Sports have their way of making us extremely overjoyed, or equally sad. Unfortunately, we are sad more often than not. Disagree? Then tell me how you think New England Patriots fans felt after the 2007 NFL season. 18 moments of happiness; one of pure, utter, stomach-punching heartbreak. Think those 18 wins made up for that one loss? They didn’t. Not even close.
It doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy good seasons or even great ones that don’t ultimately end in a championship, but it does mean that without reaching that ultimate goal, something is missing. Something very, very big is missing.
The Florida Gators just completed a good baseball season. 2010 was similar. So was 2009. Because they weren’t as good as they could have been though, many of us are disappointed. Frustrated that it’s over. Sad that a championship won’t be coming to Gainesville.
This is an odd feeling for me when it comes to baseball and one I don’t normally experience. It can all be explained with reasonable ease: I’m not much of a baseball fan. There are probably a number of reasons, but the main one could be the same reason I like soccer. My youth baseball career last one game.* My soccer career? 13 years. To me, certain sports are more enjoyable if you grew up playing them or pictured yourself in your favorite team’s uniform one day. I understand those that didn’t grow up playing soccer not enjoying the game as adults. For that same reason, I really don’t pay much attention to baseball. Then there are the Gators.
You could put almost anything in orange and blue and grab my attention. I don’t watch Florida baseball games simply because they’re Florida games and I feel I have to. I watch them because I actually enjoy them. I don’t feel a need to follow the team; it’s a want. It’s the Gators.
This season that love of the team rose to the next level. That level, oddly enough, included disappointment, frustration and sadness. I used to feel something along the lines of “oh well, we’ll get ’em tomorrow night” after a loss. This season, I found myself examining the loss, trying to understand where the game went down the wrong path and what would be needed to ensure it didn’t happen again. It was the same frustration I and many other fans feel when the football team or basketball team faltered. It was unsettling, but at the same time comforting. I have become a baseball fan. A Florida Gators baseball fan, but a baseball fan and that’s saying something.
I analyze box scores. I evaluate pitching matchups. I critique lineups and question batting order changes. I yell at bad swings. I cheer great pitches. I enjoy myself and now that the Gators have comes so close to winning it all (again), I want more. Until 2013.
*This can be blamed on a nameless pitcher that tried to take my head off during my one at-bat. He was young, but sadistic all the same. He wanted blood, or, more likely, was too young to control his pitches. Whatever the case, I swung at three consecutive pitches that were all only a few inches from my face. I didn’t return for the next game.