Setting Your Post-Season Priorities
I didn't get much sleep Tuesday night. Admittedly, the above isn't a very original complaint. It's staple of breakfast table discourse, usually qualified by one of the following: "I started a fifteen-pager at midnight," "The Bow had dollar pints," or--in the spirit of my freshman year roommate--"I had to be awake to check my e-mail at four-thirty."
But I'll venture that the explanation for the baggy eyes and cup of black dining hall coffee I sported Wednesday morning, or more properly, afternoon, is unique.
How about this one: I slept in the back row of the Greyhound 12:30 a.m. express from New York City?
Seamy as it sounds, my purposes in the Naked City were legitimate. I was making a pilgrimage to the baseball shrine at 161st street and River Avenue, to catch my first Yankee playoff game since the 1996 World Series.
A caveat before I proceed: this being October, I'm going to admit to the malaise that curiously befalls most Americans around this time of year, the playoff fever that makes us abdicate good judgment and sound priorities when baseball is t stake.
I, for example, traded Fox Sports and a good night's sleep for section 57 of the left-field bleachers and a living-color view of the Bombers' crisp, thorough domination of the Texas Rangers--and eight hours on a "luxury coach" between Boston and the Big Apple.
I'll leave the post-game analysis to my colleagues on the sports page, but suffice it to say that playoff baseball--and the death-grip it holds on the imagination of otherwise reasonable people--is a topic of concern even outside the sports community.
This month's issue of Cosmopolitan--which I read solely for the articles--ran a feature entitled "How to Survive a Sports Fan," a women's primer which offered "play-by-play strategies for dealing with your sports-addicted man, so you get to score."
Cosmo's more provocative suggestions, which included vacuuming naked in front of the television in an attempt to break the sports fan's concentration, speak to the gravity of playoff fever's potential consequences.
But let's set aside the relationship angle. Given the relative impossibility of finding a would-be Cameron Diaz--a girl who wants to hook up, and then watch Sportscenter--the sports addict will likely have to content himself with a celibate postseason.
I'm more interested in the academic and cultural repercussions of being a playoff nut at Harvard.
From two years' agonizing experience with Yankees and Knicks postseasons in Cambridge, let me humbly set forth the following bits of advice:
Most crucially, find a place to watch. Failing the bleachers, opt for the common rooms of baseball fans who share your addiction. This is of particular importance when you're apt to put a foot through the wall after a muffed double-play ball, or fling furniture after, say, Mark Wohlers hangs a slider.
For cable coverage, try the basement of Pizzeria Uno's. Unlike the Grille's, its reserved decor and contemplative atmosphere will allow you to focus on what's most significant.
Twenty years from now, do you want to remember an event of the magnitude of a Kirk Gibson home run, or an encounter with "this girl from my section who is pretty hot and who I think sweats me?"
On the academic side, choose class times wisely. As a general rule, mornings are good, afternoons dangerous and evenings out of the question. Yes, this contradicts conventional wisdom, but playoffs are playoffs.
Seek out professors and section leaders with, if not outright sympathy for your passion, at minimum a basic comprehension of the precepts of the game.
Pleading addiction to the Red Sox will come off much more effectively if you don't have to preface your excuse with an explanation of the difference between a foul ball and fastball.
The smart money here is on courses taught by people like Michael Sandel or William Gienapp--acknowledged baseball fans who will feel your pain.
And even when you've got support from your teaching staff, be able to cultivate exotic but plausible excuses for all contingencies. A suitable coded reference to "game five, six and seven, if necessary," might be on the order of "I'll know for certain by Friday whether the virus has responded to antibiotics."
Finally, be able to make intelligent trade-offs. Though missing any of the action is anathema, academic survival may sometimes dictate it.
Case in point: skipping a Sex lecture to watch game seven is acceptable, bagging a midterm because you were thirsting for Joe Morgan's hard-hitting post-game commentary is not.
But if push comes to shove, and your scholarly future is on the line, consider that Harvard will still be here after you take a year off for academic difficulties. If you are a Cubs fan, the playoffs may not. Choose carefully.
To return to Cosmo's complaint, note only that the well-documented relationships between sports and sex does have an empirical basis.
Harper's Index this month reports that when his team wins, the average male sports fan's testosterone level increases by 20 percent.
I'll let the players on the Harvard dating scene draw their own conclusions from this last fact. But it's a safe bet that Yankee fans, rejuvenated by another glorious October, will be doing some catching up at the end of the month. Daniel Habib '00, a Crimson editor, is a literature concentrator in Adams House.