show-boating; the ignorance; the intrique. Sports provide a socially acceptable outlet for all of our dirty thoughts and animal rage. There is also something appealing about the routine of sports' schedules. The knowledge that, barring collapse, the baseball stadiums will be crowded and the lights will be turned on is comforting, like regular bowel movements.
I should point out that I never stopped supporting "my" teams, even though I stopped caring for a number of years. When very young I picked a favorite team (or teams) in each of the major American sports leagues. Most people pick teams based on geographic proximity, but I did not care for the Washington Redskins or Bullets. Instead, I chose teams based on team name. Thus, I ended up rooting for the Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Cubs, Baltimore Orioles, Milwaukee Bucks, and the Minnesota Timberwolves (later, when they were founded in 1989). You might notice the animal theme. Yep...that's how I picked my boys. Either you're an animal or you're against us. (In more recent years, I have opted to support a few teams without animal names. For example, I root for the Mets, the perennial blue-collar underdogs who reside in my borough of New York City.)
Not only do I follow professional basketball and baseball, I also enjoy playing the games. Though I still suck, I enjoy playing basketball a great deal and, were there to be easy access to a baseball diamond and a crew of willing participants, I'm sure I would have a lot of fun taking cuts at a fastball.
Anyway, spring time represents the beginning of the NBA playoffs AND the beginning of a new baseball season. The overlap spoils me. I can spend a Saturday or Sunday in the studio, listening to a NY Mets game on the radio and head to a bar in the evening for a little NBA playoffs action on television. Ah, the simple pleasures...
Photo credit: ripped from BASEketball.com