I guess this is something I just need to say. I know there is no shortage of coverage of the MLB/DirecTV deal, but this not just about that. This is about my feelings on what baseball used to be for me… and what it has become.
Growing up in an abusive home, baseball was my escape as a kid. No matter what happened, I always had baseball to look forward to. It was my escape from the reality around me. For a few hours nothing mattered except what happened on the field. I used to lay my baseball cards out on the floor in front of me and sit and watch games on TV. Going to watch Cincinnati Reds games were heaven, and back then it was a frequent occurrence. I remember the magic of hearing those words "Let’s go to a game today". That’s back when you could afford to go to games. Before going to a single baseball game became something it took a year to plan and save money for. All those years ago, it was something you could wake up and decide it was a beautiful day to catch a game. For me, it was a reason to make it through everything I was dealing with. As long as there was a game going on I felt like I was part of something special.
Baseball is still what keeps me going. When things get unbearable with my health problems and I start to feel like I just can’t fight through it any longer, I can say "Just one more game". I just want to make it through one more Red Sox game, I want one last experience, one last chance at a few hours of hope and passion. After the game is over, I start again… "Just one more game". It gets me through life, one game at a time. Perhaps it’s not what most people would consider a life saving experience, but the important thing for me is that I’m still here. It does give me something to look forward to. No matter how bad things get in my life or with my health, I will always have the Red Sox to help me get through it.
I remember back when I was a kid, being a fan was an important thing. Back when MLB cherished the fan relationship. Back when MLB understood that baseball was an escape for those less fortunate, that baseball was how many kids learned about life and when fans were considered to be more than just the cash they provided. Back when players and managers helped in the community because they wanted to, not for PR purposes. Back when the good deeds were not major media stories, but something you knew about because you experienced it. I remember walking through Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati and being able to hug my favorite players. It wasn’t reported or recorded, it was something they wanted to do. These players had a profound effect on my life. Baseball took a kid living in a horrible situation and turned her into a person who understood honesty, integrity, loyalty and respect. I didn’t have anywhere else to learn these things from. Baseball was not just an escape, it was complete freedom… the freedom to be able to achieve whatever I set out to accomplish.
These days when I talk about baseball to my own kids and their friends I hear a lot of "wow, you went to that many games?" and "I went to a baseball game once!". I had looked forward to giving my kids the experiences I had as a child. I looked forward to being able to take them to games and giving them a chance to escape the complexities in life. A strong foundation of love for a game that could possibly someday be the one thing that keeps them going if they feel their life is falling apart. Instead I can only share stories of the past, and try to keep myself from falling apart when I see the hurt in their eyes when they ask to go to a game and I can only tell them that we don’t have enough money. The game that gave me hope as a child has become a game of disappointment to my kids. This is where baseball has gone. This is the game of the future.
MLB doesn’t like that the fans are speaking out about the deal with DirectTV. MLB thinks we are making a big deal out of nothing and just aren’t smart enough to understand complex business deals. I say that MLB doesn’t understand fans anymore… that they don’t understand baseball anymore. I say that perhaps they are right for going for more money now, because they will need it when the fans have been abused enough and decide that the game isn’t worth fighting for anymore. Then perhaps team owners will yell about the fans lack of passion and how difficult it is to get people to come watch the games. They will lose money and the blame will not be on MLB or on those owners who supported these deals, but the few die hard fans who have stuck through it all, willingly gave up every penny they could to support their favorite team and still find the magical escape in a baseball game, will again take the fall. Those of us who will continue to stick with baseball because it is such a part of our lives are in for a long-term abusive relationship.
As a kid watching baseball taught me that anything was possible. Now I see that everything is possible except watching baseball. Thank you MLB.