Anyone who has known me for some time knows that it’s highly unusual that I am getting married this fall. Mainly because I spent the first 26 years of my life announcing resolutely that I wasn’t getting married. Ever. And those very close to me know that this is because I had something of a commitment issue. Namely, I didn’t do it. After a couple years in a relationship I’d start to get restless and look around. So nobody was more surprised than I when I met my fiancé and came to realize that I was done. Finito. -33-. Farewell to all that. End of story.
Yet last night, in the face of temptation, I found myself once again questioning my ability to commit. I was sitting here:
watching the Nats, and almost without thought, cheering for them. It felt weird. If I was cheering a baseball team and it wasn’t a road game, I was supposed to be sitting in Camden Yards. I was supposed to be wrinkling my nose disdainfully at any team not wearing white, orange, and black. I was supposed to be yelling “Ohhhhh” during the Star Spangled Banner. (OK, admittedly I never actually did that because it’s goofy and undignified. But you get my general drift.) I was supposed to think that at the End of Days, this is the worst thing the Devil could see coming:
I am an O’s fan. I toddled around Memorial Stadium as a child, spent 20 horrifying minutes lost there one summer as a pre-teen when separated from my parents after performing the Star Spangled Banner, and the soundtrack of my childhood includes repeated urgings from my father to “lock the doors now” as we cruised 33rd Street looking for parking. I swung my little arms wildly with Wild Bill Hagy. I giggled along with my mother and older sister while they ogled the Ripkens—all three of them—standing on the field even though I didn’t really understand what we were looking at. I would to this day, without hesitation and risking prosecution, deliver a swift punch in the balls to this now-grown kid:
The only time in my entire collegiate career that I ever got homesick were the two consecutive nights that Cal tied and then broke The Streak. My family was there in the stands for both games. I was in a freshman dormroom in Clemson, South Carolina, watching it happen on TV and crying my eyes out because I was so far from the one place I wanted to be. I am an O’s fan.
But last night my eye began to wander. It had taken less than 25 minutes door-to-door to get from work to the game. No scrambling to get to Union Station and then the mad dash to jam onto the lumbering MARC train to Baltimore. Suddenly there was Major League Baseball and beer and a spiffy new stadium and veggie hotdogs and Cracker Jacks in my backyard. During the fourth inning I meandered the concourse and walked into a shop where before I knew it, I was handing over $22 for a red cap with the Nats’ logo emblazoned on it. I started hearing Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” in my head and swore it was coming from the store’s stereo system.
“What have the Orioles ever really given me?” I wondered. The last time they won a World Series I was seven. With the exception of a playoff game that I sneaked out to in 1996 while interning on the Hill, they had brought me little joy in the last two decades. Slings and arrows suffered. For what? The honor of having Peter Angelos as an owner and having to justify stuff like this:
1988. Christ almighty, don’t even get me started on 1988.
“Does this make me a douchebag?” I asked my fiancé, sitting there having my commitment crisis in my new hat in Section 116…sweet, convenient-to-downtown, foul-ball-territory-for-the-lefties Section 116. “Not really,” he said. Glancing over at him, I noticed that his gaze was three rows up where four Yankees fans sat. We knew they were Yankees fans because there at a Nats-Marlins game, they were all wearing Jeter jerseys.
And that’s when I realized that it didn’t matter. I could risk being razzed by purists for being a lifelong O’s fan yet still cheering for the Nats as my new home team when I felt like going to a game. I wouldn’t be a total douchebag. Because that’s the great thing about baseball. There’s always a lower common denominator. And it’s always the Yankees.