For a baseball fan, watching a game is not just about the players on the field. It’s a culmination of all of their baseball memories wrapped into one indescribable event. Its about buying your first glove, going to your first big league game, impersonating your favorite players in Little League. It’s so much more than a game. Every fan has their “Field of Dreams” that they’ve developed throughout their life of their favorite player. Watching games now, its difficult not to long for the past player who used to dominate the field. It’s this “Field of Dreams” mentality that keeps people so attached to the game as they grow older.
Our generation, however, does not have that same sentimentality towards the players of our youth. The steroid era ruined that for us. It’s not that I’ve forgotten Manny Ramirez’s amazing ability at the plate or the amazing 116 win Mariner’s team. I still vividly remember the home run race between Mark McGwire and (the still black) Sammy Sosa. I remember the awe I felt watching these incredible athletes play; how I admired them and desired to one day be them. The only problem is, I can no longer look back on these memories fondly. The majority of the players I grew up admiring will not even get a chance to make it to the Hall of Fame. Their names will be half-heartedly placed on the ballot where they will sit, neglected, until their opportunity passes and they are mercifully removed. The Mitchell Report has placed an asterisk on my childhood.
I listen to people discuss the greatness of Mickey Mantle, the dominating performances of Nolan Ryan, and other hall of fame players and I can’t help but be saddened because I’ll never have the same joy reminiscing about the HOF players of my childhood. The only player we really have left is Ken Griffey Jr. Of course, he’s obviously a hell of a player to cling too, with his near 1,000 home run pace(derailed by injuries) and undeniable cool in center field. Yet I still can’t shake the feeling that my belief in Ken Griffey’s career is akin to an 11-year old’s belief in Santa Claus. We’re both smart enough to deduce the truth about the situation, but believing is far too valuable for us to admit it. My other memories may be tarnished, but I can still find joy in the way I used to rob imaginary homeruns with my hat on backwards just like 24 used to. I may not have known much about the game back then, but I still knew I was watching someone with once-in-a-lifetime natural talent. Or at least I can still pretend it was natural.
Growing up during our era at one point in time seemed incredible. We were naive enough to believe that the record breaking performances we were witnessing almost daily were clean, and as a fan, it was amazing. But it did not take long for the steroid bubble to burst and everything we had witnessed to become almost meaningless. The sentimental aspect of the game was ruined for us. We’ll never have the chance to look back at the game with reverence. We were chased away from the game we loved when our memories were invalidated forever. Every baseball fan wants their field of dreams, mine’s just with juice-heads instead of real ball players.
P.S. Fantastic Blog. Bill Simmons, I’m not opposed to writing for Grantland