In case you missed it, on Sunday and Monday, I posted portions of a research paper I wrote as a junior while at UConn (14-9? Really? 14-9? Ugh.) that dealt with the Homeric tradition in contemporary American film, as well as the American cultural landmarks of the “Wild West” and baseball. After re-reading this paper–for what was probably the first time since I handed it in–I got to thinking about baseball, and the Yankees of course, and what it all means to us as Americans, fans, and people.
Like all sports, baseball is first and foremost a game for us. While we take our analysis seriously, we all know that at the root of it all is a game. Some of us played it growing up and some of us continue to play it, in one form or another (hooray for slow pitch softball!) and above all else, it’s fun as hell. No sport can bring a smile to our collective faces quite like baseball can.
This game we watch every day is a part of us. For most of us, it’s been a part of our lives since we were young. Throughout our lives, we’ve always felt an attachment to the game and we always want to be a part of it, whether we’re playing or watching it. Why do we watch? We watch our beloved Yankees and the other 29 teams of Major League Baseball take the field because we want to watch people having fun. We want to watch people play the same game we did when we were kids. We want to watch because something in us makes our bodies feel right when we hear the ball connect with the wood, when we hear the pop of a mitt, when we hear the constant buzz of the audience, and even when we hear some obnoxious home run call. As much as we live inside of baseball–watching every game, checking every box score, taking countless hours to talk about it with friends in person or online–baseball lives inside of us. While it may not be 100% of who we are as people, taking baseball away from us would leave a void that would be hard to fill.
Baseball is our escape. When things aren’t going our way, when we’re feeling down, when we need a pick me up, baseball is always there. In late June of 2006, my grandfather entered the hospital and never came out, dying in late July after a month of slipping in and out of consciousness. While my friends and family were all there to surround me with love and compassion, baseball also played a vital role in my coping with his death. For my grandfather, my father, and myself, baseball was always a connection. No matter what else was going on, there was always time for the three of us to sit around my grandfather’s kitchen table and talk about baseball. After he died, and to this day, I still feel a connection to him every time I sit on the couch and put on YES to watch the Yankees play. Since his death, I’ve only missed a handful of games. Though I’ll never see my grandfather again, but each time the Yankees show themselves on my television set, I feel him.
Almost nine years ago, we as Americans and as human beings were all brought together by one horrific event. Just months later, we were all together again, this time as fans, to watch our Yankees in their fourth straight World Series. Despite the team’s heroics at home, the outcome was not what we expected, nor was it what we wanted, but we were all together then. In a time following great tragedy, we could have broken apart; instead, we came together as one people, one city, and one team. And as it always seemed to be, baseball was at the center of our unity.
As Yankee fans, we’re lucky. By the baseball gods, we’ve been blessed with a team whose ownership and front office does nothing but try and build a winning team every year. Some say that it’s easy for us to be Yankee fans because they win all the time; I agree with them that it’s easy to be a Yankee fan. However, I disagree with the reason why. It’s easy to be a Yankee fan for the same reason it’s easy to be a fan of any team. We’re Yankee fans because baseball is fun and because we love this game. The teams may wear different uniforms, the fans may wear different caps, the stadiums and cities may look different, and the results will never be what everyone wants but one thing brings us all together: the love of the game. No matter where it’s played, no matter who’s playing it, the game is the same: nine men, nine innings, nine positions, ninety feet, sixty feet and six inches, a leather ball, a leather glove, and a wooden bat…it’s baseball.