Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Consolation of Baseball

Whenever I have a bad day, I just watch this

I have mostly kept to my summer resolution to be politically engaged. Last night I showed up to a local planning meeting to support the building of a new apartment building, which is currently being fought by NIMBY contingent. This means that I have been willing to engage in the most mundane forms of political action. Hopefully this weekend I will have a chance to go to Bedminster and protest there again.

It's become more and more obvious that I need small consolations in life to recharge and keep me from despair. It's especially good if those consolations aren't beer and bourbon. Music has been my first, and a close second has been baseball.

My team, the Mets, has been surging after a typically dismal start. Last Friday I went to a game with a friend, and witnessed the most amazing contest I will likely ever see in a lifetime of going to the ballpark. The Mets came back from three runs down in the fourth, then fell three runs down again, only to win it in an insanely dramatic ninth inning. There was playoff-level intensity in the park, with fans standing for the third strike in the first inning. When Todd Frazier's three run homer brought the Mets even in the ninth I thought that stadium was going to collapse. If felt like the last three seasons of frustration and dashed hopes were being expelled from the souls of the fans.

As we walked out of the stadium on a high, my friend turned to me and said "Kind of makes you forget what a messed up country we live in right now, huh?" I was so happy that the reminder of the reality outside of the ballpark did not harsh my baseball buzz.

Even if the Mets were still as bad as they were at the start of the season baseball would be a consolation in these times. One of my seven year old daughters has thrown herself into the game. She likes to collect baseball cards, look over the standings, and sit and watch games with me. I switched the channel when I saw that there was a rain delay today, and she objected. "But Daddy, I WANT to watch the rain delay!" So instead we looked at YouTube videos of Mets moments past. This summer so many days have ended sitting on the couch with my daughter, watching baseball. In those moments I feel a sense of calm and happiness that seems so elusive these days.

Sitting there on the couch the familiar rhythms of game take over. The announcer's musical boilerplate at the end of an inning "No runs one hit no errors." The quiet poetry of a shortstop fielding a slow grounder and throwing to first. The sounds of the ballpark and the low murmur of voices punctuated by the cries of hot dog vendors. It's my version of ASMR.

The long shadow of baseball's past provides its own comfort. I went to a Yankees game with my father when my parents visited, since he had never been to Yankee Stadium. My dad does not follow baseball as a sport, but truly understands it as a game. We could sit together, discussing pitching motions and infield defensive shifts. That might sound boring to a lot of people, but for me it was absolute bliss.

Most comforting of all is baseball's dailiness. From April through October, it's there for me very day. Except for the two days after the All-Star Game, which always leave me in a down mood without my daily friend. Those days fall during the height of summer, and having a baseball fast when conditions are ideal for baseball feels like being a monk wearing a hairshirt. I guess it helps remind me of how much I cherish the game.

I'm planning on going to a game next Thursday, and I am looking forward to it. I heard a sportswriter once say that his mother liked going to church because it was the only way she could be in church, and that he felt the same way about the ballpark. The only way to be at the ballpark, where I feel transported the second I gaze on the green field after walking through the gates, is to be at the ballpark. For that reason I get the feeling that November is going to be especially hard this year.

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