The Loss Of A Friend
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t feels like I have one more day with my friend, before they leave me.
This might seem ridiculous to you, and I accept that – but I am going to feel a sense of great loss today.
Baseball season is over.
There’s going to be a gigantic parade down Market Street in San Francisco today. Hundreds of thousands of people will cheer on the San Francisco Giants World Series victory, their second in three years. There will be speeches, massive alcohol consumption and a few isolated incidents of carnage, but there will also be kids and families and generations represented. Adult children will bring their parents, draped in orange and black. Younger parents will hoist their little ones on their shoulders. Twitter will be on fire with pictures and words commemorating the moment. I will enjoy the celebration, but I’ll still feel a little sad.
If football is an affair, baseball is a romance.
Baseball is one of my best friends. 162 days a year, baseball is with me. I can attend a game in person. I can listen to games on the radio, the broadcasters of KNBR talking to me like buddies on the next bar stool. I can settle in after dinner and enjoy a game on Comcast SportsNet. I can take a Saturday afternoon nap with a Giants game on Fox, the unfamiliar announcers telling me things I already know. Baseball, as I have written numerous times, is a symphony in nine movements.
If football is adrenaline and violence, and basketball is a combination of momentum and athleticism, and hockey a combination of both, baseball is a thinking game. It is chess-like strategy, if you watch the National League. It’s big lumber, if you enjoy the American League brand of ball.
Baseball is far from perfect, which makes it perfectly analogous to life. There are 1%-ers. There are drug cheats. There is massive inequity in team payrolls. There are the mercenaries, seeking their shot at one big payday by heading to New York, Boston, Anaheim and Los Angeles. There are too few day games. The DH is a crime. There is too much commercial noise in the stadiums. The players are saints and jerks and charmers and assholes – just like real life.
The players are strangers, the management not even acquaintances of mine – but I feel like I know them, and I like them because I only expect them to play baseball, not be my personal pals. The game of baseball and the people who brought it to me this year were my friends.
I was constantly amused by the blabber of talk radio callers, the amateur GM’s barking anger on Twitter, the self-described “experts”. I had not one earthly idea how the 2012 Giants would end their season. I didn’t know in April, I knew less in May. I knew squat in October, that’s for sure. Runners in scoring position? Awful to good. When it was awful, I didn’t trip. When it was good, I didn’t look in my crystal ball and predict greatness.
I am very comfortable with my belief that it’s not about the process, it’s only about the result. My “hometown” team had some terrible streaks. They got hot. They ran cold. They limped and sprinted and jogged and crawled through a summer, and nobody knew what would happen. Then came the playoffs, and the incredible happened, the unlikely comebacks spiking our collective blood pressure night after night.
This romance I have for baseball is like a real relationship. We have good days and bad. We feel disappointed. We feel elation. But we stay together, because without baseball, I’m just not as happy.
I have many interests, many of them of the non-sport variety. But baseball is the symphony that plays in the background of my existence for 162 days a year.
After the parade today, it’ll be over.
My friend will be leaving me. The long cold winter of discontent awaits.