Two words that are music to my ears. It’s that time of year. The most wonderful time of year.
Just like the swallows to Capistrano, America’s Pastime has come home once again.
And while I love all sports (save for NASCAR – what the hell is the deal with that, anyway? Around and around on a track? Just driving? It's like rush hour on the Perimeter in DC. I just don’t get it. At. All. No offense to you lovely people who do. Promise.) baseball and the boys of summer are an intrinsic part of who I am.
Chalk it up partially to genetics – both my dad and brother played, with Daddy getting drafted while playing college ball but having to change gears due to an ankle injury -- and partially to an innate affection for a game that’s deceptively simple on the surface and always accessible.
A happenchance discovery several years ago of a blog piece written by a Houston Astros fan about his own personal baseball creed inspired me to develop my own similar statement. I’ve unearthed it, dusted it off and given it an update.
Call it Janey’s Baseball Manifesto. Version 2.0.
A public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives or motives, as one issued by a government, sovereign or organization. Made by people who are passionate about things. Like the Unibomber. And me.
It goes well with peanuts and Cracker Jacks.
As well as with a cold Bud Lite drought and a soft pretzel with light salt.
Maybe a hot dog. Ketchup and onion only. No mustard.
Make that two Bud Lites. Because I like my beer cold and cheap. It’s my wine that I prefer to be expensive. But who drinks wine when watching baseball – not this girl, anyway.
A good cigar is like a beautiful chick with a great body who also knows the American League box scores.
~ M*A*S*H, Klinger, "Bug-Out," 1976
I am a fan of the game of baseball. Period. Then, now and forever. I’ve been watching bit for as long as I can remember – Saturday afternoons were all about the ML Game of the Week on NBC with Joe Garagiola. Weekday evenings were spent with posteriors on rough wood bleachers watching my brother play ball and my dad coaching his team.
This is probably why I love the purity of the Little League game, with its crazy scores and earnest players, as much as I do the nuanced finesse of the Big League game. Give me an afternoon/early evening on a field one step up from a sandlot with a steamed hot dog, a Pepsi and kids engaged in a good, sportsmanlike game (I prefer the antics be saved for the Big Leaguers. Ahem. Parents.) and I’m a happy, giddy girl. Plus a very cheap date.
The other sports are just sports. Baseball is a love.
~ Bryant Gumbel, 1981
I will always have a passionate opinion about my team:
Damn, they suck!
These opinions will be spewed forth fast and furiously and quite often in the span of a week, a three/four game series, a day, a game or even an inning.
I’m going to shoot straight yet tactfully when it comes to my take on my team. That doesn’t mean I don’t love my team (because I do) or that I’m a bad fan (because I’m not.) I’ve been called a “bad fan” before simply because I didn’t just blindly rubber stamp everything that was happening with the team. I’m going to call it like I see it. You might call it tough love. I call it being an intelligently invested fan. But no less of one than anyone else.
Can you tell this is a hot button of mine? Because it is.
Hey. My passion. My rules. Y’all are free to do your own thing. This is a no judgment zone right here.
There have been only two geniuses in the world. Willie Mays and Willie Shakespeare.
~ Tallulah Bankhead
I’m going to defend my team’s players – through stupid comments and dumbassedness (a new word! Add it to your dictionary!) and bad behavior. Most of the time, anyway. Unless it’s illegal or immoral or horrendously bad. Then no way.
That’s just how I roll. Love my team, love its players. Regardless. Usually.
However, once a player that dabbles in the aforementioned dumbassedness is no longer a member of my team, he is automatically Dead To Me and his actions, most of which I previously ignored or overlooked, become abhorrent.
See, Spurrier, Steve as a classic example of this. He’s a Jackass. Through and through. Once upon a time, he was My Jackass. The football leader of my alma mater and the alma mater of my parents and grandmother before me. We are currently a four-generation- and-counting University of Florida family. And it was OK. The HBC’s antics and arrogance didn’t bother me one whit. I embraced it.
Then he wasn’t part of My Team anymore. And for a while, he was Dead to Me.
But now, time, distance and the behavior of others (giving the side eye to you, Urban Meyer and Will Muschamp) has made my stance towards the HBC a little softer. Nothing can help erase the Dead to Me mark next to your name on my list like the emergence of another, greater jackass. When Ron Zook is your second favorite ex-head coach, you know bad, bad things have gone down…
(Yes, I know that I’m mixing sports analogies here. You know the deal: My blog, my rules. Have we just met?)
