Do you have a favorite sport?
Growing up, I was not very coordinated, but we were an active family so I hung around a lot of athletic events. I was always losing my own races and matches right away, becoming a life long, dedicated fan while failing as a participant. I was especially enamored of tennis, figure skating and baseball, all sports I attempted myself. Although I became a sensation at my country club when I hit a five on a par five hole the very first time I ever played golf, it was down hill after that. Lessons and lengthy afternoons in the scorching sun only weakened my game and my interest waned when the cute club champion went off to college on the west coast and never came home.
Although I still appreciate most sports, my favorite is baseball. Thanks to my brother, I learned some of the basic strategies when I was young, and I have great memories of the Miracle Mets, led by Tom Seaver, Bud Harrelson and Cleon Jones. It was 1969 and the whole country became Mets fans. When they won the World Series, my school erupted into a mass of screaming, crying fanatics. I was hooked for life.
I’ve been to a few games over the years and have developed a deep affection for the Boston Red Sox, who I read about before drinking my morning coffee. I have even taught a major league player, who showed early promise when he was a pudgy eighth grader throwing clay at the ceiling. I was recently in an elevator at Fenway Park with Jim Palmer, the Hall of Fame Baltimore Orioles pitcher as famous for his underwear ads as for his fast ball. In fact, when I asked him if he was Jim Palmer, a question I had to stammer out with the self confidence of an eight year old, he said, “Yes, I am. Did you recognize me from my underwear ads?” He had a big smile and was happy to shake hands with the young kids I was with.
But I did see Jackie Robinson twice. He was a handsome and dignified man with silver hair. I sang my heart out at our school assembly, wanting him to notice me.
Baseball is the ultimate sport for fans. The drama, the stories, the strategy, the amazing brilliance that comes along with great pitching and hitting, the personal stories of failure, redemption and heart break. The Red Sox have recently given me Clay Buchholz’s no hitter in his second major league start, followed by Jon Lester’s no hitter after his recovery from cancer. I watched both games in Boston, on TV, and could hear the city around me letting loose as each ninth inning drew to its dramatic conclusion. And this year there was Daniel Nava, hitting a grand slam home run on his first major league pitch. They did not even have a picture of him on the team’s roster. All of a sudden, he was the home town hero, and who does not love a story like that?
Baseball is filled with stories, which is probably why I love it so much. Fans can recreate games and share opinionated beliefs attached to their own memories. Look at any newspaper article on line about a baseball game, and you can see how many fans argue about what they would have done differently, who should be traded or who should be batting third.
My shelves are filled with baseball books, but I do have a favorite. It’s Doris Kearns Goodwin’s ode to baseball called Wait Til Next Year. It is one of the best baseball books ever written and a tribute to the best game ever.
Spring training begins my year. The World Series ends it. I am a baseball fan and always will be. I may not be able to participate in many sports these days but being a fan has its own rewards. Baseball; my favorite sport.
Do you have a favorite sport?