Friday, October 3, 2008

Romance and the Red Sox (Part 3)

[Continued from page 2. This revised piece was originally written in 2004]

Time heals all wounds, however, and healing brings with it new wisdom. I observed as people emerged out of mourning, and their strength became mine. The bars, the streets, the subways came to life. Smiles returned to faces. Time not spent watching the World Series was time to seize and cherish. Books were read. Bathrooms were cleaned. Kids and pets were fed. Within days, life for Bostonians returned to normal, and as for me, I came to a reckoning that quelled the last and lingering ache in my heart. The Red Sox had managed to make me enjoy baseball. My sleep was sound that night, and the next morning I awoke vowing that, come next season, I would love again.

The past year has not proven me wrong. Now I was on board. I watched games at Fenway with the same belligerent fervor as the rest. When Jason Varitek mashed A-Rod’s liver lips in, with his dense catcher's mitt, I tasted blood. When Nomar was traded, I bid him a melancholy farewell, believing that if you love a butterfly, you set it free. The Sox and I traversed the season's peaks and pitfalls and our relationship grew stronger. I entered this playoff season with renewed hope. Last year we'd been flying by the seat of our pants. Now, we had a history.

Who needs human love when you’ve got high stakes baseball to keep you heated up? I’d figured that as long as the Sox stay alive in the playoffs I had plenty to keep my passions occupied. Now then, I am not opposed to romance that defies my expectations, and shatters my best laid plans. I am open-minded. I cede control over my love life to Cupid and go with the flow. But Cupid, I've learned, is a merry little prankster. Just as I was regrouping from his first sniper attack of infatuation, tending as best I could to this new baseball fetish, I yelped at feeling my rump pierced by a second arrow, and whipped around just in time to see that pudgy whore retreating to the bleachers at Fenway, wagging his red bow at me like a giant foam finger.

Scheduling the first date with the girl from the bar had been challenging enough, but it's only getting harder. Every conversation on the phone begins with “We should definitely hang out again,” and ends with, “Hmm, well, I guess we'll try for something next week... maybe?” Two out of every three nights is game night. There are pre-game events and post-game events. The spare hours in between are dedicated to recovery and playing minimal real life catch-up (work, errands, marriage counseling, etc). There's no time for quiet, candlelit ambiance, and for that matter, in this town for the next few weeks there's no such thing. Wandering the city, actively trying to avoid Red Sox pandemonium, I can't help but feel like Indiana Jones retreating from the Inca temple with his golden idol, dodging darts and leaping over chasms before finally getting steamrolled by a boulder that, curiously, resembles a gigantic baseball.

I feel you raising a skeptical eyebrow again. Surely, you say, no great amount of ingenuity is required to reconcile your wish for a second date with your desire to look at the playoff schedule with excitement that is pure. Is the solution not simply to suggest to this girl that you watch a game together? After all, you say, she loves the Sox, and so do you.

I've pondered this, and decided it’s a recipe for disaster. If the ultimate goal is for us to get to know each other better, then what happens if she’s telling me about an ex who didn’t pay attention to her, and I’m distracted by a wild pitch? What if I start sharing some long anecdote about self-discovery, and she politely listens while privately wondering, “When will this guy shut up so I can watch this thing?” And what if, god forbid, she’s disappointed by my novice knowledge of New England’s most important sports franchise? Even if none of these fears are realized, what masquerades as a relaxed evening on the couch in front of the TV is, in reality, a date with enough pressure to crush a confident man like a beer can on a batting helmet.

Part [1] [2] [3] [4]

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