The moment I really fell in love with baseball happened as I was wrapped in the arms of a sweaty man whose face has not endured in my memory and whose name I never bothered to learn. This alone is remarkable, as I am shy and skittish to the point that I actively scout for the grocery store cashier who is least likely to speak to me. That anything good could come of physical contact with excitable, strange men is a miracle unto itself.
I was 19 and playing the title role in a national tour of the stage version of a children’s TV show. Unable to go to Real Bars with the rest of the cast, I soon realized that I could, with minimal effort, get drunk sub rosaalongside the beleaguered salesmen populating hotel bars. The year, in case you want to know where this is going, was 2004.
At this point in my life, I had let baseball fade into the white noise of my memory. I grew up on the ’90s-era Atlanta Braves and was so thoroughly dazzled by Greg Maddux that I remembered little else, save for Chipper Jones’ winsome smile and the fact that they called Fred McGriff “the Crime Dog.” I briefly “dated” a guy from Boston, but he was hardly a charismatic ambassador for the then-cursed team. Regardless of his bullsh*t, I remained fairly neutral about the Red Sox. That is, until I began watching baseball with the show’s Bostonian crew members and other traveling fans.
Let me tell you something: I bandwagoned the 2004 Boston Red Sox like a motherf*cker, and I loved every second of it.
Equally compelled by the narrative of their hope and drawn to the spectacle of their desperation, I sat in hotel bars alongside beer-glazed men as they relived the glory and the angst of their childhoods via collective wishful thinking. I became a thrill-seeking lamprey, eager to latch on and drink up. Reader, I bought all the way in.