New York Yankees Gio Urshela bats in a game against the Seattle Mariners on Thursday, May 9, 2019 in New York. (Kathy Willens | Associated Press File)

New York Yankees Gio Urshela bats in a game against the Seattle Mariners on Thursday, May 9, 2019 in New York. (Kathy Willens | Associated Press File)

Learning to ‘play ball’ in the game of marriage

Baseball season raises perhaps the biggest bone of marital contentions.

In some ways, strong domestic relationships are based on hating each other’s favorite things. Spouse, partner, “better half” — whatever you call the person you’ve chosen to share your life with, you’re stuck with them as a roommate, and roommates are inherently annoying. Even the ones who make out with you.

For example: my wife despises some of my greatest loves — progressive rock, mayonnaise and cargo shorts, to name a few. Likewise, I can’t stand horror movies, weighted blankets and fawning over baby pictures of people I don’t know on Facebook.

That doesn’t mean we don’t share common interests — “your mom” jokes, Guns N’ Roses, passing out to David Attenborough documentaries — or that we don’t love each other. It just gives us relatively safe topics to argue about for a while, sort of like sparring, to sharpen our skills for real fights, you know, about money or in-laws or whose turn it is to wheel down the garbage cans at 6 a.m. every Monday.

But the stretch of April through September (and often on into October) raises perhaps the biggest bone of these marital contentions: baseball.

[Don’t hate me because my kids watch TV]

Understand, I’m not a typical sports fan. I mean, I had a youthful dalliance with football — I even went out my high school team, but there was too much running, so I quit. I followed basketball, too, until I started following the Grateful Dead and headed out on that whole long, strange trip …

For whatever reason, though, I’ve remained a lifelong baseball guy. I’m a geek — I love the statistics, the history, the intricate, idiosyncratic rules, the slow, methodical and thoughtful pace. And sure, it doesn’t hurt that my favorite team ranks as the most successful big league franchise in sports history, as well as a championship contender pretty much every year since 1995.

Now, I realize almost everyone else hates the Yankees — honestly, if I’d grown up outside New York, I’d probably hate them, too. Of course, I’d also dunk my pizza in ranch dressing and stink at parallel parking.

Of course, it’s a valid criticism. The Yankees are corporate. They do trade on past glory. Some of them did rely on performance-enhancing drugs. It’s impossible to get tickets for less than $300 a piece — they’re lot like the Rolling Stones that way. Still, you’ve got to give the Stones props, at least on some level.

Anyway, these days, I follow baseball more closely than ever. For one, it makes me feel like I’m actively engaged in a worthwhile pursuit, when all I’m really doing is watching TV and drinking beer, sometimes as early as 9:05 a.m. for day games on the East Coast.

[Opinion: A story of family and the human spirit]

But I also consider it educational. For some reason, our staunch decade-long, no screens during the week rule never applied to baseball. As such, my daughter spoke her first full sentences during the 2009 World Series: “What up, Sabathia?” and “I love Matsui.” Sadly, I had to explain to her a month later that Matsui was no longer with us — he’d gone to the Angels. Oh, well. Kids need to learn about free agency sooner or later.

Regardless, it’s all consuming. Not only do I watch baseball, I watch shows about baseball, often while simultaneously reading about baseball and playing Perfect Inning 2019. What’s more, my mood ebbs and flows with the season’s fortunes. For instance, I’ll be doubling my Prozac until Aaron Judge comes off the disabled list.

I think that comprises a major part of my wife’s hatred of my infatuation. That, and the fact that I snuck my phone into the delivery room during the birth of our second child. What? It was the 2010 postseason, and I’d just downloaded MLB At Bat. Plus, anything to avoid the temptation of peeking over the blue curtain. I did that the first time. Ever see someone pull apart someone else’s abdominal fascia? Yikes.

At heart, however, the issue has less to do with baseball than a realization: we don’t always live up to our own visions of ourselves. I don’t like to think of myself as the stereotypical husband who tunes out the world for sports and she doesn’t like to think of herself as the stereotypical wife who keeps yelling at her husband to turn off the game.

And yet, sometimes we can’t help who we are. She’s going to backseat drive, I’m going to snore. She’s going to buy shoes she doesn’t need, I’m going to start home improvement projects I’ll never finish. She’s going to make me watch Mark Ruffalo/Jennifer Aniston vehicles and I’m going to counter with the “Godfather” trilogy.

We’ll both fall asleep in protest.


• Geoff Kirsch is an award-winning Juneau-based writer and humorist. “Slack Tide” appears every second and fourth Sunday in Neighbors.


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