I was aware of baseball when I was a really little kid, but I wasn't a big fan. Neither of my parents were, so it wasn't something that I learned at my father's knee, or that came in with mother's milk.
(Notice that doubly cliched preceding sentence. It's important. Stay with me here, OK?)
By the time I was 11 or so, I started to pay attention. Through early and mid-teens, it was critical. The standings were everything, and the race against our division opposition more important than my GPA. For college, I moved to the city of our most ardent rival team. I went to games when my boys were in for a series, and cheered for The Other Team in the midst of equally ardent locals.
I was supported in this by the crowd of folks that would drive the 5 hours from my hometown. The rivalry was that important, but it was always respectful. No beer and batteries thrown at people wearing the wrong colors, just friendly competition to outshout each other. A win was exciting, a loss was disappointing. As it should be.
In my early twenties, I remained a fan. Devoted, loyal, ardent, attentive. Captivated.
I stopped being a fan when the strike of 1994 resulted in the cancellation of the World Series. I turned my back on the game I'd loved, because it didn't love me back.
Now, I have a hard time reading the comments and blogs of devoted baseball fans and aficionados without thinking deeply about what it means to love, ardently, hopelessly, senselessly.
What is love, anyway?