I realized I had found a haven for myself when I was only thirteen years old. My brother with whom I was extremely close was in a horrible accident and suffered a fractured skull and internal injuries. He was only seven at the time. My parents mistakenly thought they were being kind by sharing no news about his recovery until they knew he would be back with us. It was awful to be lost in a world where my worst fears could not be calmed. It was also a precursor of many times in my adult life when I did my best not to deal with reality because I feared what I'd be told would destroy me. Most times the news was better than I thought or I found a strange comfort in absorbing the worst and planning a way to cope.
What I did for that dreadful couple of days was to retreat to the basement and watch sports. The pain was eased as I stared at the screen and got lost in the Masters golf tournament with my favorite player in contention for a win. I made believe I was my guy's caddy and exchanged thoughts about what club to use and where to land the ball for the best shot at the cup. Strange you say? Well, I guess so but it kept me from despair during those hours of doubt when the unthinkable had to be avoided at all costs.
I didn't develop an alcohol or drug dependency but I became a sports-a-holic. It has proven to be a good decision as I write this piece from my home office while my big screen television has pre-game sports talk about the playoff game between the Dodgers and the Cubs.
I can remember other terrible times of sadness or fear when I retreated to the nearest screen to bury myself in the efforts of my favorite teams or stars to win a game or a tournament. The Yankees saved me when my marriage crumbled. The Lakers were always there during the days after my mother succumbed to cancer. And football helped ease the Sunday blues that inevitably wash over you whenever you experience a loss in your life. But why am I telling you this?
Because many people live and die by how their favorite teams are faring and right now there are fans of 4 teams in baseball that are ready to immerse themselves in three weeks of non-stop action. They are about to follow their team as it winds its way through the playoffs and the World Series.
Don't judge us too harshly. Something a non-fan might see as insignificant or worthless can be more than "just a game." It can be a way to keep your head above water in these times when the news is frightening and economic fortunes are being lost every day. Hey, it's certainly better than taking out rage, fear or grief on those that don't deserve poor treatment. So when you pass a sports bar in the next few weeks or go past the lounge in some restaurant and the screen is lit up with baseball, don't shake your head and wonder how fans can drop things you think are more important to watch a silly game. As the classic song by the Eagles tells us, "every form of refuge has its price" (Lyin' Eyes, 1975). In my opinion it is a small price to pay to make it all right within your head, your heart or your soul.