At the risk of sounding like the spiky-haired scamp from Jerry Maguire, did you know that a person’s taste buds change every seven years?
Me, neither. In fact, that may or may not be true, but my 8-year-old daughter says it is, and I’m working on validating her feelings and therefore suppressing the urge to double-check her information with the Google Machines.
Let’s just go with it. Because there’s no question my taste in sports has changed – and rather dramatically – over the years.
As a kid, baseball and golf were perhaps my two favorite sports. At least, it seems that way in hindsight. I biked to the baseball fields – and there was an up-hill element in both directions, scout’s honor – every day to play and later to coach. I’d pedal home in the afternoon and play some more, either with friends or family members or by myself, throwing a ball against the steps and using the unpredictable caroms to hone on my fielding. (I was a short, weak-hitting first baseman for most of my youth. With a combo like that, it’s a wonder I didn’t make the bigs.)
When it rained, there were baseball cards to be studied and traded – boxes of them, all well-kempt and still in my childhood closest. No way I was going to have those bicycle-spoke horror stories like my dad did. (Although a part of me wonders if every day claims to have lost a Mickey Mantle card along the way, if it’s that generation’s version of a fish tale.)
Jamestown, N.D., was a baseball town – just ask former MLB All-Star, Gold Glover and World Series champ Darin Erstad, our favorite son. The Legion team had a charter bus before those were commonplace. There were 3-4 amateur teams, all of them state title contenders. The premier park – Jack Brown Stadium – was green and glorious from grandstands to fences before and after being burned down. I was all in.
Golf was more of a family thing. From the time I was maybe 2, we never lived more than a couple blocks from a course. My dad grew up playing the game, viewed it as a positive outlet during his rambunctious youth. For me and my younger brother, it was something we could do together – four years of difference meant far less on a golf course than the diamond – at any time of day and late into the evening. Thirty-six hole days weren’t uncommon. Getting to take the golf cart off-roading through a gulley behind our house was a bonus.
And now? I haven’t watched a regular-season MLB game in maybe five years. The last one was in person – Twins vs. Brewers in the Metrodome – and primarily as the kickoff to a friend’s bachelor party.
I haven’t played golf in maybe two years. Not once, even passing up free rounds, blasphemy in my profession.
Why? My taste in other forms of entertainment – music, movies, books (or book) – haven’t really changed. I wonder about that on a semi regularly basis, especially during the summer, a season once dominated by those two activities. Frankly, that might have been part of the allure – baseball and golf were things I could do outdoors and without the threat of frostbite; North Dakota winters are as unforgiving. Access was part of it. Baseball was the base sport in my hometown; and I can’t remember a summer that I didn’t have a season pass to play golf.
As for our breakup? I prefer to think it’s primarily related to lifestyle changes. To play or watch baseball requires a considerable chunk of time. Golf is the same AND it’s expensive. That part began to matter in college, when I wasn’t living on my parents’ dime. Slowly (or quickly), my game deteriorated. Being the high-strung sort, golf frustrated me even when my skills were serviceable. When that went away and kids began to arrive? Forget it. Not worth the time, the money or the aggravation. Maybe it would be different if my wife played, but I doubt it.
That brings us back to baseball. I hesitate to say that I gave up on the game because it’s boring. That seems unfair and uninteresting, a cop out if not downright ignorant. Plus, I’m OK with college baseball, albeit for a much shorter season. But that’s what society has pounded into my head, and I can’t come up with anything else, especially because I remain vested in action-intensive leagues like the NBA and the NFL. Maybe we just drifted apart, like a relationship that fizzles out rather than blowing up.
Sometimes I miss baseball and golf, two old, grand games – the strategy, the success, the morning dew and the setting sun. Perhaps we’ll be reunited some day, when the pace of life slows. I’d like that.