Wednesday, March 28, 2012
By Deborah Sharp
It’s March, and Florida's full of baseball fans. Excuse me while I tilt back my head and let out a big yawn. I'm a Florida native. I’ve seen more baseball spring training seasons come and go than I care to mention. It’s time to come clean: Baseball bores me cross-eyed.
I get that fans love the springtime package: The sunshine; the smaller stadiums; the players who seem somehow more approachable in Florida. It plays into the sepia-toned nostalgia that afflicts baseball lovers. It reinforces their yearning for the long-gone days of yesteryear, for how the sport used to be.
But I don’t care how baseball is now. Why would I care how it was before?
This attitude doesn't sit well with one of my best friends, a baseball writer I met a million years ago (in the 80s) when we were both starting out as reporters at USA Today. The only good thing about spring training is it brings my pal, Mel Antonen, south to write some stories about America's Pastime.
We've stayed buddies for more than 25 years, despite my lack of interest in his driving passion. My baseball aversion survives intact, despite Mel's near-heroic efforts. Once, he invited me to a spring training game. I brought a book. When I had a chance to see a World Series game in Miami, Mel urged me to go. "Watching the game played at that level will change your life,'' he promised. "You'll finally catch baseball fever.''
But my immune system must be strong, because I didn't catch the fever. The fans were delirious. The noise in the stadium was thunderous. I fell asleep on the bench of a picnic table by the concession stand.
To me, March in Florida doesn't mean spring training. It means I may spot a manatee swimming by in the river behind my house. It means one more month or so of postcard-worthy weather. It’s the last chance for south Floridians to feel smug about living here before summer swelter, bugs, and the threat of hurricanes set in.
Baseball barely comes to mind.
Yet I don't want my friend to think I don't care about what he does. I have a whole list of questions I can pose, with an interested tone in my voice:
So, has the World Series started yet?
Is there really any difference between the American and National leagues?
What's up with that Oriole Orange? Does anybody look good in that color?
Just the other day, I asked Mel how slugger Mark McGwire is hitting. Turns out, the guy’s retired! Who knew?
It is important, though, to fake an interest in your friends’ interests. I mean, c'mon ... you know everyone does it to authors: Hey, how's the next book coming?
I suspect they don't really care to hear you're blocked in Chapter 20, or the motive of the person you thought would be the murderer now seems extremely lame.
How about you? Is there something everyone else loves that bores you silly? Have you ever pretended to find something fascinating to humor friends or family? Do you think authors are more likely to indulge in little white lies, since they make up things for a living?
*Note: If this post seems familiar, it's adapted from a radio essay I did for the NPR station in Tampa, Fla. Not much has changed since then about the way I feel about baseball.