When I was growing up, I wanted to be the ace pitcher of the Boston Red Sox. I told everyone who listened. I asked for jerseys for Christmas, spent hours in the backyard taking ground balls (thanks dad), and even painted the Red Sox logo on my bedroom wall.
Even after I accepted I wasn’t going to play baseball professionally, I kept up with the game. Actually, kept up really doesn’t do it justice — I was obsessed. I watched every game, pored over every box score. If you gave me the name of a player, I could tell you their stats. I knew everything there was to know about the MLB. As diehard as diehard gets.
But something has changed.
I’m more into basketball now. When I get home from work, I reflexively google NBA news. I know the stats, I listen to podcasts, I put big games in my calendar. For a long time, I’ve felt a sense of infidelity. Baseball season has started, but I’m not checking the scores the way I used to. I feel guilty about it.
So I asked myself — why is this happening? Am I losing the passion I’ve felt for baseball since the first time I saw Manny Ramirez at the plate? That would be a hard thing to admit. It would shake me to my foundation. And yet, when I watch Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, I don’t feel the same sense of wonder as when I watch Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Why?
It boils down to this; Trout and Harper aren’t the heroes I grew up with. The greats that roamed the outfield and dominated the batters’ box when I was young — the Ortiz’s and Jeter’s of the world — have passed on into the obscurity of retirement. And with them, they took a piece of my love for the game.
Just like I grew up believing that my dad was invincible, I grew up in awe of the MLB superstars of the mid 2000s. I took notes on Big Papi’s home run trot, I learned to perfectly imitate Ichiro’s effortless swing. I would glare out over my glove at the catcher, just like Andy Pettitte, and imagine what I would choose as my Jonathan Papelbon style bullpen music.
When we fall so deeply in love with something, like I did with that era, we often find it hard to accept its impermanence. I can’t love this current generation of ballplayer the way I loved their predecessors, so much so that it’s led me to another sport. I didn’t grow up watching Kobe and M.J., which lets me watch LeBron and truly believe he’s the greatest of all time. When he finally retires, basketball won’t be the same for me, either.
And that’s OK. It’s OK to recognize that when you love something so deeply that it consumes your existence, you may need to step away for a while once it’s gone. It’s important to take time for yourself after you break up with someone you love. It’s necessary to find a hobby so that when you fail at something professionally after months of work, you have an escape.
The price of immense passion is the potential for an equally absolute low. When you find the things you though you love most aren’t doing it for you, don’t beat yourself up over it. Trust that you are the person you are, that you love the things you love, and that sometimes we all need a break. When you come back, you’ll find a new appreciation for who you are, made possible by the broadening of your understanding of yourself as a person.
I’ll find my way back to baseball. I still love the game as much as I did, I just need some time off. I need sometime to mourn for a generation of athletes that came back from down 0-3 in the 2004 ALCS, and taught me that anything was possible. I need to mourn the loss of my heroes before I can fully embrace their replacements. It’s not a fault of the old stars, the new ones, or of myself.
It’s just the way life is.
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