My Greatest Love

9-similarity-of-cricket-and-baseballAccording to Charlotte York on Sex and the City, “Everyone knows you only get two great loves in your life”. Well for my sake, I hope so. Otherwise I am going to have some tough decisions to make in the coming years. Whilst I have probably watched far too many Sex and the City episodes for a heterosexual male, I don’t think I’m about to unleash my inner Carrie. This is about an ongoing battle between my childhood sweetheart (cricket) and my hot new crush (baseball).

Many who know me immediately think of cricket. Which isn’t surprising, cricket has been a constant in my 21 years on this earth. I have grownup with parents whose main shared interest was cricket and who have dedicated most of their lives to the sport. A mother who was the first female to umpire an 1st Grade level in Australia. A father who has scored and managed some of Queensland’s greatest cricketers, plus is arguably Australia’s foremost cricket tragic. My grandfather (Wally Grout) was one of the greatest wicketkeepers and characters in cricket history. Moreover I am entering my fifteen consecutive summer of playing the game that sees the majority of my weekend spent under the Aussie sun and in creams. But I haven’t just been a player all these years, I grew up a student of the game. When most other kids were watching Rugrats or playing Pokemon, I was watching ABC videos on Sir Donald Bradman, cricket in the 60s or the QLD Bulls first Sheffield Shield victory. I have also become one of the few club cricketers who willingly scores for extended periods of time or knows how to calculate the adjusted totals during rain affected games. This even led a Gold Coast player and Queensland Cricket employee to dub me a ‘cricket nuffie’. But in the end I have loved every minute of it and I think we always have place in our hearts for that special childhood sweetheart.

However over the years someone new has come into the picture. It didn’t happen like so many other romances (or affairs), with a bump-in on the street or gaze across a dimly lit room. Baseball had always been around my life. My first serious sport participation was a season of T-ball at 5 years old… In my early years I went to see the Brisbane Bandits at ANZ Stadium… As someone who appreciated sporting history and great athletes, I always knew about the dominance of the New York Yankees and names like Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio… Plus two of my favourite movies as a child were the Sandlot Kids and The Natural (get hold of a copy). Baseball has been like the long time friend who turns into your girlfriend. She was always there and then I realised there was something special about her. But even in these romantic instances there is always that moment which sparks it all off. Not surprisingly it was the homerun which drew me in, especially the 2006 and 2007 seasons of Barry Bonds which saw him surpass (thanks to a lot of steroids) the long held records of Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. From then on I have been swept up in it all.

I now fully appreciate the words of former NBC sports broadcaster Bryant Gumbel, “The other sports are just sports. Baseball is a love”. If you had been at my house during the season, you would have seen my devotion in full array. I should be busy doing job applications or making industry contacts, but instead I often put it all aside for what is the biggest thing in baseball (plus my sporting life to). The New York Yankees versus the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Every one of these games went well over 4 hours and each day I sat in front of the television (with various Yankees apparel on) just savouring the moments together. Yet all these same three days I stay tuned into the cricket test match and went to training. So there is a need to speculate whether I’m in a long-term relationship with my childhood sweetheart or my new crush?

I go to bed with New York Yankees pjs. When I check my phone the homepage has changed from Cricinfo to MLB.com. I know all about baseball’s history and previous relationships. Baseball and I have our favourite moments, Yankees Vs Red Sox. I’ve met the parents (Jackie Robinson, Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays), grandparents (Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Honus Wagner) and the terrible exs (Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco). I’ve even become fond of some of her interests. For instance one of my favourite sporting figures is Ted Williams, who played for the team I hate. Plus I have begun to follow the National League fixtures, when before the only time I cared for them was when the Yankees were beating their champion in the World Series. My shelves have become decorated with various books on baseball history, players and coaching. Baseball has helped changed my wardrobe which is now littered with New York Yankees jerseys amd hats. We spend time in the lounge room in front of the TV. Also some of my friends have started to like her. Is anyone keeping score?

So it would appear I have moved on from my childhood sweetheart. Isn’t there a saying, “If you love something, you have to set it free”? So I will have to wait and see if cricket comes back to me or might just be somebody that I used to know (I can’t get that song out of my head). Haha!