The Baseball Desert

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Beware, brother, beware

A Valentine's Day story from the Baseball Desert:

Many moons ago, haunted day and night by the crush I had on a young lady I was acquainted with at college, but who was - as the parlance of the day would have it - "spoken for" or - as my parlance would have it - "way out of my league", I decided to have a "Screw This Valentine's Day Crap" outing. The trip had two things going for it: it was many miles from the object of my affection and it involved the legendary sports franchise that is Oldham Athletic, in a mid-week Littlewoods Cup semi-final.

I returned from the game full of the unique joy that can only be gained from a legendary 6-0 thrashing of West Ham United (in baseball terms, think Tampa Bay wiping the floor with the Angels in an ALDS), only to find an anonymous Valentine's Day card waiting for me in my mailbox. I didn't recognise the handwriting, and the only clue to its origin was this enigmatic note:

"Why do you love Oldham more than me?" A good question, to which I had no answer. However, it really didn't matter, because although I loved the idea of somebody desperately seeking me with undying passion, I also suspected that the card was a practical joke being played by one of my many oh-so-funny friends, so the question was, at best, an interesting rhetorical one. And besides, back then, I wasn't the handsome, charming, witty beast you see before you today; my success with the opposite sex was somewhat along the lines of Spinal Tap's "appeal becoming more selective," so my football team pretty much was my life. Even if I did love the Latics more than anything or anyone, it didn't seem like a big deal. And so on life went.

Fast forward several months, to a late-night, gin-fuelled conversation with the object-of-my-affection-now-turned-good-friend.

OOMANTGF: "Can I ask you something?"
Iain (expecting a "What's your favourite Elvis Costello track?"-type question): "Go ahead."
OOMANTGF: "How come you never responded at all to that Valentine's Day card I sent?"
Iain: "That what? What Valentine's Day ca...? [Little lightbulb pings on over my head] Oh shit..."

In the end, too much water had flowed under too many bridges and the OOMANTGF remained just that: a good friend. I still see her now and again, and never fail to ask myself the most pointless question known to man: "What if...?". I no longer, however, follow the fortunes of Oldham Athletic.

And therein, no doubt, lies a message. As wise-beyond-his-years Ryan asks of Jimmy Fallon's character in Fever Pitch: "You love the Red Sox, but have they ever loved you back?"

Here endeth today's meandering bit of nostalgia. Normal service will resume shortly.