A Facebook writer friend who lives in Israel posted that someone gave her an MLB something for her birthday and now she can watch the Dodgers. She used to live in Los Angeles.
That reminded me of the baseball rivalries of my life. I touch upon this topic in Another Place on the Planet.
“I wonder,” I (Lily) said absently as we walked past Chase Field on Jefferson Street, “if the Diamondbacks open the season at home this year.”
“You like baseball?” he (Charlie) asked with the first smile I’d seen in a while.
“I do. I’ve been hoping to meet someone to go to games with.”
“If I go to some games here with you, you’ll have to go to Dodgers games with me in L.A.,” he said.
“Yikes!” I cried with mock—mostly—fear. “Going to L.A. to see the Dodgers? That might be a little more trauma than you’re worth.”
“What do you have against the Dodgers?” he asked, his step lightening a little.
“Everything. It’s a Phoenix thing. Like hating the Yankees is a Boston thing.”
“A beautiful woman who loves baseball and understands its rivalries. I’m in heaven.” He kissed my cheek as we waited for the light to change. His mood seemed to lift a bit. Mine did.
I grew up in eastern Pennsylvania watching baseball with my Dad. The Phillies. Occasionally the Mets. I tried football but didn’t understand it very well. Baseball I could keep track of. A few season, I sent away for theyear book. Once when the star pitcher at the time, Steve Carlton, was having a bad season, I sent him a letter of encouragement and was awarded an autographed photo for my effort. I think I still have it. I also drew a poster of various players copied from photos in the yearbook. Guys in white and red uniforms on a blue background. Guess I was a baseball geek at the time.
When we moved to Maine in 1975 for my dad’s midlife crisis (there really is something to be said about getting a sports car your family won’t fit in as opposed to forcing them all to move to another state and subculture, dads) we became Red Sox fans and I learned about rivalries in baseball. That the Red Sox Nation (although it wasn’t called that at the time because TV was harder back then) detested anything to do with the New York Yankees. That’s just how it is. If you’re a Yankees fan in New England you had better be tough. We all know how much fun it is to hate a rival, even though we know if our location was New York, we’d hate the Boston Red Sox.
In Maine and I met and fell in love with my native New England husband and appreciated the Red Sox even more. (He was actually scouted by several major league teams in high school, but a book-adapted-into-a-movie worthy car accident ended his baseball career when he was a senior.) We even got to a few games at venerated Fenway in Boston.(I saw the Yaz hit one of his last homeruns.)
He quickly adopted the Phillies when we move to Pennsylvania. The Phillies rivalry with the Braves was in full swing, made worse by the fact the Braves almost always tromped the Phightin’ Phils.
After 20 years, we ended up in the Phoenix area with the Diamondbacks and marveled at how easy it is to get to games in downtown Phoenix at Chase Field as opposed to the nightmare of Philadelphia.
The Dbacks have only been around since the late 1990s and the state of Arizona still has Dodger holdover fans from when there wasn’t a major league team here. Plus the thug element sides with the Dodgers because they’re a bunch of thugs anyway. This was perfectly illustrated when, after winning pennant in a postseason game, the LA thugs desecrated the pool at Chase Field by jumping the outfield fence and rollicking in it, cleats and all. Every Dback fan there ever was was supremely insulted by that deliberate action of disrespect, as was the intention.
But sometimes, you have to put the rivalries aside. Our lovely daughter fell in love with a Yankees fan (and a New York Giants fan which is hard to ignore when you grew up in Eagles territory.) This was something we had to work through. She was with us (albeit in my belly) when we witnessed Yaz and his homerun at Fenway. But we decided to love him anyway, for the sake of our daughter. As far as we can tell, being a New York fan is his only fault. But he grew up there, so you can’t blame him too much. If he grew up in New England and was a Yankees fan, that would be a completely different story. We might have had to disown our daughter.
Not really. We’re not hardcore. It’s just fun. When you finally realize it’s only a game and your life won’t change one iota if your team wins or loses, even the World Series. (I’m talking about you, 1986 Red Sox) you can let go of the red-hot-gut-churning-soul-consuming anger of being defeated by the entity you hate more than ever hated anything in the history of your existence (and oh, how we know that agony, given the histories of these teams) and move on and live a normal life.