On a Friday night at 11:30, I sat typing. With Josh The Pilot out of town and the Reds pushing through a rain-delayed game, the work on the laptop demanded just enough attention so that background noise would provide company, but not distraction. So I found my little transistor radio and two batteries and listened to the Reds game.
The Reds were ahead, a scenario I fully expected to implode at any moment. Indeed, in short order, the bases were loaded with Giants, who scored one run when a batter was hit by a pitch. Normally, at this point I’d probably have Cleted Out. But the Reds were not in contention; they will not see the first sign of contention for many, many days at sea. So I typed peaceably on.
This was a first. Instead of anger or bitter amusement, I felt a numb sense of calm. The Reds were blowing it? Well, that’ll happen. It is what it is.
But no matter how inept the Reds were that night, the Giants were worse. The game was held up for several minutes when the manager attempted to play a pitcher who wasn’t even in the lineup.
“That’s just embarrassing,” said Cowboy, who has had a front row seat to embarrassing for every second of every play since March.
But even that didn’t matter. I simply typed on. In my now-peaceful removal from any expectations of any happiness at all resulting from being represented by this team, I have ascended to a higher level of baseball appreciation.
This season has forced a clarification of the very basics of baseball. I focus on simpler aspects of the game, such as “Is it happening?” and “I have to pee, but that’s okay, because I can pee and absolutely nothing will happen in this game that will matter in the standings of this season.” It is the height of irony and I don’t even care. I’m free.
Removing scoreboard-watching and standings checks from the baseball experience may have neutered the visceral thrill of competition, but in its place is the gentle calm of a eunuch’s sleep. Baseball can’t hurt me because I will no longer let it. Withdrawing my attachment has wrested all power from strike zone variations to infuriate me. I am now one with the Jumbotron, watching and yet unseeing.
I don’t think I’m the only Cincinnatian to have discovered this. This weekend, Josh The Pilot and I got into a Lyft. The low crowd murmur and occasional bass speech issuing from the speakers told us that the driver was listening to a baseball game. Four decades of fan behavior are difficult to quash completely, so I asked about the score.
“Oh,” he said, “this is the Mets.”
I noted that he was the third Reds fan I’d heard of who, beaten into submission by this season and all the seasons before it, had taken to tuning in the Mets “just to hear somebody win once in a while.” He said he didn’t really care who was playing. He just kept the car stereo tuned to a sports station, any sports station.
“I like having it on,” he said. “It’s just baseball.”