By Andrew Meyer
I want to think my first sport related memory is Cal Ripken’s final game. I know it's not, since I have memories of the Baltimore Ravens winning the Superbowl, and my very first NBA game, but it would be nice if it was. Not because baseball is my favorite sport (basketball is, then college football, and then baseball) or because Orioles fandom is some cult I am a member of (my favorite MLB team is actually the Nationals), but because of my dad.
The few memories of my dad (who passed in the late nineties) are a dichotomy of him dying in the hospital while trying to show me he was happy, but then seeing him get depressed from watching the Orioles lose the game he loved, for my dad was a charter member of the Orioles cult, and in many respects he is the reason I love sports so passionately.
Now, sports are nothing if not pain. So for most (read: all) of my life, the O's have ranged from mediocre to “OH GOD MAKE IT STOP” awful, so while I was still a fan, I was not as indoctrinated as my dad would have wanted. In recent years however, I have gravitated back towards the Orioles, and, while I had not been to a game in years, I felt comfortable saying they were the American League team I rooted for.
Then this year happened and I made sure I was in the stadium during the playoffs, as much to root for the O’s as to feel close to my dad one more time.
I got to Baltimore via the Acela line from my school in Philly, with enough time to get to my section in the standing room only area and maybe get some food. Then the rain came and a 6 p.m. start became a 8:40 p.m. start. So with a bunch of time on my hands, I walked the grounds. This is something I have done dozens of times, yet this time was different.
This crowd was bigger than any I had seen at an O's game, and while Baltimore is not known for its fans’ vitriol, like in Philadelphia or New York, they do a pretty good facsimile. And considering this was the first playoff game in over a decade, people were pumped.
I was in a weird daze as I walked. I was both absorbing all that I saw, while trying to think of what it meant for the fan-base, for my fathers’ memories, all of it ,and I couldn't come up with an answer. What I do know is that there was finally a new generation of Meyer watching an Orioles playoff game, and my dad wouldn't have wanted me to make this game all about him, so I did what I could to simply enjoy the event for what it was.
When the game finally started, my legs were already sore from all the standing but I didn't care anymore. I don't usually get emotional watching sports, but I embraced it here. While I didn't go all the way, abstaining from the "Yankees Suck" cheers, I did groan when the Yankees got an early lead, I jumped when the O's got it back a few innings later, and I finally laughed at a Gangnam Style parody played on the jumbotron.
I watched as the Baltimore pitching staff tried to throw 700 pitches in a night, while the Yankees CC Sabathia quickly cut through opposing hitters without a single sign of emotion. Did people in my section and around the stadium make tasteless and repetitive fat jokes at Sabathia’s expense? You bet they did.
I felt like a little kid again, but this time without rooting hardest for the right fielder right fielder, since that's what I played in Little League (context: if you’re crappy at Little League, you go to right field, since no one hits there).
When the Yankees grabbed the lead for good in the 9th, I felt dejected, but not enough to find it horribly fitting that on a day that was as much about my dad as baseball, the O's lost in such a depressing fashion.
Now what? Was this all worth it? Objectively, it really wasn't. The team I was rooting for lost, I paid more money than I care to share, I had to take a 4 a.m. train back to Philly, and my dad is not waiting to pat me on the head like he did when I was four. However, I can pretty easily say that even though sports are pain, and will continue to cause me to make treks like this in the future, I would not trade this night for any other in my life, not only because playoff baseball is great, but because the experience surrounding it was one I will remember long after I forget the details of the game itself.
Originally published on Youthradio.org, the premier source for youth generated news throughout the globe.
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