Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks (and a Bud Light!)

Torn between two lovers, feelin' like a fool
Lovin' both of you is breakin' all the rules...

True confession time: I’m juggling two objetos de amor right now. At a time when I usually give my heart to one and only one...

Fall has always been the moment when football and I are together -- we are committed longtime companions. College and pro, we have kept steady company on weekends for as long as I can remember. I was cheering for the Florida Gators before I could walk. (Yes, I talked -- very well, I’m told -- before walking. Shocking, isn’t it.) I’ve wept and gnashed my teeth over the follies of the long-suffering Tampa Bay Buccaneers for three decades. And just this year, I even strengthened my commitment to the game by not only joining a Fantasy Football league, but serving as commissioner of one. My L’Oreal long-lash mascara’d eyes were only for the pigskin.

Until another suitor came along and totally by surprise, swept me off my feet. Giddily, I might add.

America’s Pastime, the venerable game of baseball, is now courting me as well. All thanks to the new darlings of the diamond, the fresh owners of my heart. The Tampa Bay Rays.

Baseball passion in October? From the OFC (Original Football Chick)? Inconceivable! (and yes, it means exactly what I think it means...)

I’ve always liked baseball -- grew up watching my brother play and my dad coach little league. Even thought at one point I might want to be an umpire -- until I realized how unflattering the ump’s work attire was. Ugh. Loved the Cincinnati Reds -- aka The Big Red Machine -- as a young girlie. Won my first sports bet with them, too, taking the hard -earned lunch money of the boys in my sixth grade class when my Reds beat their Red Sox in the 1975 World Series.

However, my interest in recent years has waned -- the game changed. The big players on the scene -- specifically the Yankees and the Red Sox -- did nothing for me. And my hometown team, the hapless Rays, pretty much stunk. I followed them out of community loyalty, through sub-par play on the field and bad administrative decisions and fan frustration but there was never really anything to get excited about. At all.

Until one day in March when I caught wind of the news that the Rays had brawled with the Yankees in a spring training game. Hmmm. Cut to a couple of months later and the Rays are atop the AL East. Said to be the toughest division in baseball. Hmmm hmmm hmmm. Home grown baseball worth watching. Yowza.

And watch I did. Didn’t surf by the games while wielding the remote -- actually stopped and checked things out. Started buying tickets to Sunday afternoon games, taking and introducing Will to the game which in turn created a new young fan. He loves it so much that we’re redoing his room in a baseball theme, as a matter of fact. He's very excited. Yay!

Game after game after game they won. Division champs. Playoffs. I got lucky and was selected to have the option to purchase tickets to the Championship Series. Picked up four seats for Friday’s opener -- the heartbreaking pitching duel/loss. What an experience -- especially since I got to sit next to my brother, who watched with the eyes of a former player and the heart of a kid for whom this was the moment of which he’d always dreamed.

I got my own chance to weigh in with the team a few days ago when, at a stop light, I saw Joe Maddon, manager (head coach, basically) of the Rays pumping gas at a station on the corner. The Rays had just won a playoff game against the Chicago White Sox. Rolling down my window, I yelled across two lanes of traffic "Hey! Joe Maddon! Great game!" and waved frantically. He looked up, smiled and gave a wave back. Poor dude was just going home after work and he has crazy dames like me bugging him -- but I simply couldn't resist.

And now here we are -- two wins away from the World Series. Unbelievable.

I’m still keeping company with football -- please. Saturday night, as the Rays battled the BoSox and the Gators schooled the LSU Tigers, our picture-in-picture was smoking from so much use. And with my honor on the line in Fantasy Football (that Adrian Peterson better get his act together quickly. Plus -- do NOT get me started on the disappointment Randy Moss has been -- yeah, I know his game is off thanks to the absence of Tom Brady. But still...), I’m keeping close tabs on the pro game as well.

But right now, it’s the Boys of Summer and their brave crusade into Autumn that bring the biggest smile to my face and the twinkle to my eye. My Rays play with confidence and fearlessness and a purity that showcases the essence of this game. Yeah. I’m more than a little head-over-heels for them.

Ain’t love grand?


Miss Attitude said...

What a nice dilemma to have;)
Go Rays!

Skippy said...

Lifts my bottle of O'Douls, and clinks it to your Budweiser.

Absoluely beautiful, CJ

bronsont said...

Pfffftt! Two lovers NOT, I know Al Gore is your real heart throb!

Great writing, loved it!

Why, it's Clark! said...

Jane, you might not believe this, but I was at that intersection at that exact moment! I was on my way home from the game (I like 4th street) and was on the phone with someone, telling them "Everyone here is nuts for the Rays! Rifght now, I'm looking at an older guy pumping gas, wearing a mohawk...oh, that would be Joe Maddon!"

citizen jane said...

Clark! It was indeed the corner of 4th and 22nd -- and Joe was at the BP station on the SE corner. How funny! I was actually on my way home from All Children's (Will was still in residence at the time and on the phone with my brother when I saw the older guy with the mohawk and realized it was Joe. Small damn world!

April said...

You never cease to surprise me!