Why We (Still) Watch




This week, I was feeling so uninspired, I asked for a topic from my editor. I don’t normally ask for topics. I like to come up with my own ideas. But at this point in a long season, it’s getting a little thin. There’s not much good to say—and we’ve pretty much said all of it here already—and writing bad stuff can feel a little like piling on and a lot like no fun. And so, my editor wondered, in passing, if/why I was still watching and then tossed out an idea or two.

The answer to the first part of his question was yes. At least, I watch sometimes. The second part set me to thinking and, well, here’s my answer to that:

I have a lot of friends who I became friends with because we share a love of baseball. A lot of them are on the internet, specifically Twitter. I don’t live in Cincinnati, so it’s not very often that I get to see a game in person and talk baseball with people around me. But the internet has made it possible for me to be a fan who has other fans for friends, and I’ve come to feel pretty close to those folks, even if I only know most of them through the internet. Anyway, when I watch a game now, it’s not because of the Reds, it’s because of conversations that go like this:

-Talk about rookie pitcher and anxiety over his performance.
-Be cheered if he starts well, disheartened if he starts poorly.
-Make jokes about how terrible Joey Votto and Jay Bruce are.
-When Joey does something good, make Marty joke and/or a “Come on now,” reference.
-Watch most of the Reds play poorly.
-Wonder why we watch this in the first place.
-Cheer pointlessly if they pull it out.
-Still feel a little sad if they lose, even though it doesn’t matter.
-And repeat.

At least, that’s the baseball end of things. In the middle, we crack inappropriate jokes. We talk about books and music. We talk about our kids and we congratulate each other when something good happens. Sometimes, we even talk about politics, crazy as that sounds.

So, I guess, if you were to ask me why I watch—and my editor did—that’s what I’d tell you. At this point, it’s not about this season at all and it’s only sometimes about baseball. Often, it’s about friendship and relationships.

And anyway, why do most of us fall in love with this stupid game anyway? I don’t know about most of you, but I didn’t love baseball at first because it was baseball. I loved it because my grandfather loved it and I loved my grandfather. In later years, sure, I came to appreciate a nice play, a key strikeout, or whatever. But my love of baseball is built on relationships with others. I think that’s true for most of us, and I think it’s why we still watch a bad team on a school night in August when there are plenty of other things for us to do. It’s because we remember grandfathers doing the same thing and it’s because we have friends there waiting for us. And if Joey Votto hits a home run, all the better.

Jason Linden is a Nuxhall Way contributor who also writes for Redleg Nation and The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is out now. You can follow him on Twitter at @JasonLinden.

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