Later this month, writer Roger Angell will be honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award that recognizes excellence in sports writing, specifically, baseball writing.
Angell has covered baseball for the New Yorker magazine for over fifty years by writing long and very literate essays on the topic several times each year. Over the years, many of those essays have been gathered together in book form and have become huge best sellers. If you are a baseball fan and enjoy great writing, you need to visit the library, bookstore, or Amazon and start reading Mr. Angell's works.
Anyway, to celebrate Angell being given the Spink Award, Sports Illustrated has a lengthy story about him in the week's issue. In the story, writer Tom Verducci quotes a passage from one of Angell's essays that I think perfectly summarizes why people are sports fans. It references baseball, of course, but I think it applies to all sports. This is taken from the New Yorker piece that Angell wrote in 1975 about that year's Reds - Red Sox World Series and makes reference to Carlton Fisk's famous 12th inning home run in the sixth game of that epic Series.
It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitative as a professional sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut (I know the look - I know it by heart) is understandable and almost unanswerable. Almost. What is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring - caring deeply and passionately, really caring - which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or how foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naivete - the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the hap-hazardous flight of a distant ball - seems a small price to pay for such a gift.
Yeah, that's what being a fan is all about!