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Time for summer fun means time for baseball

“How can you not be romantic about baseball?” – Moneyball



In the movie Bull Durham, Susan Sarandon’s character Annie proclaims how she worships at the church of baseball. She explains how she had practiced “all the major religions and a few of the minor ones” but in the end nothing was more transcendental to her than baseball, so she devoted her life to it. 


I also see something in baseball that feels magical, romantic, and transcendent. 


But more than anything, baseball is fun.


Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains – Bull Durham

Stephen King explains in his memoir that Baseball is the perfect game for reading a book, and I agree. It’s a long quiet game where little happens until someone hits the ball. One can read and pop their head up when the crack of the bat hitting the ball sends the crowd into fits.


It's a writers game. It has a slow build. Drama builds around small details. One error can create a chain reaction to multiple errors only to rebound for a comeback at the end. A person can feel certain of how a game will end and leave only to turn on the radio and realize that crack and roar upon exit ushered in a last ditch win.


My team can win or my team can lose, but while that’s happening, I can spend a delightful day outdoors wearing a hat and screaming hot nonsense while someone brings me beer and peanuts. I can think of much worse ways to spend an afternoon or evening.


I came to baseball later in life, although I had flirted with it here and there. Some afternoons I would flip to WGN hoping to see a sitcom and lingered a while on the Cubs game because the gentle hum of the crowd and the soft-spoken announcers calmed me. I watched a few games of the World Series here or there depending on how tight the race was to win. I knew a few names of players that had reached icon status, like Jeter and Damon. 


As a reporter, I was almost always sitting next to the Sports department – or I worked in a 95% male office – and had to endure the almost constant conversation about their fantasy teams. Every once and a while in the dog days of summer I would pick up a sports page and review the box scores to see which teams were leading in the standings. 


But being a baseball fan in Tennessee and Kentucky is a challenge. I did not live in baseball towns. If I was lucky, I could catch a minor league game, but to see a major league game, the best I could do was drive to St. Louis to see the Cardinals play. Most of the people I knew who loved baseball were St. Louis fans. 


I couldn’t hang with the Cardinals. I couldn’t get on board with the Cubs, even though I could watch the WGN games in the afternoons. I didn’t like the Yankees. I easily could have become a Phillies fan with Hubs. Whenever I checked the stats and scores, I was more interested in the Boston Red Sox, but I could never really commit. It wasn’t a logical choice; it was an emotional choice.

 

I’d spent enough time with super-sports fans to know that once a person selects a team, that is their team for life. To switch a favorite team places a person in the category of fair-weather fans and posers, like everyone who has ever bought a team's hat after they won the World Series or because it matched their outfit.


Sports fandom brings a sense of loyalty or love of the team. Picking a team was like getting married, you were connected to it for life.

When we moved to Atlanta it was like everything was falling into place. I knew I liked the Braves and I was excited to live in a town where I could actually go to the games. By the time we celebrated our first Christmas, I knew I wanted to become an Atlanta Braves fan. I started laying the groundwork with Hubs. When can we go to a game? 


And then COVID happened. Sports were canceled. Hubs took it hard because he watches all the sports all the time. He watches basketball, football, Premier League soccer, tennis, golf, if there is a group of people on television competing in some form or fashion, he is invested. And all of a sudden it was all taken away. 


But it hit me in a strange way as well, because I had never considered myself a “sports fan”, but all of a sudden it was no longer on my television. ESPN had nothing to broadcast. I missed the sound of sports in my house. 


For the first time in a very long time I didn’t have my unofficial sports holiday of Opening Day. After a few months, I was looking through the ESPN schedule and saw that they were broadcasting Korean baseball at 4 am, and I asked Hubs if he wanted to wake up with me to watch it. He laughed and told me no. I woke up incredibly early to get some writing done and turned on the tail end of one of those games and it was incredibly calming. 


"This is a simple game. You hit the ball, you throw the ball, you catch the ball." – Bull Durham

The news started coming out that there would be a short season, a socially distanced season, a season with no fans. A local news crew set up on the terrace of some superfans who lived in one of the highrises outside of Truist park and I was watching it. 


It was a turning point for me. With or without Hubs, I was going to be a Braves fan. I bought a hat and downloaded the MLA app. It was on. I learned the names of the players. I had the scores delivered to my watch, so I could keep up with the games. I watched highlights of the night games the next morning. I was talking about bullpens and projections with my students. I watched while the stadiums were empty, while they were socially distanced, and then when they filled back up, I started my campaign again – let’s go to a game!


And while this is happening, while Hubs is resisting my baseball fandom and barking about the price of snacks at Truist park, I am strategically turning Behr into a superfan. 

Hey. I’m watching the Braves game. Want to watch it with me?

Do you know who that player is? That’s Acuña. That’s Ozzie. That’s Money Mike. 

You want a Braves hat? Let’s leave for the store right now and buy you one? 

Here, watch this movie with me. It’s called The Sandlot.


And then in 2021, the Braves won the World Series. And Hubs warned me, “It’s not always going to be like that.” It killed him that me and newly anointed Super-fan Behr were cheering our team in a World Series win immediately after our fandom took hold. We didn’t have to endure several years of low times to be rewarded with high times. It was like we walked into the casino for the first time and walked out with the jackpot prize. 


Big Boi throwing the pitch on Outkast night at Truist park.
Big Boi throwing the pitch on Outkast night.

This year instead of begging Hubs to secure tickets for the family, I have taken it on myself. He doesn’t want to go and W. is indifferent, so whenever I can, I am hitting up SeatGeek for cheap tickets. Hubs had been dropping us off at The Battery and picking us up after the game ends. Behr and I grab our hotdogs and peanuts, cheer for our team, and allow ourselves to be as loud and obnoxious as humanly possible. We sing, we jump up and down, we make friends with our seat mates, we talk to little babies in Braves jerseys, we play all the games and raffles, we place side bets on the Home Depot tool races, and we hope that we might be able to catch a foul or home run ball (depending upon where we’re sitting). 


My summer of fun has already begun and the goal is to attend as many home games as possible this season. We’re collecting promotional Bobbleheads. We’re wearing new Braves shirts. We’re eating nachos in baseball hats and making friends at the Coca Cola Pavilion.


And while some might try to complicate it, over analyze it, or even politicize it, it is – at its core – just a game. You can anticipate and make assumptions, but you never know for certain how a game is going to end. It’s the greatest reality program on television. It’s all the highs and lows of an amazing drama that gets replayed the next day, and sometimes the next day with completely different outcomes and incredibly low stakes. If the Braves win, I am elated. If they lose, I’m fine. 


Yesterday Behr and I were watching the Braves play the Cubs. They weren’t winning. It was tied. And I told Behr, “Remember, we have to love our team even when they’re not doing great. Because they’re our team.” 

And he said, “Don’t worry. I’ll love them forever.”


Read Books. Wear Boots.

XOXO,

B.


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