Growing up, I was fortunate enough to play several organized sports at varying levels from early youth through high school. I played soccer and basketball, ran both track and cross-country, gave football a short stint. In college I took badminton as one of my physical education requirements, and apparently my particular class was so good, our instructor thought about petitioning the school to institute a badminton team.
You do not want to see me on the badminton court, fam. My shuttlecock game is vicious. There are so many potential puns, entendres and innuendos in that last sentence that both Merriam and Webster should be proud.
I’ve played on my work softball team and even injured myself trying to outrun a throw to first, which I beat even though I was called out. Rule No. 1 of work softball: Do not get a serious injury playing a sport that is only an excuse to say, “Hey, let’s all go get a drink after the game.”
Well, one sport I’ve always been tangentially interested in is baseball. I like playing baseball, which I believe nearly all American kids have done at least once. I got into baseball through my uncles, who were collectors. They turned me into a baseball-card collector, a collection I still have to this day that is taking up precious space in my home, along with my comic book collection.
Once my uncles got me into it, I became a baseball savant. I knew all the stats on each player and position because that directly impacted what I thought a card was worth. I was a card shark in these streets, buying up packs of Upper Deck, Donruss, Topps and Fleer cards and then buying Beckett’s baseball-card pricing guides every few months to keep up with my investment. I still have a tin where I keep all of my most valuable baseball cards. I was focused. You know, back then, when baseball cards were worth something. Thanks, steroids. And thanks, Obama.
For about three hours in the ’90s, I actually owned a Babe Ruth baseball card (along with a Jimmie Foxx card). It’s the typical story. My stepfather’s dad passed away, and while they were going through his house, they found an old cigar box and shoe box full of baseball cards. Because nobody knew (or cared), they gave them all to me because I was so into baseball cards, and while I was doing my due diligence of sifting through each card for condition and quality, I came across the Babe Ruth card.
I took it to my mom and stepdad, and then we consulted my uncles. None of us were sure if the cards were the real deal, so we then consulted an official collector, who let us know that they were, indeed, authentic baseball cards from the ’30s. So I did the honorable thing and gave the cards back to my parents, who then sold them for at least $5,000 (if memory serves) and turned them into a wood-burning stove.
Point is, for a few precious hours, I had reached the near pinnacle of being a baseball-card collector (a racist Honus Wagner would have been my apex). My love for baseball was a beautiful thing.
Well, that s—t was in the 1990s.
Today, save for baseball hats, I almost couldn’t give two f—ks about Major League Baseball. And it’s personal now.
To be fair, I actually enjoy going to games, though it’s less about the game and more about the experience, which is lit. I’ve been to a few Washington Nationals games, and the ballpark and experience are much better than watching on television. It’s “America’s” favorite pastime, though, if I can be racial for a second, to hear white people talk about baseball is a thing of wonder. I overheard a sports commentator saying that opening day should be a national holiday.
Say heffa, say what? I’d take the day off and s—t, but I think a lot of us don’t give two s—ts about opening day, short of how it affects traffic patterns.
I’m a sports fan and I keep up a bit over the course of the season, so I know who is in first place, but if you were to tell me that baseball was canceled this year, I’m not sure I’d care.
Also, the season is way too damn long. People talk about the basketball season being too long—and it is—but the baseball season feels longer. From March until November, and over 162 games plus the playoffs, my life is adversely affected by baseball.
See, I live in Washington, D.C. … and in the city. National’s Park is located in the southeastern quadrant of the city (though not the part that is typically associated with poverty, crime and blackness), and I, too, live in the southeastern quadrant of the city (the part that is typically associated with poverty, crime and blackness. You should come by sometime!). The way D.C. is set up is that a good chunk of the city is across the Frederick Douglass Bridge, along South Capitol Street. National’s Park is on South Capitol Street. You might see where I’m going with this.
For at least 82 games, traffic is a bitch for me trying to get home. Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight? Probably not? What about sitting in traffic trying to dodge drunk baseball fans at 5:30 p.m. who are early for the 7 p.m. start time? This is my life for about 70 days of the year. Every year I print out the calendar just so I know when I’ll have to play Frat Boy Frogger and sit in traffic forever trying to get to my humble abode and watch NBA Classics.
See, there’s no highway, just the surface streets that lead to the bridge that I have to take to get home. Of course, I can go an alternate direction, but I still have a bridge to cross, and that alternate takes me waaaaay out of my way into more traffic of folks driving out of Pennsylvania Avenue toward the suburbs of Prince George’s County, where your well-to-do cousins who live in the D.C. area live.
I realize that I could be in the minority here, and clearly some of my reasons are personal and trifling, but baseball just doesn’t connect with me the same way that football and basketball or even soccer does. It isn’t nearly as interesting as the other sports in their current forms. Whereas the other games have tried to transform to keep up with the times, baseball seems so rooted in its history that I think it might suffer because of it.
I’m aware of all the records and how sacred they are, and I believe in integrity of the game, but I also don’t care who is on steroids. Just because a dude isn’t using something on the banned list doesn’t mean he’s not using something, anyway. And probably will, until it’s on the banned list. Shouts to Maria Sharapova.
I realize that baseball is supposed to be the “spirit” of America—or at least used to be before the NFL became the king of the hill—but when I stopped collecting cards and got a little bit older, I stopped caring. Once you add in traffic and insufferable baseball fans, particularly the ones I hate the most up in Boston, America’s game, for me … is football.
Panama Jackson is the co-founder and senior editor of VerySmartBrothas.com. He lives in Washington, D.C., and believes the children are our future.