By Rich Taylor
This week marks Opening Day of the 2022 Major League Baseball season, a time of hopeful anticipation for fans of 30 teams scattered across America (and, once hockey season ends, one single spot in Canada).
However, for many, the arrival of another season also triggers toxic behaviors fueled by unrealistic spring expectations. For those struggling souls, we invite you to embrace the Nine Steps of Baseball Fan Recovery (neither applicable nor necessary for residents of Boston, Los Angeles, and New York).
We admit that we are powerless over obvious salary dumps labeled as “getting younger,” lack of free agency acquisitions, and countless other questionable practices and decisions inflicted upon us by the front office. We accept that no matter how many calls we place to local sports radio, ownership will never bend to our will nor will they ever demonstrate any common sense.
We know that our lack of a money-printing Regional Sports Network creates some reasonable payroll limitations. That said, we truly believe that anything better than a glorified AAA pitcher at the top of the rotation, a semblance of some ability at moving the runner over, and a halfway decent closer could restore us to at least functional-enough-for-society level sanity.
3. Higher Power
We made a decision to stop questioning whatever higher power we believe in every time the middle of our lineup leaves runners in scoring position or our bullpen blows a lead of two or more runs. Similarly, we will be more cognizant of our use of prayer and expand it beyond pitching staff arm health and key at-bats to include loved ones, world peace, yadda yadda.
4. Admitting Wrongs
Whether surreptitiously tracking a late spring game on our phone at the dinner table or missing our child’s recorder solo during the elementary school “Springtacular,” we admit that we have not always been “fully present.” Likewise, the decision to spend our wedding anniversary at our fantasy league’s rescheduled draft/bar crawl was, with this new sense of clarity, regrettable.
5. Taking Inventory
We have conducted a searching and often uncomfortable evaluation of our emotional investment in a franchise that hasn’t sniffed a World Series in two decades. We note that our steady introduction of bobbleheads and other team merchandise into our home has resulted in the family room looking more like a Buffalo Wild Wings than part of an adult’s domicile. Similarly, we have taken inventory and accurately quantified how much potential college savings and/or vacation fund has been spent on team merchandise and MLB.TV. Taken together, we recognize that, unless colleges start giving out recorder scholarships, modifying our past patterns is probably a good idea.
We accept that there will be highs and lows over the course of Spring Training and a 162 game season. We will endeavor to not allow these shifts to overly impact our emotional well-being and our relationships with family, work colleagues, and random people we encounter in the real world. To aid us in achieving better emotional balance, we adopt the following mantra: “It’s only a game.” Well, at least we try to do so.
7. Civic Duty
Taking a step back has helped make clear the need for a rebalancing of civic priorities. Accordingly, we pledge to study up on and exercise our right to vote in actual elections at least as much, if not as often, as we do when online ballot stuffing for MLB’s All-Star Game. That is after we figure out if we are even registered to vote and, if so, where.
8. Setting Examples
We recognize that, be they colleagues, strangers, or our children, the way we conduct ourselves can set both positive and negative examples. That is why, going forward, when attending a game, we will conduct ourselves as responsible adults and thus avoid becoming a wildly popular internet meme or gif (again).
Though open to miracles, even before the season’s first pitch we steel ourselves for post-season irrelevancy. We fully expect to watch another squad’s champagne-soaked locker room celebration. But we do not despair, because, at the same time, we can count the days until pitchers and catchers report and maybe, just maybe, next year will be different. Play ball!