Saturday, May 13, 2006

That's Me, Second From The Left, With The +2 Morning Star

Colby Cosh has an excellent--if shorter than expected--piece up in the Western Standard about our fantasy baseball league, the Alberta Baseball Confederacy. Given our history in this league, I must admit I was fully expecting to be made fun of, and was happily but suspiciously surprised when I was not. Something painfully wicked my way comes, to be sure.

If you are a frequent reader of this site, you have already noted our daily threads, littered with the mundane, insane, and profane. Only in Ameri-ca! If you haven't noticed them, scroll down to the post beneath this one. If it isn't filled with expletives yet, wait an hour and refresh. It will be. Today's thread highlights every player on Cosh's team who has either been injured or mutilated by ineffectiveness. The list is large and yet Cosh lingers, like a beaten fighter who refuses to go down. His face looks like mashed yams, but with one punch it'll be your ass hitting the canvas.

My seven-year old son is actually in a Sports Illustrated kids fantasy baseball league this year, and is doing very well. It's a fine balance for him, though, choosing players from his favorite teams and players he knows are really good. I sometimes worry if playing in a fantasy league at such an early age will taint the pure love of team and sport, or enhance it. Part of the pleasure--and pain--of being a sports fanatic is precisely that: being totally oblivious to the failings of your own team. In a world full of structure, logic and order, a world that sometimes seems as if it is set up to destroy every single pleasure we enjoy as human beings, there is something wonderfully cathartic about being able to escape for three hours a day into an alternate-world of passion, frenzy and blinding optimism. A world where hope is renewed at the beginning of every season, and joy sprinkled in every shot, goal, hit, and play. It sounds positively Nietzschean, but being a sports fan is like a Dionysian escape from an otherwise Platonic reality.

At the same time, a broad, analytical approach to the game of choice can also enhance that love and appreciation. I have very strong memories of my cousin reading box scores for every single sport, every single morning, every single summer, for most of my young life. My cousin certainly had his favorite teams and players (he was a sucker for Will Clark and the San Francisco Giants), but he also knew everything there was to know about other every other professional team and athlete. His knowledge of sport was consequently deep, almost intrinsic. It was different than mine, in a way I almost can't describe. Like an old soul compared to an acne-faced teen. My son is the same way, and I must admit it makes me very proud. While Bacchanalian escapism is certainly rewarding, there is probably no greater value in being a sports fan (playing sports is a totally different...uh...ballgame) than in its ability to connect fathers with their sons. Assuredly, this connection is also made between mothers and daughters, mothers and sons, and fathers and daughters, but for the most part the rite of passage occurs between a boy and his dad. I like to share my love of music, movies and books with my son, but my greatest pleasures are when we play a game of catch, score a touchdown on a video game, or boo the Yankees. There is a reason grown men weep at the end of Field of Dreams. Many parents will look back fondly to the first time their child uttered the words "Mom," or "Dad." For me, it will be when my son first knowingly said, "that was in his wheelhouse!", or the time he mumbled, "I HATE Morgan Ensberg" under his breath after Ensberg hit a homerun against his beloved Jays. In life, people calculate their happiness according to their wealth, their fame, and their material possessions. I suppose that's all fine, but I'd gladly settle with seeing the Edmonton Oilers win the Stanley Cup, my son's hand sqeezing mine. It would be an added bonus if we did so as season ticket holders.


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