All is right with the world - from a baseball standpoint, anyway.
As explained in previous blog entries, I am a die-hard fan of the New York Yankees. So as many of you might expect, I was very happy last Wednesday when the Yankees clinched the 2009 World Series championship after beating the Philadelphia Phillies 7-3. Millions of Yankees fans from all over the country and the world took time to smile, laugh and be happy about this accomplishment, the first Bronx Bombers’ title since 2000. Yes, I know nine years between championships isn’t a long time (relatively speaking, anyway). But I still enjoyed the chance to take it all in, to call my friends and tell them about how happy I was and to enjoy the grins that come with my favorite team of all time winning another championship, the fifth that I’ve been old enough to appreciate.
Throughout this work hiatus that I did not ask for, I had a lot more time to watch Yankees games. I didn’t neglect my other responsibilities, but I made sure to catch as many games as I could. My only regret was not getting to the New Yankee Stadium during the past season. Then again, when every penny counts, you have to be careful about how you spend. That meant watching games on TV or even enjoying games on the radio. And as cheesy as Yankees Radio Network play-by-play guy John Sterling can come across, it would be weird not hearing his voice. Still cannot believe he’s been the voice of Yankees radio for 21 years. Time does fly. And it was largely enjoyable.
For all the skepticism many folks have about sports, you really have to take a little time to enjoy the games for what they are and the players for what they’re able to do. Most of us cannot run as fast as Brett Gardner. Most of us can’t hit 30 home runs in less than a full season like Alex Rodriguez. And most of us will never be as consistent a hitter as Derek Jeter. I appreciate what these guys do, just as well as what their opponents can do.
Sports are supposed to be that great getaway for many of us. Like movies, Broadway shows or good books, sports are supposed to be a chance for us to leave our real world worries behind for a few hours. And for the two or so hours I’m watching a Yankees game, I’m trying not to think about any issues coming my way. A Yankees win isn’t going to pay my bills, find me work or make sure I’m in the best health I can be. But it can lift my spirits just a little and put a hop in my step. That’s not a bad thing so long as you don’t rely on your team’s victories to be your only reason for happiness. I try to get out. I read. I write. I chat. I go for walks. All of that can make you feel good as well. But seeing your team win a championship, even if you’ve seen them take a title before, still feels good and makes you feel like a little kid.
So when the Yankees finished off the National League Champion Phillies on Wednesday – and made Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins look a little foolish in the process (Remember his comments about the Phils taking the Series in five games?) – I enjoyed the happy moments. I know I no longer have to dwell on the Yankees losing a 3-0 series lead to the Boston Red Sox in the 2004 American League Championship Series and all the accompanying “hope your boys don’t choke this time!” comments. I no longer have to think about the first round exits that happened in the three years after 2004. I get to smile whenever a Yankee-hating friend of mine wants to have a bitter comment or two. (Some still come through with them, but I expected nothing less.) And this year, with the Yankees’ championship parade happening on my birthday, I spoiled myself that day and bought a championship hat and T-shirt. I figured it was the least I could do for myself. Besides, I had the hats from the last four Yankees championships. Why not keep the collection going?
As I write this, the Yankees’ title reign is six days old. Some of the immediate joy is wearing off, as expected. Baseball season is over and the real world, obviously, is calling. More things have to be done. But the memory of Robinson Cano fielding Shane Victorino’s grounder and tossing it to Mark Teixeira to end the 2009 World Series and the ensuing pile-up of happy Yankees players in the middle of diamond will always make me feel like a little kid. And that all is right with the world – the baseball world, anyway.