“Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.” — Yogi Berra
Love. It’s a word that is used often but rarely felt in the depths of our soul. We may feel that about a spouse, child, friend or pet, but do we truly love pizza in the same way that we love our child?
This is a discussion I recently had with a friend of mine when it came to the game of baseball. Can you love it in the same way that you love a family member? My argument is that it’s a different kind of love, a love that is like seeing your best friend again and a love that bonds you to other members of a community, no matter how far apart they live.
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When the season closes on the Colorado Rockies on Sunday afternoon on an absolutely gorgeous day in downtown Denver, it will be the final chapter in a 162-chapter novel that never lived up to its billing.
Colorado manager Bud Black was asked on Sunday morning in his last pregame scrum to describe the season in one word. After a few moments, he responded with three words instead: It was hard.
Those words flashed me back to the movie, “A League of Their Own” when manager Jimmy Dugan said, “Baseball is what gets inside you. It’s what lights you up, you can’t deny that.” And then said, about the game, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard … is what makes it great.”
We have spent many hours perfecting the narrative with Ian Desmond, trying to figure out what happened to Kyle Freeland and wondering what baseball gods were offended when Jon Gray, German Marquez and David Dahl were lost for the season. We did it because we’re fans. We also did it because we love the game.
It’s easy to be a fan of a team that wins every year. It’s easy to support a franchise where success is a constant theme. It’s more challenging to cheer for the squad still searching for its first division title or World Series win. But when moments like Tony Wolters’ hit in Chicago last October happen, it makes the good moments even sweeter.
I must admit, it’s hard to cover a team for 162 games and not have some personal attachment to the players who play it. It’s hard to walk into a clubhouse night after night and interact with players and not deep down cheer for them to succeed. I own a master’s degree in journalism and I’m well aware how journalists are supposed to be neutral in every hour of the day. If journalists were robots, that would be easy. But we’re not … no more than the players who play this hard game every day.
Yes, the hard is what makes it great. It’s also what bonds you a little closer together, many have told me.
“I think this year made us come closer as a team,” Trevor Story told me as he packed up his locker for the offseason on Sunday. “Chemistry-wise, we’ve always been pretty tight but when you go through tough times, it really brings you closer. That something we can lean on for the future.”
Story’s walkoff homer on Saturday night was a reminder of why Rockies fans love this game, just like Marquez’s gem in San Francisco in April and back-to-back walkoff wins during Memorial Day weekend. There was also emotion during three straight walkoff losses in Los Angeles and a four-game sweep at Coors Field by the San Francisco Giants.
If we didn’t care, we wouldn’t have enjoyed the highs or grumbled over the lows so much. That, my friends, is the foundation of love that is shared for this team by its fans and is shared by each other in the clubhouse. I mean, come on, Tim Melville brought cookies for everyone and was passing them around before Sunday’s finale. Take a look at the picture accompanying this article and tell me that Saturday night’s win didn’t matter.
Today, we say goodbye to our friend until we see it again in Arizona in February. We’ll settle in for what will feel like a long, cold winter and hope the Colorado Avalanche and/or Denver Nuggets can bring a title to this city. Personally, I’ll be rooting for some memorable moments at Pepsi Center this winter … but will also be counting the days until spring training.
February in Arizona? We’ll be there as hope springs eternal for the 2020 season and as a love story between fans and their team is renewed once again. I can’t wait.