As an inveterate Red Sox fan, last year was really the pinnacle—it just couldn’t get any better than that.
So I have to confess that, although the Red Sox are doing fine this year, I haven’t paid all that much attention. After all, they don’t need me any more to sweat it out, to leave the room and pace and wring my hands when things get tight, to turn off the TV for a few minutes when things get really tight. Fellow Red Sox fans will understand what I mean; others might think I’m quite loony, but this is standard operating procedure in Red Sox Nation.
I said after last season that if the Sox didn’t win for the rest of my lifetime it wouldn’t bother me, because the curse was lifted in such dramatic and overwhelming fashion—first, by the record-setting and historic reversal against the dread detested Yankees, of all people; next, by the cakewalk in the Series itself. Wins are no longer necessary for many years to come, although they still would be nice.
Those of you who are not baseball fans (and I used to count myself among you) can’t understand what the fuss is about. It’s such a slow, boring, game, after all, isn’t it? I used to think that, too, until two things happened. The first was that my son played Little League (now, there’s a slow, boring game). The second was that I sustained a back and arm injury about fifteen years ago and was very limited for quite a while in what I could do.
The Little League games taught me the rules of baseball, in a venue in which I couldn’t help but care—watching my son’s rise and fall on the field. I came to appreciate the beauty and grace of the game, the extreme tension produced by slowness punctuated by moments of great drama, the sequential spotlighting of each individual within a team.
Then when I became injured, baseball was there for me—as, I learned, it is for many people facing health problems. Baseball’s season is long, and a game occurs virtually every day. Someone cooped up and housebound can have a daily appointment with something outside of him/herself, an activity that lasts a number of hours and becomes engrossing, when there are precious few other activities that fit that bill.
Baseball features players who look relatively “ordinary,” despite the fact that they are highly honed athletes. They are neither freakishly tall, as in basketball, nor hulking behemoths, as many are in football, but men who look deceptively like anyone you might meet on the street, although a bit more fit. Their faces and bodies are exposed, unlike in ice hockey or football, games in which helmets and equipment cover and distort to a certain extent.
Watching the same baseball team day after day (or evening after day), the viewer gets to know each player very well—how he moves, his facial expressions, his nervous tics (Nomar Garciaparra was famous for them; for instance, he had a ritual with the hands and the gloves that had to be seen to be believed, but it wasn’t magical enough to keep him with the Sox for the World Series win). And it’s not totally incidental—at least for women fans—that baseball players tend to be young, good-looking men.
When one is in chronic pain, the mind finds it hard to focus. Things that formerly were fascinating, like books, can sometimes require too much concentration and effort. Baseball’s pace seems just right. It kept me sane while I recuperated, which took a long time. But baseball’s got the time—one of the few things in this high-paced world that still does.