Today I’m heading for Phoenix to meet my son Chase and take in some spring training baseball. Wow. We’ve been wanting to do this for years, and we finally pulled the trigger. I can’t wait to sit in the warm Arizona sun and watch meaningless baseball.
We are A’s fans, and if you want to know why I can’t tell you. All long-term baseball fans know this: you don’t choose your team, it chooses you. (David Brooks has a charming column about this in today’s NYTimes.) Once hooked, you become a helpless victim. Your millionaire players and owners may sell you food and tickets at extortionate prices, they may disappoint you and torment you, but your only choice is how loud to groan and complain.
Why do we do it? Why do we pay to do it? This is one of the great mysteries of the ages. No doubt evolutionary theorists tell just-so stories about how primitive man identified with the tribe in order to survive on the African savannah, and I’m not going to argue with them. All I want to know is: did they wear baseball hats? Did they have tribal logos inscribed on their leather jerkins?
Personally, I think those tribal instincts go better with football. Baseball brings out something different in me, something fundamentally lazy. I like the weather. I like the slow drone of baseball announcers on the radio. I like the spaces in which you can talk. I like watching the people. I like the sounds. I like studying the minutia of how pitchers throw and where outfielders position themselves.
One of my happiest memories is of my only other foray into Phoenix spring training. This was in February, when games had not yet begun. It was chilly, a bit foggy. I was in Phoenix for other reasons, but I got out to Giants stadium during a brief interlude. With about eight other fans I sat in the bleachers watching Dusty Baker hit ground balls to infielders. I sat there for 45 minutes, utterly content. That’s baseball.