Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Opening day

I've chosen to use my guest-blogging opportunity to write about, well, me. If that isn't self-indulgent, I don't know what is. But it was either this or something stupid about melons. If this is my only guest-post ever, well, you'll know why.

Sunday was the start of two six-month journeys for me. It was opening day for the baseball team I grew up on, the Cleveland Indians, and for the street-hockey league I just joined.

As far as the scoreboard was concerned, I went 0-2. Both the team I grew up rooting for and the team whose uniform consists of a $10 T-shirt lost. Neither was a surprise. In the Indians' case, they were just picking up where they left off last year -- as tomato cans for Chicago White Sox. The final week of the Indians season left me wishing I was raised in Belgium or something.

But this is one of the problem with spectator sports. As a fan, you're powerless to do much except watch and hope.

Over the past five years, my own personal sporting life has become all-spectator, all the time. It wasn't always that way. My athletic career peaked in college. And while, as peaks go, it was a modest one, it was nevertheless a peak, and it had nothing to do, really, with my success on the field.

Which is good, because I'm pretty much an uncoordinated spaz.

Few of my best memories are of actual wins. Sure, there was the time I got in to play during garbage time for Michigan's club lacrosse team. I stopped all three shots. Wearing an actual, maize-and-blue Michigan jersey no less. In front of my girlfriend. (That was a good day.) And there was the time the staff of The Michigan Daily beat the staff of Michigan State's paper in football, after I'd guaranteed the result that morning when the local sports talk radio station interviewed me.

But to summon those two memories, I actually had to think, if only for a couple seconds. What springs instantly to mind when I think about my own sports career is all the happy walks home from wherever it was I'd been playing. I probably had at least one fresh bruise or scrape as a souvenir. I realized on Sunday that what I'd been missing were those moments of untroubled, sweaty bliss.

Playing sports, on a team, is one of the dozens of things I took for granted in college. Along with being in some semblance of good shape. But since then, my sports participation has largely been limited to the purchasing of tickets, hot dogs and beer, with utterly predictable consequences for my physical and mental states.

I made some halfhearted attempts to keep this going after graduation. I tried to find a broomball league, with no luck. I joined our company's softball team for a while, but the feel was all wrong. Most games were suffused by a sort of antsy dread, lending the whole enterprise a perpetual 1964 Phillies feeling. I didn't go back last year.

It's early, of course, but I'm optimistic about this. More optimistic, anyway, than I am about the Tribe's season (not enough pitching). Even if the Indians somehow win the World Series, or even get back to the postseason, my life wouldn't really change all that much. I'd celebrate my head off, and it'd be a day I remember forever, but in the end, it wouldn't be particularly life-changing.

Not that I'm asking for life-changing from a hockey league. All I want is the opportunity to play my ass off, have fun and walk home happy.

<< Home