Quick! To the AM Dial!

I’ve always wanted to get sports. I mean, I’ve never understood the whole thing. When I find myself in a situation where people are talking about touchdowns, fifty-yard lines, and Raider Nation, I always embarrass myself by asking something like, “So… um… we’re talking about football here, right?”

There have been times when I’ve given it a good try. In my first year of college, prodded by a friend, I tried to get into football. I went to a couple of UC Davis games, I watched a few pro games on TV, but I couldn’t quite get it. I don’t know why. I think it’s a bizarre form of androgen insensitivity: in me, the hormones that drive the football spirit probably are produced, but they’re just not absorbed.

I tried to get into hockey. Everyone in my family was a fan of the San Jose Sharks, back before they even learned how to play hockey and all they had going for them was a cool team logo (everyone, that is, except for my little sister, who liked the Anaheim Mighty Ducks — the feuds that erupted when the two teams played each other were pretty fun to watch). I went to a Sharks game when they played against Philadelphia once, and it was fun. But I didn’t really get into the sport itself. When there’s a hockey game on a TV in a public place, I look up and try to figure out what’s going on, but I never do get it. I think that when I figure out what a Power Play is, I will feel better about this.

I watched a few basketball games on TV. My friend Evilpheemy tried to teach me the intricacies of basketball, because I had a crush on a woman in my office who was a big basketball fan (she ended up with another co-worker who wasn’t a basketball fan after all).

But now, I think I’m beginning to get baseball. Perhaps it’s just because the World Series are coming up, but there’s baseball fever — well, at least a slight cold — in my office, and I’m starting to feel like I understand it. A bit.

Baseball’s neat, possibly because there are some things you can know about baseball without even being a fan. For example: the Cubs lose. You don’t have to know anything about baseball at all to know that. The Chicago Cubs just lose. I don’t mean that they lose every game that they play (that would be the Cincinnati Tigers, but who cares about them?). What I mean is that the Cubs can get close, real close, to winning the championship, and then flub it in the last inning by… well, just by flubbing it up. It’s the human story, Mike Royko, the former columnist from Chicago, says. Who hasn’t experienced the agony of getting really, really close to your goal and losing it at just the last moment?

That’s what the Cubs do. They lose.

The Red Sox do kind of the same thing. They’ve got a great team this year, even I know that, but they can’t quite seem to get their act together. Again, it’s the human story. You get everything just right, but somehow everything seems to go wrong.

The Yankees win. That’s another truism. But they also suck. Because who the hell wins all the time? Schmucks like the Yankees, that’s who.

That’s why people can be fans of the Cubs and hate the Yankees, even though the Yankees win and the Cubs lose. It’s because the Cubs are real human beings, regular joes like you and me, but the Yankees are like those rich kids who got to have everything their way in high school.

See? It’s a cultural thing.

The other night, I knew that the Cubs were laying the Marlins, and I heard on NPR the next morning that the Cubs had the game in the bag, until close to the end, when things just started to go wrong. I knew that the Cubs played the Marlins again the next night and lost with dignity.

Last night, the Yankees played the Red Sox in New York. I wanted to hear the game, so while I was driving home I actually sought out an AM radio station that was playing the game. I didn’t hear much of it, just a bit of the top of the second inning (see how quickly you can pick up the language?); I heard enough to know that Roger Clemens, the pitcher for the Yankees (and isn’t that a great name? Roger Clemens, how much more American can you get?) was giving out home runs left and right to the Sox. When I got home, the Sox were ahead by a score of 4-0. Yet the Yankees managed to pull it out from under them, so it’s going to be the Yankees vs. the Marlins at the World Series this year.

I’m interested in how the Series will go, but I probably won’t actually watch the games. I was rooting for the Cubs against the Marlins, and the Sox against the Yankees. If either of those teams had gotten in, I probably would have gone out of my way to watch at least one of the games of the World Series.

All in all, though, I think I’m glad that things turned out the way they did. I don’t think the Universe would be able to cope with the sheer surrealism of a World Series featuring the Cubs against the Sox.