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Faux Outrage

Literally the most important blog in the universe since 2010.

In 1993, Major League Baseball unleashed upon the universe an ad campaign that rocked me to my very core.  See above.

“Catch the fever now!  Let me show you how!”

I was intrigued.  I wanted to learn more of this fever and exactly how to catch it.

Unfortunately, the reality is that the commercial provided no instructions whatsoever regarding the specifics of catching said “fever.”  Undeterred, I somehow managed to develop an unconditional (some would say irrational) love for the game of baseball.  By the end of the 1993 season, I had a favorite hitter (Todd Hundley, a young home-run-hitting catcher who would eventually be forced to embarrass himself in the outfield), a favorite pitcher (Jeff Innis, who had the goofiest delivery I had ever seen), and most importantly, I had a favorite pastime: America’s pastime.

I had the fever.

Finally, I caught it.

These days I still have the fever, but what was once an exercise in hero-worship — cheering for gladiators battling against lions who had mysteriously taken the form of the Atlanta Braves — has evolved into a not-insignificant piece of my emotional life.  Baseball is for me a meaningful way to acknowledge the passing of time, to separate one year (or season) from the next.

That said, I have no problem recognizing that the above paragraph is insane.  To ascribe words like “meaningful” and “emotional” to an athletic competition where you are a spectator and no member of your immediate family is participating — what amounts to a highly-publicized game night that you are watching from a neighbor’s couch — seems to misunderstand the capabilities humankind.  There are meaningful, emotional aspects of society, but the game of baseball?

Any sentence that explicitly states or casually implies that baseball has Real Significance in our lives rings hallow.  In fact, grandiose statements about baseball have to false be because baseball is objectively unimportant.  Grown men hitting tightly-wound string collectives with wooden posts and running around in a very specific, peculiar manner.  This is not an activity that moral philosophers have grappled with over the years (except for maybe one).

And to the extent that baseball is subjectively important, there are certain sad realities that one must acknowledge:

  1. as a general rule, players wear a particular jersey out of a desire for money, not hometown/team pride
  2. cities lose teams because citizens reasonably reject tax increases to build stadiums that provide a marginal economic benefit to the taxpayer and/or because the local fanbase is deemed insufficiently large/wealthy to maximize revenue
  3. if we utilized even a fraction of the money we spend on sports on some objectively worthy cause, that worthy cause would be improved dramatically
  4. within the economic universe of major league baseball, wealthy owners in large markets can leverage their financial prowess in ways antithetical to the notion of fair play

I know all of this.

And while it is completely true that I was known as The Voice of Reason in college (among other things), I just can’t shake this baseball fever.  Shouldn’t I be able to give up something once I recognize that it has at best neutral value and is at worse an economic drain on society?  Shouldn’t I direct my efforts — in terms of time, energy, and economic power — towards something legitimately meaningful?  Shouldn’t I attempt to replace the part of my memory that contains minor league baseball statistics with, oh, say, fluency in another language?

Shouldn’t I?

I won’t.

But shouldn’t I?

And because I will never give up this irrational hobby, March will forever be the month when baseball begins to permeate my consciousness.   When Spring Training begins, when horrible and true “Hope Springs Eternal” puns are unapologetically written by headline-writers across the country, when the weather warms up in the North just enough to think about tossing a baseball around, when winter coats are hung up for the last time and the sun peaks out from behind the trees and downtown monstrosities, temporarily blinding us for the first time of the year.

In March, hope does spring eternal.

The first spring training game was last week and my body temperature was literally 102 degrees.

Objectively I know that I was sick, but there is still a large part of me that wants to believe I simply have The Fever.

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