October Baseball and the Meaning of Hurt


On Sports

Dear Louisa,

I’m very excited to be writing about the World Series with you.

When I moved to America, I knew that it was important to find a sport, something to fill the void that my enforced separation from Arsenal Football Club was going to create. I settled (the term implies, inaccurately, some level of critical thinking) on baseball.

I have an uncle who lives on the Upper West Side, and for Christmas every year he would send me Yankee paraphernalia. I did ask for it, he wasn’t imposing on me, and so, since I already had the cap and because I would be living in New York and am a locavore when it comes to sports teams, I settled into Yankee fandom. This was easy to do at the time—1993—because the Yankees were terrible. There was nothing fair-weather about it.

I enjoyed the first few Yankee triumphs: My girlfriend in college was in love with Joe Girardi, who wasn’t a threat; I went to the Leyritz walk-off game in 1995; and after graduating from college, my friends and I used to go sit in the bleachers with a flask and a selection of loose joints. On May 17, 1998, the last time I took ecstasy, David Wells pitched a perfect game. It was a good time to be a fan.

And then my team betrayed me. On the Internet one day, I discovered the Yankees, a team that so far had provided me with nothing but the occasional good time, had signed a deal with Manchester United. You know how people in Brooklyn can never forgive the Dodgers for moving to LA—well imagine they had killed your grandmother as well.

Fully aware of the futility of the gesture, I switched my allegiance to the team that I felt it would most upset the Yankees to lose me to. I became a Red Sox fan, and I timed it perfectly. The year I switched was the year of Grady Little and Aaron Boone, I learned quickly about baseball hurt. If you’re not interested in hurt, you’re missing the best part of sports and should avoid them. Then the next year they won, and that was quite exciting too.

I also dislike the new Yankees. I particularly loathe Alex Rodriguez. I don’t like his hair and I don’t like the way he stands with his hands on his hips, and I don’t like the way he thinks that his astonishing talent for baseball makes it OK to be that arrogant and needy at the same time; analysands can’t talk about themselves in the third person. In his defense, though, he does have paintings of himself as a centaur on the walls of his Florida manse, raising the possibility that he is operating at a level of performance art than the rest of us cannot comprehend.

Baseball’s been tough for me this year. Between the World Cup and the Red Sox injury list, it’s been hard for me to find a way in. I think I’m rooting for the Phillies. I also love Cliff Lee, even though he may well be a Yankee next year, so I could want the Rangers to win. But it’s a little tricky, morally speaking, to root for Texas. I think for now I’ll just enjoy watching the Yankees lose.

I will have some questions for you, a native of the sport, along the way. Why does everything about the National League look smaller on the TV? The players, the stadium; everything looks bigger and shinier on the American side of the fence. I think it gives them an inferiority complex. Does Tim Lincecum really think that’s a good look for him? And what is the difference between the infield fly rule and a fielder’s choice?

All the best,