I find it curious, Hoke, that you conceive of my Dodger fandom as a thing unbroken since childhood. In reality, baseball figured very little in my life during the period of our early friendship. My first intense relationship with the Dodgers—that which began as Gibby and the Bulldog led the boys in blue to their last World Series—ended when my father died. I played little league indifferently for a couple more seasons, sure, but when he died so did my love for the game. It had always been a pastime for us, and without him—or playoff baseball thanks to the strike that year—the game became meaningless. I occupied my time with friends and music and improv and never really looked back. I’d go so far as to say that I never gave a thought to baseball during any part of my grieving or subsequent coping. Actually, it wasn’t until a few weeks after graduating high school that I returned to Chavez Ravine for a Kirk Gibson bobblehead giveaway. That afternoon was as sweet and as fun as early childhood. None of the sourness of my father’s illness was there, none of the gloom of my fatherless adolescence; all of that was contained to the six-year hiatus. And just like that, my relationship with the Dodgers resumed, the same passion almost immediately reignited.
I’m unsure of the exact connection, but I think something like this happens every time we see each other after a prolonged absence: we just pick back up where we left off, as if life has barely transpired in the interim. I care so much about what has happened to each of you since last we met, and yet, once either of you is there in front of me, I just want to be there, to resume in the present.
But you are correct, Hoke, in thinking that baseball has consumed me ever since. These past few weeks, for instance, Seamus, my beloved black cat of nearly seventeen years, had been dying from stomach cancer. I could go on for paragraphs as to why—rationally speaking—this should or should not be a big deal, but I will tell you that I was routinely miserable, only ever briefly distracted or happy until he finally died last Tuesday. I loved him so profoundly, and there is something unspeakably cruel about a thing you’ve known since its birth—a thing you love almost as much as your own baby—becoming older than you and then dying. I bring this up because the only way I could get him off my mind in the moments before falling asleep these past weeks was to imagine the upcoming Dodgers roster. “Will we trade for Mookie Betts? Will the new pitching coach be able to coax a few more miles per hour from Kershaw’s fastball? Should we bat Bellinger second or fourth?” <quote-01>Second, I think<quote-01>, but that’s neither here nor there.
A few weeks ago, I passed along to Wuck a recent quote from Jerry Seinfeld: “To me there are two things in this world; there’s life and there’s baseball, and one helps you get through the other.” I know you’re not a fan of his, Hoke, but for me that about sums it up. Funnily enough, the best distraction I ever had from the Dodgers—the last time they weren’t any good, at least—was writing Tetherball Chimes.
And while I am so very excited for the upcoming season—and while we find ourselves questioning nostalgia—I will also admit that the 2017 World Series continues to haunt me. This recent news about the Astros’ cheating scandal is relentless—inescapable. Even the annual Spring Training narrative of hope—pervasive and democratic—finds itself drowned out, every morning a new voice expressing its disgust, a new factoid come to light. Today’s twist: an unsuspecting Kershaw admitting to using easily decoded signs without runners on base.
And so, over and over, I’m returned to the mood of that November two seasons ago, mourning again the lost opportunity to rejoice with friends and family, forced to remember that we fell just short of the months-long euphoria that follows a championship: no commemorative hats or jerseys, pennants or pins, special editions of Sports Illustrated, official championship Blu-rays, or Christmas ornaments. All of it gone forever—again and again.
Man, fuck those fucking cheaters.
Because it’s not just that I’m returned daily to the sorrow of that November; it’s that my sorrow has been corrupted somehow. I was able to cope with simply being beaten. I resigned myself to it, to the Astros’ hitters’ dominance, to Kershaw’s inability to perform in the playoffs, to all of it. But to learn now that what I coped with, that what I begrudgingly accepted, was an outrageous lie? It’s a real bummer.
And so, at least for now, I can’t even wax nostalgic about the good memories from that series—Kershaw’s masterful Game One, Joc’s dinger in Game Four, the bullpen’s Game Six dominance—without immediately feeling the sting of this scandal, without lamenting, not what could have been, but much worse, what should have.
It’s as if I’ve become the protagonist in some twisted sci-fi movie, my core memories suddenly altered—it’s messed up! And you know what? For someone who loves to reminisce, it burns extra hot.
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