an ode to baseball

When you watch someone love something long enough, it’s easy for you to start loving it too.

Husband and I have spent over a third of our lives together. We dated through college, married soon after graduation, and are now in our fifth year of marriage. And one of the many wonderful things my relationship with him exposed me to was baseball.

I’d played softball 4th-6th grade, attended plenty of minor league games in our hometown, and my grandmother is an enthusiastic Braves fan. (Mother is named after Sandy Koufax, but that’s its own delicious story.) But I’d never really watched baseball. If you’ve spent any time in the deep South, you know that college football is king. Sure, people cheer for the Braves, but the fanbase is so far-flung (and the football is so entertaining) that its effect is rather diluted by comparison.

BaseballMapThumb

Enter my husband – a Mets fan in Alabama.

He was eight when he caught Mets fever from his New Jersey-transplanted neighbors, a contagion that only grew until he ended up in New York for college and his allegiance was cemented.

Enter me – a girl long-distance dating a Mets fan. Ergo, we watched a lot of baseball in the summers while dating, and marriage opened the floodgates. Here’s a brief summary of my impressions:

Years 1-2: BORED TO TEARS. But David Wright was easy on the eyes, and Angel Pagan’s name was fun to say.

Years 3-6: The Deepening Slump. Not fun years to watch the Mets (boyfriend/husband often moody), though I remembered more guys names each year and was irate when they were traded (because then I had to learn new guys’ names, ugh).

Years 7-8: The Mets Might Actually Get Their S*** Together @_@

And these were the years when things started clicking. I realized how much better baseball commentators were than in any other sport (and the SNY guys in particular). I found that the slow game play (and sheer number of games) which had once driven me c-r-a-z-y now felt like masterful storytelling, full of drama and tension. I felt like I personally knew the players and their quirks (David tightens his gloves after every swing; Murphy doesn’t stop talking; Granderson gnashes his gum at the plate). And I liked spending  time with these people.

Football has the raw energy of gladiatorial combat, but baseball has the poetic elegance of swordplay, a duel between pitcher and batter with occasional fireworks exploding (or fizzling) around them. And of course, being the Mets, there’s been plenty of fireworks, ranging from embarrassingly bad to shockingly amazing plays.

And here we are on the verge of the World Series. This season was a hell of a rollercoaster, but the best part has been seeing the joy on my husband’s face when something he’s wanted for almost 20 years is now within reach. I don’t feel like I’ve been a [real] fan long enough to truly appreciate what this means to fans like him, but even being on the fringes is intoxicating. We’ve got at least four more games this season, and no matter what happens, I can’t wait to savor every moment.

If love is infectious, I guess I finally caught Mets fever too.

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