Baseball is for Lovers

holding hands

Photo by Frank Hunter.

For some, marriage comes down to a point system. The more points you accumulate, the more get-out-of-jail-free cards you can acquire and the more you can avoid the confines of the doghouse. Point gaining and losing depends on the dynamics of the union, the spoken and unspoken rules of the people involved. It should be understood that the allotting and taking away of points is very much like some of the particulars of taking out a sub prime loan. Just as your interest can increase based on the market, so can the losing or gaining of points be influenced by the conditions surrounding any given situation. For example, if it’s your job in the marriage to take out the diaper genie and you forget, you may only lose a few points — but if you forget on the day the boss is coming over for dinner and the downstairs smells like poo, then more points will be deducted. Sort of like baseball, striking out in the first inning when no one’s scored a run is a lot different from striking out in the bottom of the ninth inning, when there are two outs and a man in scoring position on third with the game tied.

My advice to married friends and those involved in serious relationships is to always try to accumulate as many points as you can before you get in the doghouse. Recently, I earned a few points by surprising my wife by and cooking two Cornish hens as part of a nice romantic dinner. This is much harder to do these days with our two-year-old son, a bouncing, running ball of everlasting energy who holds down two jobs, one as a Neverland Pirate, the other as an Animal Rescuer with Dora and Diego. I’m hoping to cash those points in for the hens later. I’ll probably use them for a MMA fight coming up that I want to catch with some buddies.

A friend who seems to always find himself in a point deficit asked me if I could help. What concrete things could he do to get on his wife’s good side? I didn’t suggest cooking hens, to be frank; this friend of mine would burn up cornflakes. I answered his question with this question: “Have you ever taken your wife to a Durham Bulls game?” When he responded in the negative, all I could do was shake my head. But casting judgment on someone who asks for help does little to aid the person. Advice should be delivered like a good fastball, straight over the plate, no dilly-dallying. Tell the person what he or she needs to do based on your experience. Don’t get into a lot Dr. Phil fancy talk.

“Dog, this is what you do: buy two lawn seats for the next home game and pack a blanket.”

“With a picnic basket? Okay, I feel you. I’ll get a bucket of KFC, too.”

“No, you can’t bring outside food in the stadium, and even if you could, you can’t get maximum points for fast food chicken. So forget the KFC. They have food at the ballpark. It’s fast food, but it’s date fast food. Buy your wife a snow cone or share a funnel cake with her, then increase the romance a bit by buying her a glass of wine.”

“This sounds good, Craft. Just one big problem with your plan, Cupid.”

“What problem? The lawn seats are like five bones.”

“My wife don’t like sports, and she especially don’t like baseball. Only thing worst than watching baseball on TV is watching golf.”

I reminded my friend that I was not instructing him to sit on the couch with his wife and watch the ESPN game of the week. I was instead telling him to give his wife the experience of baseball, and that can only be fully achieved by bringing her to the ballpark. The beauty of a ballpark on a nice summer day or evening is hard to beat. There is the richness in the green of the perfectly manicured grass, the white bases and baselines against the sandy brown of the infield dirt, the smiling faces of young and old happily biting into footlong hotdogs. At night, the bright lights bathe the stands in an aura of excitement that expands even out to the parking lot. The first pitch of a game is like a first kiss. It only happens once and is never the same. Even the field lends itself to romance. It’s shaped like a diamond, and as Dionne Warwick once sung and Kanye West later sampled, “Diamonds Are Forever.”

Baseball is the only game where conversations not dealing with what’s actually happening on the field or court are allowed. Try having a deep conversation at a basketball or football game, and your own date will say, “Shut up!” Baseball, however, is about conversation; it’s about checking in with the person you attend the game with. It’s not rushed. There is no shot clock, no delay of game penalty for not getting to the line of scrimmage in time. Baseball is like the wizard Gandalf from Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings: a game ends “neither early nor late, rather precisely when it means to,” and so the romantic can allow the time spent with their love to flow naturally. Indeed, baseball is for lovers.

My friend told me he would give the Bulls game a try. He’d get seats in the stands because his wife isn’t a big fan of grass either, but he was definitely going to get the funnel cake and the wine. I smiled and told him to expect major points from his wife. If he goes in the next couple of weeks, I may see them at a game when the Bulls play their next home stretch. Wouldn’t it be crazy if they got caught on the Kiss Cam?

It’s amazing to me, all the money people spend on marriage and relationship counseling. What they really need is just a trip to the ballpark.

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