Wednesday, October 7, 2009

That Time Again


I love it. I hate it.

I love it.

For eleven months of the year I am a fairly reasonable person, outwardly responsible, usually calm and composed, and able to keep things in perspective. Baseball is in my life, but it is not my life, at least not the way it was when I was younger. Nowadays I don’t stay awake staring at the ceiling after a meaningless game in May wondering why someone threw a slider over the plate on an 0-2 count, or took a hanging changeup for strike three with two outs and all the runners moving. I stopped beating myself up over stupid stuff like leaving a game early. If I fall asleep watching and wake up to the infomercials, I’ll turn the TV off and go to bed without checking on the score, and in the morning it is sometimes ten or eleven a.m. before I even think to check the games on the west coast.

When my wife and I receive an invitation to do something, or my daughter has an evening concert at school, I never even consider checking the schedule ahead of time – I’ll miss the game. On long car trips, if someone wants to listen to another station or play a cd instead of listening to the game, I’m fine with that. When the TV in the bedroom goes on the blink, I change the channel and let everyone watch Glee on the good set. I skip past Baseball Tonight, I’ll go a couple days sometimes without checking in on the message boards, and I hardly ever buy the Sunday Globe anymore. Baseball is still out there, I know it, but it is a luxury and an indulgence, not a necessity.

Then the page on the calendar flips over and word at the top says “October.”

Uh-oh.

Goodbye, peace. Hello, anxiety. See you later, common sense. Distraction, my old friend, where you been keeping yourself? The playoffs are here and minute by minute my fa├žade of indifference crumbles. The twenty-fifth man on the roster is more important to my life than anything Barack Obama is going to do. I scour the internet for umpire ball/strike ratios. I forget to let the dogs back in, decide the car can go another month before I fix the muffler, and let God rake the leaves.

Dinners out can wait. We see the neighbors way too often. I never liked the movies that much anyway. Sleep is overrated. So is exercise. Forget supper – I’m running to the corner for a six pack. And some Doritos. And some Tums.

I buy the papers. I get a new TV for the bedroom. I give each of the cats a full can of food whenever they want it. I steal my daughter’s laptop, keep it next to my chair and hit refresh every ten seconds. I agree with everything my wife says. I dig out the lucky hat, the one I wore the last time they… you know, the last time they did the thing that you’ve talked about all summer like it was nothing but that you can’t say out loud now because you’ll jinx it. You know, the best of seven thing, that thing.

I’m a mess. I squeeze the anxiety ball, bite my nails, check my pulse obsessively, eat an aspirin every day, and try to stay hydrated. I watch the post game, and the post, post game, and the press conferences. I read the game threads - ours when we win, theirs when they lose.

I cheer. I cry. I scream. I gloat. I lose my voice. I throw the remote across the room. I jump out of my chair and wake up the neighborhood. I put my fist through the wall. I slump to the floor.

October – I hate it.

I can’t wait.


from Boston Baseball, October 2009. The photo shows the way fans used to have to watch the post-season in pre-TV, pre-radio days.


Glenn Stout will be appearing the Boston Book Festival on October 24. His latest books are Young Woman and the Sea: How Trudy Ederle Conquered the English Channel and Inspired the World, and The Best American Sports Writing 2009. Contact Glenn on Facebook, at glennstout.net, or on his blog, http://verbplow.blogspot.com.

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