For me, the start of a new sports season is about hope. Each season brings with it a fresh start, a time when the disappointment of bottom of the ninth inning losses haven’t settled into the deeper sense that your team won’t be making the playoffs. Yesterday night, the Astros beat the Rangers in the first game of the 2013 Major League baseball season. It’s only for a few more hours today that we can say the Astros have the best record in baseball. They are on pace to go 162-0 for the season. These statements are funny to anyone who follows baseball, but they also show why I’ve grown up to be such a big sports fan.
I was raised in a home where sports helped me to connect to the men on whom I depended. I never knew how to relate to my quiet father, my goofy big brother. My father was not warm, my brother’s warmth seemed overbearing. As a teenager, I found myself trapped in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship with my first boyfriend, and when I built up the courage to trust my instinct to love another man again, that boyfriend died from Hodgkin’s disease. I entered into a second abusive relationship in my 20s, and only built up the courage to leave when the abuse turned physical. When I began to lose faith, I looked to sports as an escape.
The men on the field and on the court were constant. I relied on our sports teams to bring me a sense of hope when everything else seemed to disappoint me. I loved the process of a play, an inning, a drive, a fast-break. I loved that tension and drama. I loved the hope of a new season, and I loved analyzing the past season. I loved the hope.
Throughout the course of my life, I have always stopped the men in my life to make much impact. I have always considered myself emotionally hesitant, unwilling to trust. I always related my love of sports to some desire to self-inflict pain as if the disappointment I felt at each season’s end was all that mattered. Over time, however, I have learned from these disappointments. I wasn’t the one to choose the Eagles, the Phillies, or the Sixers. The teams chose me.
Growing up as a Philadelphia sports fan, there was no championship I could point toward, simply the pride and the faith I had in our teams. Philadelphia was a city that endured the disappointed and always returned for the next season. Our bitterness comes with our passion and with our love. We have been let down, and we come back each season still believing.
In 2008, the Phillies won the World Series. In the elation of that win, I began to realize that my love of Philly sports teams wasn’t always about the actual championship, it was about the time I spent hoping for one. My whole life, I had wanted desperately to see a championship, but my happiness came from more than that one single win of Game 5 of the 2008 World Series.
On Opening Day, I recognize that my love of sports is about the process of each game, each season. I know now that it is with the beginning of each season that I am instilled with new hope. Through the years, I have reveled in the excitement of each game, discovering that, sometimes, we find love along the way. My growth as a sports fan connected me to other fans. It brought me closer to my family and friends and lovers. It’s given me the space to feel safe around men when I felt I didn’t know how to trust. My love of sports teams from the City of Brotherly Love had inadvertently helped me in my search for brotherly love.
Here’s to a new season of baseball.