“What I do know is that this belonging and caring is what our games are all about; this is what we come for. It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitative as a professional sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut (I know this look — I know it by heart) is understandable and almost unanswerable. Almost. What is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring — caring deeply and passionately, really caring — which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naivet — the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the haphazardous flight of a distant ball — seems a small price to pay for such a gift.”
As I write this, the Sox have won the Series, cars are driving past my house flashing their lights, horns honking. Firecrackers pop in the distance, and the cops sent to quell any potential violence are smiling, high-fiving, watching the postgame through bar windows, nightsticks still.
I didn’t love baseball always. Despite my father’s diligent attemps to teach me, I was bored too easily and got lost if there wasn’t a good story to follow. It wasn’t until college, when a dear friend used to call me up in the middle of the night and tell me about Kirk Gibson, the ’86 Red Sox, give me books about Ty Cobb and Jim Bouton, that I started to see the poetry in it, I started to understand.
Over the years I cheered for the Brewers, because I was born in Wisconsin and cheering for shitty teams is passed down through the blood. The Cleveland Indians of 1997 broke my heart (one inch more on Nagy’s glove …), the Red Sox last year made it whole again. My husband’s the White Sox fan, not me. My father, my friends, they’re the baseball fanatics, they’re the ones who can argue into the night about the infield fly rule. Baseball to me means summer more than it means statistics.
Tonight, inside the bar in Chicago they yelled like the team could hear them in Houston. The waitress couldn’t get through anymore, she just gave up and watched along with everybody else. And they stomped so that the floor shook, and nobody could hear the call. And total strangers hugged and danced, like it was Christmas, and they were all just grateful the Ghost of Christmas Future hadn’t snatched it away.
A cold rain started falling, but they stayed in the street and shouted to the sky and each other and the stars that had somehow aligned, the flight of a distant ball creating, in the midst of a time when so much seems to be going wrong, a moment of autumn perfection.
A white car rolls slowly down the street, a man hanging his head out the window. “I love you!” he shouts. I don’t think he knew who he was talking to. I don’t think it was specific. I don’t think it matters. I know how he felt.