Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Sports and Reality

I like baseball. This is no secret. My team loyalty is to the Philadelphia Phillies, because, I was born in Philly and I live in South Jersey.

(For the record, South Jersey might as well be a different country than North Jersey. I have never, in my life, just so you know, heard anyone say "Joisey" except for people in other states who hear I am from Jersey and then declare, "Ah! Joisey!" I'm not sure they even do that up north, to be honest with you.)

Me, outside Fenway last weekend.
Ted, over my shoulder. 
Anyhoo, as I say, I am a Phillies fan. But, I like baseball, all-around. I love its history and its atmosphere. Its my favorite sport. And because I like the sport, I have no problem wearing my Boston Red Sox cap from time to time.

Why a Red Sox cap? Bacause they are my favorite American League team, probably because Ted Williams, the greatest hitter the game ever knew, in my not-so-humble, played for them. And he is probably my favorite because I used to listen to my dad's stories about having seen him play... And, to be honest with you, I really like the "B" on the Sox cap. And I like blue. There are probably other reasons, but this is a blog and I weant to get to the point before you drop in to F-reading...

Before I do, though, I want to point out that I also like the caps of Detroit, the Mets, the Yankees, the Cardinals and even the Nationals and I would not mind having one of each of theirs, too. And some others. Because I like baseball and caps.

When I was in the great city of Boston last week, a guy form New York saw my Sox cap and started ribbing me because the Yanks had beaten them the day before. When I laughed and then told him I was actually a Phillies fan, for real, the smile melted off of his face like cake icing under a blowtorch and he herded his kids up and shuffled them away from me. You'd have thought I was a Nazi wearing a Jewish star... The man could not comprehend that I would wear a cap of a team I didn't follow exclusively...

I also have a Virginia Tech sweatshirt. I think someone left it in my dorm room in 1987 after a party -- my dorm room at Penn State. I never went to Virginia Tech and never really cared one way or another about it, but the sweatshirt is thick and cozy and has a great hood for cold weather and it is so well made that I wear it to this day. The thing's like thirty years old and good as new...

One day I was wearing that sweatshirt and a guy, with the most sincere smile, high-fived me and said, "Go Hokies!" I thought he was insane. I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out what a Hokie was. "Virginia Tech!" he said. "Go Hokies!" (I had had no idea the Hokie was their mascot and I had to look it up again, just now.) When I explained to him that I went to Penn State, he nearly wept. I suppose he deeply regretted our all-too-brief bond...

I feel like it never used to be like this. When I was a kid, kids who loved sports would get T-shirts of various teams; you'd have an NFL blanket with all the teams on it... Better still, you would go to a Phillies game in your regular clothes. It wasn't a sea of red caps and Phillies togs. Being at the game seemed to been enough to show you supported your team; the need to be seen seeing your team and to be eye-checked by the rest of the gang seemed not to exist...

It occurs to me that this shift might be a symptom of our collective mental state as a society when it comes to our complete inability have real discourse or to see things from various perspetives. This nearly obsessive compulsion to "pick a side" in sports is kind of a microcosm of our penchant for compartmentalized thinking; our love of labels (liberal or conservative); our intolerance for those who stray from the prescribed patterns of thought.

Anyway, my wife got me a new Red Sox cap this weekend and I might just wear it to the next Phillies game. I am only exaggerating a little when I say that I might be risking my own life by doing this. And it would be no exaggeration at all to say I am risking my life if I wore the cap of the opposing team. Which, of course, is not okay.

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