Friday, August 03, 2007

It's a bittersweet life

I believe in the church of baseball. I've tried all the major religions and most of the minor ones. I've worshiped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there's 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there's 108 stitches in a baseball. When I learned that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn't work out between us.

But you know what? Baseball's hard work, too, damnit. It's hard to keep the faith. You can stand around, mouth drooling as you watch the fat guys in pinstripes stuffing themselves with the feast of plenty while the rumble in your stomach grows deafening, and you have to question your faith. You have to wonder why the baseball gods can be so unjust, why they seem to favor some but not others. They tell you, "blessed are the meek," but why is starving a blessing? Seems to me it's a curse. How are these painful feelings of defeat something positive? How does this suffocating disappointment earn us a trip to that divine cornfield in Iowa?

Why have you forsaken me, baseball gods? I give you everything. I sacrifice my time, money, and social life for you, yet you give me nothing but losing. You have condemned me to twelve years of wandering the barren desert, tease me with mirages of golden trophies, curse me with an insatiable, unquenchable thirst.

Still I worship you. How can I not? You bring me back to days when we were running around naked in what I can only imagine a ballpark, back before Bud Selig came down that tree and told us in our naivety to eat the Hotdog, which ruined our innocence and made us overworked, indentured servants. We're all kids when we're in the stadium confines. We all remember those carefree summer days when it was baseball season and nothing else - no school, no jackets, no soccer, nothing but play and joy and utter freedom.

The losing takes some of that from us. It makes us bitter. It can ruin a night, a week, a summer. I recall many sweltering nights as a youth laying in bed listening to Marty call another winner to the tune of crickets singing outside my open window. Some people read Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman. My poetry is the sound of Marty's voice coming over the crackling airwaves of 700WLW. Now that same voice is filled with the bitterness I feel in my own heart.

As I age, I find myself appreciating the beauty of the game more than I ever have. But just like a hard fall to the ground hurts much more as an adult than a child, the losing, too, hurts much worse, for we know the reasons for losing and can use reason and logic to try to figure out out to fix it. It seems, though, that you venerable baseball gods have sent us the cornfield fool to be a general manager as some sort of cruel joke.

Why do I still worship you? You give us the blood red moon. You curse us with your plagues, the swarms of insects and Nats and Biggios, the cheese product on our nachos, American Idols singing God Bless America where Take Me Out to the Ballgame once was. You give us free agency, the designated hitter, Jose Canseco, Scott Boras, George Steinbrenner, night games at Wrigley, E$PN, steroids, $100 tickets, large and small markets, gangsta caps, Kiss Cams, and $5 bags of peanuts. We give you our souls.

Sometimes it seems like a bad trade. But bad trades are part of baseball. Who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for god's sake! It's a long season, and you gotta trust it. I've tried them all, I really have. And, the only church that feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the church of baseball.

With apologies, of course, to the writers of Bull Durham.

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