Take last Sunday. I did a reading at Bazaar Cafe, a little gem of a coffeeshop in the Richmond/Seacliff area of San Francisco. The owner bought a book, explaining that he was a big baseball fan. Later I caught him wincing as he checked the score of the Dodger game on his cellphone. I told him I grew up in LA, and he said, "So you're a Dodgers fan." He grinned, because being a Dodgers fan in the Bay Area is like being a Communist in 1950s Washington DC.
"Well," I said. "I used to be."
"Don't tell me you root for the Giants now. How could you!"
I backtracked a bit, explaining that the McCourt years turned me off the Dodgers, and that the Fox years weren't much better. He agreed on those points, but said he couldn't imagine switching teams. After all, he'd been a Dodgers fan when they were still in Brooklyn...
And that's when I said it: "Tell you the truth, I just love baseball."
BULLSHIT! BULLSHIT! BEEP BEEP BEEP! Sirens blaring, lights flashing and strobing.
Except, hold on -- maybe it's not bullshit. Here's another anecdote:
Yesterday evening, while my elder daughter was at dance rehearsal, I walked the two younger kids over to the town little league diamond, where we found a playoff game underway. The teams were named for two local businesses, a gas station and a restaurant, and I knew the families of players on both teams. It was a good game: an elimination match for both clubs. The players were amped, and the pitching was surprisingly crisp. The kids and I watched the first couple of innings before heading back to pick up their sister.
And then this morning it hit me, almost first thing after I woke up: I wonder who won the game...
Not the Giants game. Not the Dodgers game. The little league game. I wanted to know who won a little league game that none of my children had played in.
In another era I might have dismissed the thought out of hand, because how the hell would I find out who won? Little league scores don't make the papers--at least not around here.
But now we have the Internet. And parents in the stands with iPads. In less than a minute I found the results: the gas station team had beaten the restaurant team, 5-4, with the winning run coming in the bottom of the sixth (the final inning in little league), driven in by one of the players I knew.
To me, this story proves two things. One is that people in my community probably have too much time on their hands (the score was accompanied on the little-league website by a "wrapup" article...) I'm ambivalent about giving kids' sports too much serious attention. The "Friday Night Lights" phenomenon has always seemed too parochial, too navel-gazing, for anyone's good. Who wants to peak at seventeen? Or twelve, like these little league kids? But who cares. I'm probably the only non-parent who has ever visited the town's little-league website.
Which brings me to the second lesson: I really do just love baseball.