And given that my baseball team, my Tampa Bay Rays, underwent a complete makeover during the off season, there are many, many, many players who are no longer members of my team. I can’t say that these guys qualify as Dead To Me, since many of them changed uniforms not of their own volition. Must admit, jury’s still out on those who did leave of their own free will. We. Shall. See.
Baseball is a ballet without music. Drama without words.
~ Ernie Harwell, "The Game for All America," 1955
My prerogative: as a fan, I get to criticize and lambast and bemoan the fate and play of my team. My heart’s with them – nothing wrong with a little tough love and constructive criticism.
However… when anyone else opens his or her big trap to criticize or lambast or bemoan the fate or play of my team or anything related to my team… pffft. Not cool.
Even worse: I really don’t appreciate being mocked or taunted or goaded about my team and their standing, success or otherwise. Don’t do it to get a rise out of me – unless you want to fall into Dead To Me status along with Muschamp. And seriously – no one wants to be there. I take my sports teams very seriously – thinking it’s “funny” to mess with me about them is the fastest way to end up on my Very Bad Side.
And once you're on my Very Bad Side, you usually don't leave. I defend my teams like a mama bear. Fiercely.
You got that, Sparky?
Baseball? It's just a game - as simple as a ball and a bat. Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes. It's a sport, business - and sometimes even religion.
~ Ernie Harwell, "The Game for All America," 1955
Let’s be honest: try as I might, there’s no way I can be objective or impartial or benevolent with a wrong call when it comes to my team. Yeah – that ump really does need glasses if he thought that pitch was a ball. And please – Kevin Kiermaier was SAFE by a mile, dude. When I love, I love unconditionally and with a biased, affectionate eye.
Suck it, Joe West. Yeah. You heard me.
Don't tell me about the world. Not today. It's springtime and they're knocking baseball around fields where the grass is damp and green in the morning and the kids are trying to hit the curve ball.
~ Pete Hamill
Embedded in the fiber of my being and the foundation of my soul, there lies a well-bred, genteel Southern lady who was taught not to say unkind things about anyone (at least in the presence of those to whom she would be referring.)
However – that engrained character trait goes out the window when it comes to the main rivals of my team – specifically the Red Sox and the Yankees.
I loathe them.
Would even go so far as to say I hate them. Yeah. I know. Hate’s a powerful word. I don’t wish them ill-will or harm. Just many, many, many losses. Lots of calls that don’t go their way. Perhaps an ejection or two.
I heckle their players whenever they appear on the telly, even if just in a commercial. I would root for the Devil himself in a three game stand at Fenway.
It must be noted, however, that while I despise the Yankees on a global, more general level (c'mon -- they're the Yankees.) my disdain for the Red Sox is much more specific. I cannot even hear the name Pedroia without automatically saying "I hate that guy." Just rolls off the tongue, no thought given. Pavlovian almost.
By the way, this venom is also spewed at my always-and-forever athletic nemesis, the horrid Florida State Seminoles. In case you were wondering. My blood runs orange and blue. This animosity is just part of the natural order of my things.
There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem - once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit.
~ Al Gallagher, 1971
I am a true, through and through sports-loving girl. Let's emphasize that "girl" thing for a moment... while I'm going to appreciate the game and the stats and all the things my fellow testosterone-laden fans do, my estrogenical sensibilities are going to come shining through periodically. And I'm going to make periodic comments that reflect that. Like "nice tuchus" or "damn, he's hot" or my all-time favorite “Chicks dig the well-placed bunt.”
I try to curtail this, because yes, it is sexist and yes, I do fight against the rampant sexism in sports fandom/reporting. But I own it. And am up front with it. I like men and I realllly appreciate what they bring to the physical aesthetic. So sue me.
I spent several years in the early '80s following the Los Angeles Dodgers simply because I was in love with Steve Sax and his outstanding posterior. No apologies here.
But. BUT. But. I am a baseball fan first and foremost. I'm no groupie nor obsessive superfan. While the scenery might be easy on the eyes, my long-term love and devotion is for the game. Players come and go. But teams are forever. In my heart, anyway.
So there you are – the Janey Baseball Manifesto. Read it. Learn it. Know it.
And I’ll see you in the cheap seats. First dog and draught are on me.
Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good too.
~ Greg, age 8