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Of Lovers and Baseball

By Oliver W. Kim

The winter snows have finally receded, the temperature has risen from miserable to mildly tolerable, and the earliest salmon-colored shorts can be spotted in the Yard. Spring is here. For many, the season of new life brings a renewed interest in creating new life. In Tennyson’s words, spring is when “a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” In more modern vernacular, it is a time of conscious coupling. But for those of us spending the season single, there’s an alternative activity where getting to third base is a regular occurrence: baseball.

Allow me to explain.

Baseball offers the full range of emotional experience. April in the major leagues, just like the heady first days of love, is full of hope. Old veterans promise career revivals, rookies promise breakout seasons, and everyone is in the best shape of his life. Baseball even offers something for those who have been burned in the past. George Bernard Shaw once said that second marriage was the triumph of hope over experience; the same phenomenon might explain the existence of Cubs fans.

There is hope, yes, but there is uncertainty as well. As April gives way to May and then June, the specter of doubt begins to cast its shadow over the halcyon days of spring. “Will they”s and “won’t they”s tug at the mind. Will the bullpen hold it together? Will the lineup stay healthy? Are the Mets for real this year? (Maybe, maybe, no.)

As the adrenaline and dopamine of the initial excitement wear off, the prospect of continued commitment begins to loom large—after all, it’s a 162-game season. But baseball has something for people of all commitment levels, from the relationship-averse to the overly attached. Looking for a cheap hookup devoid of real emotional content? Wait till October and hop on the Bronx playoff bandwagon, along with millions of other “Yankees fans.” Truly committed? Stay true for the whole season, and you may get to experience the euphoria of seeing your team in the World Series.

Even if your team of choice flounders in the regular season, baseball offers another emotional experience—the anguish of true loss. Few of love’s wounds can match the heartbreak of a called third strike with the bases loaded, or a playoff run that falls one game short. But to paraphrase Tennyson again: ‘Tis better to have loved and lost in the pennant race than never to have loved at all.

Perhaps we’re getting too far ahead of ourselves. Regardless of the standings or even the team, there is a romance in baseball that isn’t present in the other major American corporate sports. There is a simple aesthetic pleasure to the tantalizing arc of a curveball, the crack of a bat making good contact with a ball, and the low thump as a throw to the plate finds its way into the catcher’s glove. (Freudians can have a field day with that last sentence.) Baseball moments also have a way of sticking in the mind like photographs—as the saying goes, you never really do forget your first inside-the-park home run.

So next time you mope about yet another Valentine’s Day spent in solitude, cheer up—Spring Training is just around the corner. While spring’s lovebirds deal with all the messiness of miscommunication and all the foibles of fidelity, you can always tune in to the latest broadcast, 162 days a year—barring rain-outs, of course (and when baseball gives you a rain check, at least it’s actually raining).

Springtime may be for lovers, but for the rest of us, there’s baseball.

Oliver W. Kim ’16, a Crimson editorial writer, is an economics concentrator living in Leverett House.

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