Opening Day + NCAA Championship used to be my playground

Opening Day + NCAA Championship Same Day

If you ever want to really draw a harsh line in the sand around “Adulthood,” think of a cherished period of time from your childhood — say, dew-encased summer evenings — and then consider what you’re doing on those same periods as an adult. (“Cleaning up vomit of a young child,” for example.) It really jams the ol’ knife of realism in your spleen.

I just came across one of my own today: as ever, MLB Opening Day and the NCAA Championship are on the same day. (The Masters starts on Thursday; I could care less about golf, but that’s one of those things where you’re always checking the ol’ phone on Sunday to see the leaderboard.)

When I was a young lad on the rough-and-tumble streets of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, this day would annually be one of my favorites. It was childhood splendor wrapped in immature bliss, and today, well … I’m sitting in a cubicle blogging and chasing deliverables. After work I should really work out, because you know, I’m 34 and I’m not getting any younger and I should be healthier — and after working out, damn, I really need to trim my beard. Also, I cut the cord a while back on cable, my rabbit ears don’t work, and I can probably only get the NCAA Championship on an iPad where I steal my mother’s cable log-in.

Adulthood is a racket.

To be honest, I don’t even really follow MLB that closely anymore, and haven’t for probably 7-10 years. My general arc is something like this: April (excited), May (passively paying attention), June (I’ll Google records and lineups if I’m attending a game in person), July-September 15 (don’t care or look at it unless something “trends”), September 15-Halloween (care somewhat, engage with people at bars about, try to understand the themes of the World Series).

When I was a kid, though, I loved baseball. In a way, you could say my path through sports fandom — which was ironically smashed to bits in some ways by working for ESPN — is emblematic of the whole damn thing where kids now love football. I think the NFL is getting a little tedious, maybe, but I still love college football.

I didn’t necessarily move away from baseball because it’s slow. It is, yes. But I think I moved away because taken as individual elements, nothing in baseball means that much. Let’s say I was a Mets fan (I was, somewhat, growing up). They could have an awful week in June and go 0-7. That would be all over the media. Thing is, though? There’s still 155 other games. What if they go 120-35 in those ones? Did that week in June really matter? Now, if an NFL team or a CFB team goes 0-7 across seven games … well, that’s 3/4 or 1/2 their season. That matters. I think that’s why I ultimately moved away from baseball.

I have two memories of this Opening Day + NCAA Championship day-of-consuming-sports that stand out above the rest, and ironically both are from my time at Saint David’s (Google it if you want; prep school K-8 in Manhattan):

  • In 6th grade, I was this fat dorky kid. (I still am, but for this paragraph I’m speaking primarily about 6th grade.) Near the middle of sixth grade, I got a date with this girl, right? Kathleen Moore. We even talked on the phone a few times! The day of the date comes, and I’m all excited and playing Mario Kart. Phone rings and I know it’s a dagger. Sure enough, she’s calling to cancel the date. I go nuts and start crying, saying girls hate me, they’ll always hate me, all this stuff. (I was 13, in fairness.) So my mom calls the girl’s mom and basically gets her to redo the date. I go on the date and it’s OK, but of course back at school it’s all rumor-central of “OMG, your mom got you a date!” By Opening Day, this is still a joke I get teased for. (Kids are awful.) So I’m fat and dorky and awkward and my mom gets me dates, and it was getting merciless. (The biggest prick was this kid named Eddie Simmons. I have no idea what he does now.) Around this time, I had a strong bond with my Language Arts teacher — Mr. Ryan — because I was a pretty good student in that class and because he loved baseball and I loved baseball and that was something we could discuss that not all the other kids understood. So sure enough on Opening Day at lunch, I’m getting teased about this goddamn thing that happened like months ago, and I just break down and start crying (which is a good look in a room full of boys). Mr. Ryan takes me out of there and we go to a faculty lounge and watch the Yankees. We talk about the science of the double-steal and when to bunt and whether OBP is important (remember, this is 1993 or so. This is way pre-Moneyball.) I had felt awful that day, but I left school feeling great. That doesn’t always happen, in any aspect of life. Power of teachers, power of baseball, power of human connection.
  • In 7th grade, Mr. Ryan and Mr. McLaughlin (homeroom teachers) basically let me sit in a room all day — i.e. not really go to class — and watch baseball. For some reason, the room had a cable package (in 1994) where I could watch like six different games at once, or at least by flipping channels. It was glorious. I got home that night and watched Arkansas-Duke (National Championship game). I was 13 at the time. Honestly, I can’t think of another day in my 13th year that was, top-to-bottom, as fulfilling as that one. Here’s the boxscore of the Yankees-Rangers game I watched that day. Jimmy Key! Ironically, 21 years later … I live in Rangers’ country.

Look, I have cool and great things in my life as an adult, but there’s something about that little piece of bliss before you realize HS is a bitch, college is a bitch, and the real world is mostly about trying to keep your earnings down.

Hopefully people out there are enjoying today — of all ages.

Ted Bauer