One of the very first relationship conversations my husband and I had was not about future plans or past partners, not about when and whether we would declare our exclusivity or how we each felt about premarital cohabitation. It was about sports.
Professional sports fandom is not a typical hobby among my friends – more often than not, our art school coolness precludes us from jumping on any bandwagon, unless that bandwagon is full of indie rock hipsters sucking on organic American Spirits or tearing into bags of vegan kale chips. So when my barely new boyfriend first breached the subject of baseball, he did so with great tact and not unfounded fear. “I usually don’t watch sports,” he promised me, “except for maybe just a few games, just a few months a year.”
My not-yet-husband did his best to downplay what in reality was much more than a casual relationship with this game. Luckily for him, the timing of our choice to move in together coincided with the end of the season; we were newly engaged and six months committed to the life we were building together by the time the truth of his obsession came out. This was more than a casual relationship, and this was much more than a game.
I, on the other hand, feigned a couple more years of disinterest. It took some time for me to slowly, reluctantly, admit that I, too, had once had my own secret pastimes. That I too, in the years before Europe, in the days before art school, in that era preceding my primary focus on being a feminist and on being cool (because men’s only games are certainly not feminist, and even further from cool), I too had once been a sports fan. The only difference between me and my still-not-yet-husband was that I was recovered.
Well, that, and the fact that my parents didn’t have season tickets behind home plate.
Once firmly ensconced in the comfort of marriage, I found myself once again nestled into the comfort of baseball. But not just any baseball – San Francisco Giants Baseball. As fate would have it, I had married into a family not so much sports fans as Giants fans. A family so dedicated to this team that their season tickets spanned steroid scandals and multiple stadiums, down in the dumps seasons and now finally the recent renaissance watched with glee from a perfect, fifth row perch behind home plate. It was hard to resist joining the club, especially after my first home game – a loss that felt like a win in all of my Anchor Steam, garlic fried wooziness.
But it wasn’t just the beer. There was something about this team, something that spoke to the heart of me. Something that proved wrong all of my reasons for having renounced sports all of those years ago. This wasn’t machismo or heightened aggression or hyper-charged patriotism. This was just a motley group of guys, all shapes and sizes (think Pablo vs. Sergio), from all over the world (or the western hemisphere, at least), some degenerate (aka: Timmy), some crazy (aka: Brian Wilson, who will always be a Giant to me), some just regular old fashioned (Buster, of course), all coming together for one goal: uniting one crazy, degenerate, outcast city. And if a place like San Francisco could get behind them, I figured there was no shame in getting myself in on the fun as well.
I love baseball the way I love a good, long, winding novel. Spring training is the prologue, opening day like those first few eager words of chapter one. The plot thickens in direct correlation to the humidity, tensions rising with the temperatures of summer, until the cool of autumn blows in the relief, reward, or heartbreak of resolution. The postseason is fun, but in my book it doesn’t count for much more than an epilogue.
When I was pregnant, I watched every single Giants game of the 2011 season. I knew every player, followed every injury, every rise from and fall back to the minors, every proud parent waving in the stand. I circled the bases again and again in my own hero’s journey toward motherhood. I watched so much baseball that my husband and I would joke that the baby was going to be born knowing the voices of Kruk and Kuip better than the sound of her own father.
For all of the games I watched in 2011, though, I was lucky to see even a few half innings of 2012, thanks to a rule against baby screen time that we have stuck to religiously. And despite how busy I was then (and how busy I continue to be, of course), I felt this void of baseball the way someone more socially inclined might feel the absence of a friend, I felt this void of baseball like an itch in my soul that wasn’t too far from the feeling I get when I’ve stopped meditating for too long. Downton Abbey I could live without, but baseball?
This year, I’m hoping it might be different. There’s still no screen time for Koukla, but her sleep has become a little more regular, at least a tiny little bit more reliable so we can plan every now and then to watch at least a home game with a late start – maybe even see the last six innings or so if we’re really lucky. And this week I got lucky.
After an exciting job offer followed by a few tense days of negotiations, my husband made me a deal – we’d celebrate with Anchor Steam and veggie burgers and an extra innings home game. Our night was so perfect it was all I could do not to cry, relishing the happy ending and big beginning of my own little novellas, all while cloaked in the comfort of an epic game that really never ends.