It is easy to to forget why we love sports.
It's easy to take it all so seriously, too think of it strictly in terms of wins and losses and dollars and cents. Over time, it erodes our innocence and feeds our cynicism. We become hardened and lose perspective, and the games that are supposed to divert and delight become outlets for anger and consternation.
I'm a focused person. I do everything in life with a degree of intensity and emotion that many find off putting. Sports is a lens that sharpens that focus to a fine point. I watch every game on the edge of my seat. I cheer and yell with passion. My mind works overtime, analyzing every aspect of the game as if I could somehow solve the puzzle and work out the answer of how my team could win. My delusion is that even if could find a magic key that it would somehow affect the outcome and mean victory for my squad.
Last night, I saw that melt away, if only for a night.
I took my daughter to her first baseball game. I've been waiting for this night for a couple of years. We are finally home during baseball season, and I wasted no time scheduling a family outing to Cincinnati. Unfortunately, my three year old had a fever so my wife and son couldn't come. Still, I had the chance to bring my 5 year old, and I wasn't going to miss it.
At any other Reds game, I would have fervently cheered and high fived the crowd. I would have kept score (yeah, I'm that guy. I know, you aren't surprised). I would have talked strategy and history with my buddies all while never taking my eyes off the out of town scoreboard.
My daughter's first game was a totally different experience for me as a fan. My sole focus was on making sure that she had a great time. I know full well that a few well placed childhood experiences can create a life long fan. I spent the evening watching baseball through the eyes of a five year old girl, and I must say it was a wondrous way to pass the night away.
On the field, the Reds celebrated the induction of Chris Sabo (my favorite player as a kid) into the Reds Hall of Fame. My daughter just wanted her dad to take her bobblehead doll with the funny glasses out of the box.
I got Ellie a Reds jersey shirt, but she was more focused on dripping it with pizza sauce and ice cream. The shirt went from her back to the bag before the cotton candy arrived, let me tell you.
I normally would have been thrilled over the 9 strikeout comeback from Edison Volquez that has massive implications for the rest of the season for the Redlegs, instead, found myself laughing at my daughter who suddenly decided to treat her dad's efforts to take her picture with all the enthusiasm of a 15-year old.
Instead of rowdily slapping skin with the other fans, after Johnny Gomes hit a home run, I was able to see the fireworks through her eyes and to make sure we got a chance to say hi to the "Santa Claus guys" who were there to cheer on Gomes.
Instead of getting the Votto jersey I want, I decided I needed to close the night with a bang for my baby girl. No souvenir for Dad. My girl wanted a Rosie Red doll. My girl got what she wanted. How could you blame me?
On the way home from the ball park Ellie asked me if the Reds won. It was still the 8th inning (they were up 8-1), but we were headed for the car. Dads with little girls don't stay for the last out the way the die hards do. On the drive back to Indy, I heard Ellie conversing with her Rosie doll:
Rosie (a high pitched little voice): I want to go back to the ball park! It's fun!
Ellie: Rosie! We just left the baseball game!
Rosie: I don't care! I love it there! Let's go back!
I remembered why I loved sports.
Yeah, Elle-belle, I think the Reds won.