Making Up For Lost Blogging
It’s been about three months since I updated this blog, and four months since I wrote more than a few cohesive paragraphs. I think this constitutes the longest I’ve gone without contributing something of value here. My breaks always seem to coincide with writing for new baseball blogs that quickly die, Roto Hardball soon after I left, and Second Squad Sorrows before it was even born. I had more of an excuse not to update this blog when it came to my daily duties over at RH, but life and my state of mind have gotten in the way this time around.
I recently read a book called Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior that mentioned how the people who are actually best at self-evaluation are usually depressed. Most human beings are optimists because otherwise our species never would have gotten this far. It reminded me of the overthinking, doubting mindset of prospect Billy Beane in the book Moneyball, which left him at a disadvantage when compared to the headstrong Lenny Dykstra. I’ve always been Beane when it comes to writing (or women) and it becomes difficult after a while to write knowing you’re not really bringing anything original or exceptional to the table. How much writing is out there on the internet? There are countless movie blogs manned by teenagers, manchild 20-somethings, and hipster 20-somethings. There is an almost depressing amount of smart baseball writing — both sabermetric-focused and not, but all adhering to that movement’s basic truths. There are half a dozen reviews of every goddamn television show that miserable people watch. Even animated .GIFs are everywhere now, although sadly mostly in shitty Tumblr form. What is a regular dude supposed to blog about?
I had a conversation with NeoGAF and Twitter buddy @m_scoular a few months ago and it’s as if he had the opposite effect on me as he hoped. He said how pouring himself into movies and classic books and writing about them (mostly privately) had helped him make some sense of, or at least come to peace with, his current lot in life. And he said he enjoyed reading my thoughts on movies, and suggested writing constantly — if not on this blog — in a personal journal. But this conversation came at a time just as baseball was starting up, and I fell into the usual mode of being obsessed with grown men playing a game.
I’ve questioned my commitment to watching the Mets — and baseball in general — many times. I’ve mentioned on this blog (by linking to a Flip Flop Fly Ball infographic) how much time is sunk into following an 162-game season. I’ve thought many times that I enjoy talking about baseball more than watching it. What am I getting out of being such an intense baseball fan?
Then something like being in attendance for the first Mets no-hitter happens. There are movies that can really get to you, making you either cheer or cry, but this was real. This was watching something almost miraculous. Down to the very last batter I had lingering doubts. Tom Seaver had three chances in the 9th inning to close out no-hitters for the Mets and never did it. Johan Santana was less than two years removed from shoulder surgery that has ended lesser careers and had a pitch count greater than any game he had thrown before said surgery. With two outs, with his 131st pitch, he went 3-0 on David Freese. I thought it was over. Either Johan would walk Freese, requiring a bunch more pitches, which would add to the already ridiculous burden on his recovering shoulder, or he’d lay a very hittable pitch over the middle of the plate. Johan chose option C by striking out Freese with a devastating changeup.
After witnessing Johan’s short-rest shutout in the penultimate game of the 2008 season, I didn’t think anything less than attending a Game Seven playoff win or World Series clinching-game would top that baseball experience. But I wasn’t hugging my friends after that game. Or high-fiving dozens of strangers all around me. Or calling my dad after he watched it along with his dad. This was baseball — as cliche as it sounds — as religious experience.
Feeling that way about baseball brings me back to the conversation I had with @m_scoular. He was curious about my thoughts on This Is Not A Film, an Iranian documentary about a filmmaker under house arrest awaiting the results of an appeal for a jail sentence and a 20-year ban on directing. I fell asleep during it. Meanwhile, he detailed how and why it affected him unlike any other movie and how he wished I could have felt like he did. And I wish I appreciated the passion and humor on display, and maybe I would have a bit more if I didn’t fall asleep or watch it in a very dead theater, but I’m still a budding movie buff and even then that feeling doesn’t compare to my passion for baseball or even sports in general.
Perhaps it’s not a perfect analogy, because even a casual baseball fan can appreciate a no-hitter, but someone who watches countless Mets games is going to understand the significance behind it on another level. After the no-hitter, as my two friends and I sat in an Astoria beer garden, I rattled off the great Mets pitchers who had gone on to throw no-hitters for other teams: Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Dwight Gooden, David Cone (Philip Humber’s perfect game was just a cruel joke). And then there are the good pitchers who could have easily thrown one if everything lined up right. Finally, the Mets were the recipient of a great pitcher with enough left in the tank to do what hadn’t been done in 51 seasons of Mets baseball. It was enough to make a man get so drunk that he gets unidentified stains on his Santana jersey while black out drunk.
It’s that feeling that spurs me to write something. It’s watching a Game Seven between the Heat and Celtics. It’s watching a Nadal-Djovokic French Open final. But even more, it’s watching El Clasico in a packed NYC bar among people who obviously care about soccer a lot more than I do. And I do occasionally get that feeling when watching a great movie, but there’s nothing like the communal experience of watching sports history. Something like that is enough to get a person to blog again.