This summer, a baseball exhibit that is touted as being “better than the collection in Cooperstown” was in my hometown Cleveland, Ohio. So, I convinced my parents – who have abided my lifelong obsession with baseball – that we should go. As I stood at a display case, gawking at a cup of gravely dirt while strains of Bruce Springstein’s “Glory Days” repeated softly in the background, my mother interrupted my reverie, saying, “Only a true fanatic would be impressed by a cup of dirt from Ebbet’s Field.” “I know,” I breathed, “Isn’t it awesome?”
I believe in baseball. I have known this my whole life, but my mother’s comment made me pause for the first time to consider: what is it about baseball that makes the fans different from other sports’ fans? I think the answer is that true baseball fans all embody three qualities: they are reflective, hopeful, and a bit obsessive.
Reflective baseball fans recognize that baseball is a lot like life. The major league baseball season is a glorious 162 games long. If a team drops a 3-game series, they shake it off and look ahead to the next city, the next team, and the next series. Just like baseball, life is day-in and day-out. You might lose your job or suffer the loss of a loved one, but you always have to look ahead because tomorrow has the potential for a win. And it is in knowing this truth that the best baseball fans are eternally hopeful.
In sports governed by the clock, as time ticks down, the score may be insurmountable for the losing team. The end result is a foregone conclusion. But in baseball, “it ain’t over till it’s over.” Even if the score is a blow-out, there is still a chance. Until the very last out of the very last inning, there is still a game to play, and the outcome could go either way. No deficit is too big because each new inning holds unlimited potential. The real baseball fans do not head home early when their team is losing. They know that if they left early, they might miss the best come-from-behind victory this season including a walk-off homerun hit by the new rookie sensation.
Lastly, dyed-in-the-wool baseball fanatics are obsessive. We revel in the beauty of the game and the storied-history that is baseball. We are the ones who appreciate the subtle nuances of the game, drool over statistics, glory in the excitement of October playoffs, and count down the days until Opening Day next spring. And when Opening Day comes, we, like the phoenix rising from the ashes, breathe the new air of promises that each new season brings. We are the ones who can stare at a cup of dirt and imagine the baseball greats who once crunched across it in their cleats while they circled the bases. Yes, I believe in baseball.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.