It’s been over a month since baseball shut down and the regular season should have started three weeks ago, so we’re in this weird limbo of missing it and almost forgetting what it should be like to have live games. Though you may not have forgotten, per se, I’m sure even the most sports-obsessed among you have settled into some sort of new routine. But even if you’ve shifted your vice to music or movies or gaming, there are surely some little things you’ll continue to jones for until things snap back.
There was something going around on Twitter recently asking people to share the one very specific thing they missed about sports, so I gave a reply and followed along as others did the same. Thing is, there’s so much more than one thing for everyone other than the protagonists of City Slickers. So while trying to reply wittily to that tweet, I actually found it difficult to deconstruct my feelings to the extent that I could put them into neat little buckets.
Hence was born this thought exercise, which is entirely selfish despite the implied inclusiveness of the headline. Don’t get me wrong, I’m at least mildly interested in what other people think and feel. At the core of this, though, is my own selfish desire to dig in and figure out what I really miss. So here are the five little things I really miss about baseball.
The moment of relief when your team records the final out
You might think “relief” should be replaced by “elation” or “excitement” or any number of less muted emotional descriptors, but even the Cubs’ recent run of success can’t blunt my fear of Murphy’s Law. No matter how large the lead, I’m not content until that final out has been made and the game is officially over.
I don’t miss the anxious preceding moments, though the sense of anticipation before a tough matchup or a big start by an ace pitcher is sadly collecting dust on the corner of a mental shelf right now. It’s that buildup that makes the relief necessary in the first place, so to some extent I really miss the anguish of sports.
The big games
The season is far too young to have featured any truly meaningful games yet, but I sure do miss getting psyched up for Opening Day and/or the home opener. The first game against a division rival, other than the Pirates. The first time Jon Lester takes the mound in what may well be the last campaign of his Cubs career, maybe his career in general. The first night game, the first national broadcast, the first walk-off.
The first true spring day at Wrigley
There are actually at least two of these every season because you’ll get a teaser like we had last week or two weeks ago, followed by another few days of snow and sleet and the like. That miserable weather then gives way to the inevitable mid-70’s sunshine of a perfect Friday afternoon and everything is right with the world for a few hours.
I’m much more a fan of advanced metrics, but this one applies to everything from batting average to pitcher wins. I love the little statistical anomalies that come from small samples at the start of the season. Someone is on pace to hit 100 homers, a star is batting .051 through the first two weeks and people are worried that he’s broken. The overreaction is wonderful, but even better are the little kernels of hope that maybe we’ll see something we never thought we would.
Regardless of how they manifest, I miss how the stats build and shift and eventually reveal a picture of the season that we couldn’t see at first because we were too close to it.
While I miss seeing the players having fun in the dugout or on the field, what I’m really lacking at this point is the interaction with other fans and readers. We’ve got a loyal following here, to be sure, and I’ve got plenty of folks with whom I interact on social media. But what I wouldn’t give for that moment after a close play when everyone on Twitter is weighing in with their assessment of the call and why it will or won’t stand following replay review.
Social media can be a veritable cesspool of terrible opinions, many of which tend to come out during sporting events, but it’s also a way for us to commune even when we’re apart. I miss experiencing games as a big group and getting all the different angles on a given play or player.
More than that, I miss being able to meet up with my friends at a bar before heading to the ballpark, or even just walking into a bar and making a new friend who’s also there to watch the game. I might not have said that a few weeks ago because I typically prefer to avoid people I don’t know well, but I’d be okay with a little human interaction these days.
You’ll notice I didn’t include anything about actually being at the game itself, which isn’t a matter of oversight because that’s a big thing. Maybe that’s all that matters for you, totally get it. If you have a few small things of your own, however, please feel free to share here or on Twitter or wherever you see fit.