The best thing about America’s pastime beginning again isn’t the hot dogs, home runs, ten-dollar beers, or even the occasional streakers. Some people get sentimental and talk about the freshly cut grass or the smell of a new ball. These people are either geriatrics or chumps. No, the truly great thing about the start of baseball season is the rekindling of diehard rivalries.
Sure, the NFL has the Cowboys and Redskins, and soccer riots have bordered on small scale military conflicts, but in what other sport can you spend four hours for three or four nights in a row heckling fans and players of a team that you grew up despising. Baseball’s most famous rivalry is between Boston and New York; 86 years of bad blood started with the trading of Babe Ruth from the Red Sox to the Yankees in 1920. And while the Curse of the Bambino was broken two years ago, the rivalry is stronger than ever. Just go back to 2003 and remember the brawl between 73-year old Yankees bench coach and former Red Sox manager Don Zimmerman and Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez in Game 3 of the American League Champion Series. Things haven’t cooled off much if an arthritic gasbag coach charges the mound in the playoffs.
This last weekend had the perfect lineup of games for all of us California natives, the decisive NorCal SoCal battles: Dodgers vs. Giants, and Angels vs. Athletics. My roommates and I watched those games, flipping back and forth with picture in picture, and the arguments that broke out were intense. Granted, while boozing is a basic baseball requirement, it does increase the rates of game-related fisticuffs. Yet, I never wanted to bite my Oakland roommate’s face off more than when he was laughing at me as Mike “I’m really damn old” Piazza blasted a homer Friday night to lift the A’s over my beloved Angels. At least the Halos scraped them on Saturday.
Winning or losing a series against your team’s sworn enemy can be the highest of highs, or the lowest of lows. Nothing beats seeing a brawl break out in the stands when an angry visitor attacks a home fan for waiving his broom in his face, but we’ve all been on the receiving end of a broom taunt and know how shitty it feels. The key is to pretend the bad nights never happened, and never let your opponents forget your last great achievement, even if it was 90 years ago. And what if your team gets swept for a whole season? Well, you can always call it a rebuilding year.