I love baseball now, and I love it because of its pace. This makes me old. I have my reasons.
But there comes a time when you kind of want everyone to shut up. As Ad-Rock once proclaimed - “I tell you everybody I’ve had it with all these people with static.” Times like when I have to read someone talking some junk about how it was really Rob Scuderi’s fault that Steve Bernier decided to fuse his face to the glass from behind. Or how the Kings making it to the final therefore means the Sabres could have. Or that Mike Richards and Jeff Carter winning the Stanley Cup as role players means that the Flyers clearly made a mistake in getting rid of them, because the Kings won the cup, you see, and everything needs to be a zero sum game even though the Flyers' goaltender looked like he was being tazed for most of his minutes. It’s enough to make you quit sports altogether.
These momentary losses of cognitive ability are not alarming on their own, but when taken as a group they begin to look more like Grandpa wandering out of the retirement home rather than simply misplacing your keys. If at any point you have found yourself agreeing with any of those three points at the same time, seek medical attention, because you may be a terrible person.
It’s easy to rag on the stupidity of most of our sports dialogue, but I would be disingenuous if I said that’s why I feel the pull of the national pastime. I’m writing about sports for Christ’s sake, what right do I have to be complaining? I’m part of the problem. The evil is inside me.
The real reason baseball has won me in a more passionate form is because I’ve got a son now, and I really need time to stop.
My kid showed up in late April. My wife was a trooper in the delivery room. That’s how Strong Island rolls.
Things don’t get real when the kid comes out, although that is pretty amazing. The real meta-action begins when the nurse takes him to the warming table and begins cleaning him, and he locks eyes with you - the first time he’s locked eyes with anything. That shit changes you. You grow up at that moment if you haven’t already.
Things were great. They even had WGN at the hospital, which was inexplicable as the hospital was in Buffalo. Regardless, we got in a Cubs game together. Well, he kind of slept while I held him and watched the Cubs game.
After a few days they sent us home. We had a hard time feeding him when we got there. The next day we got nervous and went to the pediatrician, who kept the office open after hours so we could get there. They took his temperature at 94 degrees. Then they told us to go to Children’s Hospital.
I was already in some sort of state, because when I heard that his temperature was that low I thought “well that’s totally normal” to myself. Yes, being four degrees down is totally great for a newborn. He’s running at optimal.
My wife has told me to speed exactly once in our eight years of marriage, and that was it.
I was pretty numb up until we arrived at the hospital.
SIDE NOTE THAT IS AWESOME UPON REFLECTION: I blew through red lights! I was like the crazy Steve McQueen on the wheel. When I tell my kid this story it will look something like this:
Then you get there and everyone is banged up for some reason or another, and they are all kids. There are better places to be. And I’m carrying in my son, who I’ve had for three days, and he looks so peaceful because he’s sleeping. You’d just think “oh cute kid he’s asleep.” It isn’t until you pick him up and he’s limp that you realize how close it is to all coming apart.
Having a nurse take your kid out of your arms before you know how he will be is something I do not recommend having happen to you. Time starts to drag, and all you want is for the fucking doctor to come in and say it was all a big mistake and everyone panicked. I want people to tell me I panicked. No one tells me I panicked.
We’ve been blessed with a kid whose light weight and lanky figure belies his toughness. He is most certainly tougher than his father. His father was a wreck, although I wasn’t supposed to cry because I’m the dad and I’m supposed to hold it together because everyone else is in rough shape and SOMEONE HAS TO TALK TO THE NURSE.
I swear to God the baseball part is coming soon.
Then they do bring your kid back, and you want time to freeze again. After testing him and bombarding him with enough radiation to begin activating his innate superpowers, we get the news that he is probably fine and that it was a feeding issue that no one was able to catch at the hospital before we were released. We would have to stay for a few days.
We did stay, he was fine, and they discharged us a few days after our arrival. Then I spent the next week convinced I was the worst father ever. This doesn’t require much encouragement anyway (I also had Jungleland stuck in my head at the time, and given the circumstances it was not the best Boss song to have going). So now I have this super tough kid that I’m super worried about. I needed to find a way not to panic.
That’s when baseball saved me.
Everything about the static nature of the game gave me the time with my son I needed. Because we are an advanced and civilized nation, fathers get no assigned time to spend with their new kids beyond their own personal or vacation time. So I was back to work within two days of my son’s birth. Would’ve liked to have hung out a bit beyond seeing him with an IV in his arm. But the farther the middle class falls, the harder it works. So I work.
Baseball became, in that instant, the timekeeper. It was my safe place with my son.
I’m not going to turn into George Will or Ken Burns here. That’s not what I’m getting at. What I am trying to say, I think, is that I totally get baseball now. I fully understand its appeal to those who want so desperately for the world to fucking stop for five seconds so that they can have a moment with their son before he starts filling out college applications. The pitcher gets the signal. He winds up. He throws. Time passes slowly. We can be taken away on a voyage of mathematics and athleticism for a few hours a day. Every day is a chance for someone to beat the odds that they themselves have set. All the while, time passes slowly.
There were a brief few moments in that emergency room where I allowed for the possibility that three days would be all I was going to get with my kid. That fear has been ringing in my head like tinnitus. It's like those three days are still going, sometimes. I need to find a way to slow the world down to keep these three days going. No other sport does it quite like baseball.
There is no ulterior hipster motive going on with buying into baseball. It isn’t really even the fault of the other sports we all seem to revolve around in this Buffalo Twitterdome. There are times when those sports are the tops. There are times when the static becomes too great.
George Carlin has a famous bit about the differences between baseball and football, and it’s a funny one, but when the rest of the world is a dogfight, I think for a few hours it isn’t so bad to be safe at home.