Thursday, October 31, 2013

Our Extended "Family"

3 World Series Titles in the last 10 years.

If you had told ANY Sox fan that it would be a realistic possibility after the Aaron Boone Incident of 2003 they would have laughed in your face, then probably kicked you, then wept and then said "Well, ya know, it could happen I bet…". Red Sox Nation is an emotional bunch to say the least, taking their lead from a very emotional clubhouse. Well, there's reason to get emotional yet again in Boston as the Red Sox actually did it, winning an incredible 3rd World Series Title in these last 10 years.

As I scanned through Facebook last night I saw a few different friends post comments about their lack of interest in the World Series, Baseball, Sports in general, etc. What's great about living in this country and having Freedom of Speech is that we can say just about anything without fear of any real reprisal, other than getting hammered by others if we choose to post our opinions on a public forum like Facebook, Twitter, etc. I completely and totally respect the fact that many people aren't turned on by Baseball or the World Series but what I don't understand is why they are so bothered by those of us that are?

Baseball is a dirty game. It's played by men that often grab themselves openly on TV, chew tobacco and who knows what, spit incessantly and are often caught cursing on television. You know, like Basketball, Football, Hockey and even Golf. It also sounds a lot like many of the parties and get-togethers I go to throughout the summer season, so why is this a reason to knock the sport?
Baseball is a boring game. Sure, sometimes it is, and the time between pitches can seem like an eternity, but have you watched NHL Hockey? I enjoy that game a lot but no one's going to tell me it's wall to wall excitement. We watch sports like Hockey, Baseball, Golf or whatever we like because we're emotionally invested in the game and it brings us pleasure more than it brings the inevitable pain. Sounds a lot like something else we're close to, no?

The lure of Professional Sports, especially those involving a team, is very likely rooted in the love of family. Our families are dynamic, flawed, strange, messy, odd, emotional and a little crazy, but they're also beautiful and hysterical and passionate and perfect because they're ours. The Boston Red Sox have always been made up of big personalities, dramatic temperaments and players who seem like an Island they're so remote and hard to reach. One wonders how they all seem to get along, co-exist and function effectively, and sometimes they don't…just like our families. The Red Sox history also has its share of baggage and demons, just like so many of our own families, and therefore they're easy to relate to and empathize with. The Red Sox are what we hope to be when we're at our best, and they're what we wish that we weren't when they're at their worst. They are a reflection of ourselves and they are the dangling carrot that we reach for in times of desperation and need. They are the place we seek Salvation and they're the receiver of our anger and frustration. They are us.

Yes, it's true that many of the Red Sox and other Professional athletes make millions and millions of dollars, so most of them are far removed from the daily struggles we face as "regular folks". Since when is being wealthy a guaranteed path to joy and isolation from the pains of the world though? These players bleed like the rest of us, they get sick like the rest of us and they have internal struggles and pressure and fears like anyone else, except with bigger bank accounts. The strange thing is that I would wager a healthy amount of money that all the parents I know of would be incredibly proud of their child were they to become a professional athlete in any sport, including baseball. Wouldn't they also lobby for their child and work diligently to make sure they are paid what they are worth, based on market rates and conditions in their chosen sport? So why is it often so "disgusting" that these children of some other parent are paid millions? We can argue all day about the Veterans, the Teachers and the Firefighters and the wonderful heroes that deserve to be rich and provide services that are far more amazing, dangerous and necessary than a pro ball player, but why does their deserving more praise and/or money make professional athletes unworthy?

I have always believed that there should be value-whatever value we want to attach to it-to anything that gives us pleasure and makes our short time on Earth more enjoyable and worth living. For many of us it's watching professional Baseball and rallying behind a team and its players. This costs money, sure, in cable TV fees, game tickets, clothing and gear and so on, and much of it goes into the pockets of wealthy grown men playing a game as well as the owners and executives of the club. So what? They provide a service, an entertainment value to us, our children and the masses so why should it anger me that they make great money doing it? If I could create a venture that drove millions of people to watch, enjoy, share in and promote wouldn't I expect that over time I might make great money at it? Which one of you reading this right now is living your life to make less money and plans, were you to win Powerball, to give the majority of your money to people and entities outside your family? Exactly.

Major League Baseball, like many professional sports leagues, donates millions of dollars to Cancer research, youth groups, inner cities, education and various other charities. The players often sponsor and donate their time and money to similar causes as well, and although some are far from great role models to the kids who adore them out there, the majority are. They were children themselves who had to work very hard every day to attain the level of skill they possess. They are hard-working, dedicated individuals that are just trying to make their way in the world, make a few bucks, and make their parents proud. When has that ever been a bad thing?

It's easy to demonize the wealthy, especially those who play a game for a living, but it's we the people that have always determined the wealth and relevance of that game. Consistently the citizens of this country show we love, adore and even worship this game and its players, despite the naysayers. I have often responded to others that have put down Professional sports and it's high paid players with the same thing I say regarding politicians: "The best way to show you don't like them or their policies is to vote for the other guy". So, if you're not a fan then change the channel and watch something else. Don't go to the games; find another hobby or event to enjoy. If the player salaries bother you so much when compared with Teachers and the like, start a lobbying group to advocate for changes.

Do whatever you need to do to make yourself happy, but don't try to rob those of us that love the game(s) of ours.

The Red Sox have won the World Series. The New England Patriots are looking like they could still have some magic in them. The Bruins and Celtics are just underway so it's too early to tell but it doesn't really matter because just like our families, we're going to stick with them for the duration, through good and bad, as they conquer and as they fall. Rooting for these teams is our right as citizens of this great country and the euphoria that follows the victories make every heartbreak that accompanies the defeat worth the price of admission. It doesn't matter if the detractors don't understand and don't share the sentiment as long as they step out of the way and allow us to enjoy our passion, as I will do the same for them. Now is the time for celebration, jubilation and love for the team that I adore, the mighty Red Sox, have won it all. In my universe, (and millions of others apparently )having an extended family of emotional, flawed, crazy and overpaid athletes feels pretty good and I can't imagine my life without them.

Until next year, after a long losing streak, a few bad trades and dropping home games to the Yankees.


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