Baseball and the married man

Posted: Wednesday, September 29, 2010

In some ways, domestic relationships are based on hating stuff the other person's in to. Spouse, partner, "special friend" - whatever you call them, they're also your roommate and roommates are inherently annoying. Even ones you make out with.

For example: my wife despises some of my greatest loves - jazz fusion, excess drinking, airing our private business in a bi-weekly column and Star Wars. Likewise, I can't stand vampires, Top 40, reality dating shows and fawning over baby pictures of people I don't know on Facebook.

That doesn't mean we don't share common interests - Thai food, "your mom" jokes, Guns 'N' Roses - or that we don't love each other. It just gives us something safe to argue about for a little while. Like sparring, so we can stay sharp for real fights, you know, about money or in-laws or whose turn it is to wake up with our two-year-old.

But mid-September raises perhaps the biggest bone of these marital contentions: baseball.

Now, I'm not a typical sports fan. I mean, I had my youthful dalliance with football. I even went out for the team my freshman year of high school, but there was too much running, so I joined a garage band instead. I liked basketball, too, until everyone else started growing and I stopped. The day my friend's kid brother dunked on me put an end to basketball for me forever.

For whatever reason, though, I've remained a baseball fan. I'm a geek - I love the history, the statistics, the slow, methodical pace. Of course, it doesn't hurt that my team has been a perennial contender every year for the past 15 years, and that its roster boasts several future Hall-of-Famers including one who used to do it - it! - with Madonna.

I realize that everyone hates the Yankees. Honestly, if I'd grown up outside New York, I'd probably hate them too. Of course, I'd also dunk my pizza in ranch dressing, so...

Still, it's a valid criticism. The Yankees are corporate. They're aging. They trade on past glory. They rely on performance-enhancing drugs. It's impossible to get tickets for less than $200 a piece - they're lot like the Rolling Stones that way. Still, you've got to give the Stones props, at least on some level.

Anyway, now that the closest professional baseball team, the Seattle Mariners, is a thousand miles away and totally hopeless, I follow baseball more closely than ever. But late-season baseball is something else.

For one, following the pennant race makes me feel like I'm actively engaged in a worthwhile pursuit, when all I'm really doing is laying around watching TV and drinking beer, sometimes as early as 9:05 a.m. for day games on the east coast.

I also consider it educational. During the past three years, we've only lifted our strict no-TV-for-toddlers rule on special occasions: the 2008 presidential election, the Olympics, Bristol Palin's recent debut on Dancing with the Stars. As such, our daughter is absolutely transfixed whenever I flip on the television for what she terms "Yankeeball." Last playoffs, she spoke her first full sentences: "What up, Sabathia?" and "I love Matsui." Sadly, I recently had to explain to her that Matsui's no longer with us - he's gone to the Angels. Oh, well. I suppose she had to learn about free agency sooner or later.

Any other time of year, I'm willing to flip the game off, or at least mute it. But after the autumnal equinox, no dice. It stays on at full volume and I stay put. In fact, I recently broke down and bought an iPhone just so I can go over to friends' houses, but remain tuned in. I don't want people to think I'm anti-social.

Of course, I'm also planning ahead. Our second child is due smack in the middle of the World Series. Perhaps that's why my wife, despite being born and raised in the Bronx, has taken to rooting against the Bombers. If they make it that far, I think she's afraid I'm going to sneak said iPhone into the delivery room. And she may have a point. Anything to avoid the temptation of looking over the blue curtain. I did that last time. Yikes.

At heart, however, the issue has less to do with baseball than a realization: we don't always live up to our own visions of ourselves. I don't like to think of myself as the stereotypical husband who tunes out the world for sports and she doesn't like to think of herself as the stereotypical wife who keeps yelling at her husband to turn off the game.

And yet, sometimes we can't help who we are. She's going to backseat drive, I'm going to snore. She's going to buy shoes she doesn't need, I'm going to start home improvement projects I'll never finish. She's going to stack our Netflix queue with Mark Ruffalo and Jennifer Anniston vehicles. Every once in a while, I'm going to DVR a movie with a title like "Wild Midnight Indiscretions" - why else pay for premium cable?

But most of all, she's going to pray the Yankees get eliminated and if she gets her way, I'm going to be cranky until next April.

• Slack Tide appears every other Wednesday. Check out Geoff's website at www.geoffkirsch.com.





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