Isn’t it great when we allow ourselves to change. Years ago, I went through a very angry stage. At age 26 I hit a bottom in my life where I was faced with the choice – change or die. Shortly after this, I took a sobering look at my past, and it was horrifying. Rather than feel sad about this I got angry – angry at institutions and politicians and heck even baseball players.
I remember going to a Noam Chomsky film where he alluded to the fact that sports in America are manufactured by the media to distract us all from what is really important – poverty, crime, peace, war, etc. Mr. Chomsky is an incredible writer and philosopher, who has opinions and views on many things. When I heard that – I felt I couldn’t be both into sports and into peace or feminism or helping the poor. I lived in a very black and white world for many years. I was hurt and angry and opinionated. I was in no way ready to do the therapeutic work involved in getting to the bottom of these strong feelings, so I jsut stayed angry.
I will be the first to tell you – I think pro athletes are incredibly overpaid. However, I also enjoy pro sports these days. I grew up in a family of Baltimore Orioles fans. We lived in Northwood, and I remember being quite young taking the bus to Memorial Stadium, and also going with my dad on my birthday. As I got older, I enjoyed going to the games with my friends. Then I moved out west where it was tough to follow Baltimore sports, got married, and had a few kids. Oh – and I was angry, and had that seed planted from one comment I heard in a documentary. Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t stay angry about sports all these years. I peripherally followed the local sports teams and attended Raven’s parties, but I hadn’t legitimately rooted for the O’s in a long time; I barely recognized any names on the team.
Then last April, the O’s were playing on Easter Sunday. My nephew, who learned to read following the O’s in the newspaper, was watching the game. I started asking him about the O’s, and I had this sense we could really use a winning season. Keep in mind, my brother, my nephew’s dad, died suddenly the January before this. My mom was recovering from lung cancer treatment, and my sister was gone from leukemia. It just felt like we all needed a winning season. It became my my mantra – “we could use a winning season!”
I not only became a fan, but a Fanatic! It was wonderful basking in the Orioles first winning season in 14 years. I wasn’t sure in April it was going to be that way, but I hung on to every pitch. I read sports blogs and read stats and history on the players. I cheered, I cussed, I went to games. I stayed up until 2 a.m. when they were playing on the west coast! I was distracted, and it felt damn good!
I watched tons of games with my mom, and it was wonderful. It had been a couple of tense, difficult years, and the O’s were something we could do together – something that connected us to our past – something that brought us joy, excitement, frustration, and celebration. Even when mom fell, and went to the hospital and rehab, I went and watched games with her. Unfortunately – I watched the final games in the post season with her, but she was at home in hospice, and unable to really watch the games.
Yesterday was Opening Day here in Baltimore, and it was my oldest daughter’s 17th birthday, so the girls and I went to the game. Yes, ball players do make a lot of money, but they also take me to a place of nostalgia and joy that eludes me most of the time. This year they had a few minutes of silence for those who left us since the last Opening Day (mainly Earl Weaver – one of my childhood heroes). For me it was more like remembering all who left us since my last Opening Day many years ago. It was touching, and respectful, and meaningful.
Another thing that really caught my attention were the 3 Gold Glove Awards that were presented. One was given to our shortstop – JJ Hardy. Hardy had only 6 errors in 779 chances last year. However, he is a million dollar athlete and he made 6 errors. He made mistakes. We make mistakes. Perfection truly doesn’t exist. We follow doctrines in our 20’s, raise kids, pay mortgages, bury people, return to our childhood traditions, and make a ton of mistakes. If we are lucky – IF we are lucky – we change.
There aren’t many parts of me that are still recognizable from my early 20’s. My opinions, my friends, my favorite music, my styles, my hair color, my idea of fun, have all changed – thank God! I’m sure glad no one is keeping track of my errors, and I will continue working on the change that allows me to stop keeping track of them as well. I don’t know about you – but I could use another winning season!