I’ve been with my ex-girlfriend — by whom I mean my wife — for 16 years. And if you ask me, solid relationships are based on mutual hatred of the other person’s interests.
For example: my wife despises most of my favorite things (e.g. Star Wars, Ranch dressing, cleaning my ears with a pen cap). Likewise, I can’t stand adult coloring books, Top 40 music and fawning over baby pictures of people I don’t know on Facebook.
That doesn’t mean we don’t share certain common likes — nachos, Tetris, the two kids we have together — or that we’re not in love. It simply provides safe topics to argue about from time to time, sort of like sparring, so we can stay sharp for real fights about money or in-laws or whose turn it is to scrub the bathrooms (even though it’s always my turn somehow).
September raises the biggest bone of marital contention: baseball.
Now, I’m not a typical sports fan, in that I don’t really like sports. I mean, I dallied with football in my youth; I even went out for my middle school team, but there was too much running. I was once into basketball, too, until everyone else started growing and I stopped. Also, again, the running. And then, at about age 16, I discovered the Grateful Dead — not to mention its lifestyle accouterments — and that pretty much killed any remaining passion for athletics … unless you count hackey-sack. Or running from the cops.
For whatever reason, though, I remained a baseball fan. I love the history, the statistics, the slow methodical pace. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that my favorite team is the greatest professional sports franchise of all time, not to mention a perennial postseason contender (amazing the success you can achieve when you’re willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars buying up the whole league’s talent).
I realize everyone hates the Yankees — honestly, if I grew up anywhere but New York, I’d hate them too. Of course, I’d also eat pineapple pizza, so …
Point is, the older I get the stronger my obsession grows (I also find myself enjoying talk radio, herbal tea and wearing sandals with socks). And this time of year, it reaches its zenith.
First and foremost, following the pennant race makes me feel like I’m actively engaged in a worthwhile pursuit, when all I’m really doing is hanging out drinking beer, sometimes as early as 9:05 a.m. for day games on the East Coast.
I also consider it educational. For instance, during the 2009 World Series, my daughter spoke her first complete sentence: “What up, Matsui?!” (referring to then-Yankee Hideki Matsui). How hard it was to tell her the following season that Matsui was no longer with us — sadly, he’d gone to the Angels. Oh, well. She had to learn about free agency sooner or later.
Anyway, usually we only lift our strict no-TV-on-school-nights rule for very special occasions: presidential elections, the Olympics, the debut of Ryan Lochte on “Dancing with the Stars.” But come September, in my house, when baseball’s on, baseball’s on, so to speak.
As such, both kids are absolutely transfixed when I fire up the game. Of course, it may just be the commercials … The other day they asked me for carrots and “Sabra hummus, the official hummus of Major League Baseball.” Yes, Major League Baseball really has an official hummus; and yes, it really is Sabra. Take that, Athenos!
But I digress …
Any other time of year, I’m willing to turn off the game, or at least mute it. But after Labor Day, no dice — it stays at full volume and I stay put until the last out. In fact, I finally upgraded my data plan so I can go over to friends’ houses but still tune in on up to five portable devices. I mean, I don’t want people to think I’m anti-social.
Perhaps that’s why my wife, despite being born and raised in the Bronx, has taken to rooting against the Bombers, especially in September — so they aren’t still playing into October (let alone November).
At heart, I think the issue has less to do with baseball than the realization we don’t always live up to our own best visions of ourselves. I hate to think of myself as the stereotypical husband who shuts out the world for a silly kids’ game, and she hates to think of herself as the stereotypical wife who keeps nagging her husband to stop shutting out the world for that silly kids’ game.
And yet, sometimes we can’t help who we are. She’s going to buy shoes she doesn’t need, I’m going to start home improvement projects I’ll never finish. I’m going to backseat drive, she’s going to snore (I know; we’ve got those roles reversed). She’s going to stack our Netflix with Mark Ruffalo/Jennifer Anniston films and every once in a while I’m going to DVR a movie with a title like “Wild Midnight Indiscretions”— why else pay for premium cable?
Most of all, my wife’s going to pray the Yankees lose and, if she gets her way, I’m going to be cranky until next April.
But we get to stay married, so you know, there’s that.
• Geoff Kirsch is a Juneau-based writer and humorist. “Slack Tide” appears every second and fourth Sunday in Neighbors.