Friday, August 16, 2013

Interrobang the Drum Slowly

I’ve mentioned at least once my childhood friend Boomer. When I was talking about the quartet composed of the two of us plus Kingsley and Scud I noted the contrast between the three of them as athletes and myself as decidedly not. I didn’t break that specific point down much further, but Boomer was the one who was the most into sports. He wasn’t necessarily the most gifted natural athlete among the three of them, but he was super-competitive and just loved playing all sorts of sports. Back in fourth and fifth grade (before we even met Kingsley and Scud in middle school) Boomer would invite me over after school and we would play one-on-one basketball in his driveway or whiffleball in his backyard. He would always spot me some outrageous number of points or runs at the outset, and then he would always trounce me in the end. I always thought if I kept at it maybe I would eventually beat him next time, but I never did.

Boomer was also a sports fanatic in terms of following the professional leagues, the kind of kid who could rattle off records and statistics at the drop of a ballcap. Despite having a good head for numbers and a decent capacity for memorization myself, I’ve never devoted much brainspace to retaining prodigious amounts of sports trivia, but Boomer was all over it, more power to him. I’ve always thought that part of the reason for my semi-aversion to memorizing sports stats comes from the fact that a shocking number of records are held by players who were not part of the organizations I happen to root for. SHOCKING, I say again. I know Roger Maris hit 61 home runs in a single season and I know Lou Gherig played in 2,130 consecutive games, and yes I know that both those records have been broken. I’m not saying that the breaking of those records don’t count, of course they do (deservedly!), but the deeper meaning such as it is shifts for me depending on whether we’re talking about the Yankees or anybody else.

Boomer was not one of those weirdos who embraced sports-as-a-whole and didn’t root for any team in particular, or rooted for whichever team was the most dominant at any given time. He was a Jersey boy like me, and he rooted for the Knicks and the Giants and the Mets (nobody’s perfect). I’ll always remember his devotion to the New York Football Giants in particular because of a specific incident one fall when he came over to my house, when we were probably about twelve years old. Boomer was wearing a NY Giants sweatshirt. My dad came home and saw Boomer (we had been friends for years at this point and our families knew each other pretty well) and made a big show of peering intently at the sweatshirt like he couldn’t quite make out the letters. “Gnats? Is that what that says? New York GNATS?” he finally delivered the punchline, in reference to the fact that the most recent Giants game had been an embarrassing blowout loss. And Boomer got the intent of the joke, and if it had been me making the joke he probably would have made an impassioned argument about the overall season and one game not meaning anything about playoff chances and whatnot, but Boomer was really a very polite and respectful kid and was not inclined to talk back to parents. So he just gave my dad a very tight-lipped smile and shook his head, and my dad wandered off muttering, half amused at his own humor and half annoyed at having reminded himself of the previous Sunday’s letdown.

All of which is really just my patented Random AnecdoteTM way of semi-explaining and quasi-apologizing for not commenting much on the Yankees this season. I don’t know that I’m necessarily apologizing to you, Dear Readers, since half of you don’t care about baseball at all and the other know that the only thing worse than a smug Yankees fan clucking that they’ve been in first place for 78 consecutive days and hoping to hurry up and hit the E number so they can rest some starters is a disheartened Yankees fan lamenting that all is not right with the universe. I have deemed it nobler to suffer in silence through this mediocre 2013 campaign, all the moreso because I know there are many fans of teams today that would love to be cheering on a squad four games over .500 at mid-August. I guess I’m apologizing for not being a delirious eternal optimist, for not possessing the spunk of “oh well, they blew an early lead but the season ain’t over yet!” I reject being labeled a fairweather fan since it’s not as though I’m shifting my loyalties to another team when mine struggles, or hate-watching and rooting against them. It’s hard for me to watch them mired in fourth place because they go back and forth following each win with a loss, never getting red hot or ice cold, not because I don’t care but precisely because I care so much and have so much potential happiness invested in the pennant race they are so very not a part of.

(OK and the whole A-Rod cheating banned for life selling out fellow players contract dispute boondoggle is absolutely not helping things.)

Seriously, not only are the Yanks not in first and not really within striking distance (they’re 8 and a half games back with like 42 games to play, and those are some long odds, friends) but they’re not even really within striking distance of the second AL wildcard spot. They’d have to climb past four other teams first, and just by the by two of those teams are the Royals and the Indians?! Come again?! What bizarro universe have I stumbled into?

On the other hand, it’s kind of like stumbling backwards to when I was twelve and the Yankees were terrible, and I barely knew how to make sense of the box scores, the standings, and everything else other than when the Yankees won, my dad was happy, and when they didn’t, he very much was not. And as with so many other things, I guess that’s where I get it from. I’m not sure if that’s the right way to be a fan or not, but it is what I’m working with (and/or against). It is what it is.

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