Take Me Out to the Ballgame

October 21, 2004

I am a born-again Red Sox fan. Let me explain. I remember loving them with all the passion of a junior high girl. Seeking a sense of belonging in a strange country (Canada), being part of the Red Sox nation connected me to the New England I so desperately missed. Somehow they faded into the background as I made connections and put down roots in the strangely familiar foreign soil of our northern neighbors. Baseball and all its trappings became an object of scorn to me, the nonsports fan.

As I grew older, I mocked those who loved sports–just kill me was my usual response. My sister married a sports fan, and I laughed–at him first for loving baseball, and at her for loving him. I married a man who, like I, despised TV as a vehicle for anything other than drama and comedy, seeing none of that in sports.

Then I had a son, who for reasons unknown to me, awoke into full-blown baseball fanaticism in the summer of his eighth year. He embraced the home team with the ardor of a boy–pure, unsullied love. He spends hours pouring over the stats of any major leaguer. He knows their names, what teams they’ve played on, what years, RBIs, and all the acronyms that make no sense to me–sports illiterate. You’ve heard the old saying, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” That’s what I did. How else could I speak to a boy whose world is ‘earned run averages’ and standings in the National League Central Division?

All that to say this. Last night, I came back to the Boston Red Sox–born again into the Red Sox nation. My son was rooting for the Yankees to beat the Red Sox in the American League post-season. I despise the Yankees. They are good because they have the money to be good. It has nothing to do with heart or grit or character. It’s about greenbacks.

Ok, I’ll admit I like the look of A-Rod and Derek in their stripes, but that’s as far as it goes. I digress, men in baseball uniforms do that to me–except for all the chewing and spitting–what’s up with that? Sorry, digressing again.

The Red Sox, down three games in the playoffs. They came back and won game four, then game five, then game six. Didn’t watch any of them. Didn’t care except in some theoretical way. Game seven, I happened to tune in to the ninth inning as I channel surfed. I found myself transfixed. I watched the Red Sox defy the odds and beat the Yankees 10-3 (or whatever the final score was). I celebrated with them as they and the city of Boston rejoiced.

Why? I asked myself, and all I could figure out was that baseball really is a metaphor for life. I feel like I am down three games against my adversaries. I am weary, feeling hopeless, and almost 100% sure that I won’t be making it to the World Series. But I can take a page from the Red Sox players, who said they won their way back one pitch, one hit, one catch at a time. What could be more perfect or more encouraging? That’s not only how games are won and lost, but how life is, too. One at bat, one pitch, one sublime catch against all odds–out of the park; three up, three down, and picking one out of the air at the last second.

Boston rejoices, and so do I. The very sport that I laughed at for its uselessness is the medium that may well save my life. God does have a sense of humor. Maybe the curse will be broken after all.

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