Part 1: Perseverance
Please forgive me if this post is wrought with cliches. The reason I am writing this now is that I just received my confirmation email saying I was once again going to work with special needs children this summer. In 2010, I got my first real job: a summer camp counselor. I was more than a regular counselor, though. I was tasked with working alongside a special needs camper--in my case, a young child with very severe cerebral palsy--and helping them integrate with the general, normal development kids. It was nothing short of life-changing, and ultimately caused me to rethink my plans for the future.
During the school year, I worked for an organization that pairs up high school students with young autistic children. The idea is that the high school students will be the friend they never had. I hope I was a friend to that child, as he certainly became, in a strange way, my friend.
So where does baseball come in? I’ll tell you in several parts.
There were times during the summer when I was content with giving up altogether. I was blinded by stress, and in those moments, I didn’t care about losing the little salary that was awarded to counselors of my age, or about the hurt I would inflict on the dear child who needed me so very much. Those moments passed quickly when I reflected on why I was working there. Yes, the money was nice. Yes, it would keep me busy. But really, why did I choose to help special needs children? Why didn’t I just become a regular counselor?
And those questions lead me to this: Why am I still an Orioles fan? Why do I continue to root for such a sorry team? Why don’t I hop on the Phillies bandwagon and never look back? The answer: If I followed my brain, I would probably hop on that bandwagon. If I followed my brain last summer, I would have forgotten about the job and the stress that went along with it and signed up for theater camp. But I didn’t because I was listening to my soul. No, not my heart. My soul told me what a fulfilling experience such a job would end up being, and as for the Orioles? My soul continues to speak about how one day, in the (hopefully) foreseeable future, the Orioles will win the World Series.
Part 2: Tolerance
First impressions are funny. As I was reading through my camper’s file, I couldn’t help but feel hesitant about my choices. She sounded like a newborn infant but one million times harder to take care of, and the child was five. It was daunting. I almost wanted to stop reading, but I needed to absorb the information because I wouldn’t get another look at the confidential file.
In the end, my fears, while understandable, were off-base. Sure, she was very dependent on me for... everything, but the fulfillment I got from helping someone so much less fortunate than myself was fantastic.
OK, let’s go back to the Orioles. There are points where tolerating certain players who shall remain nameless is too much to ask for. Perhaps this is because we have tolerated certain horrible players for the last thirteen seasons. But we’re not immune to such turmoil. We’re fans. We want to win more than anything else. It gives us satisfaction, and dare I say, fulfillment. It gives our continued dedication to a losing team validity. It makes our choice to follow them religiously logical. It makes sense. Like my summer job choice, in the end, winning/succeeding is what makes these choices worthwhile.
Part 3: Dedication
There was no room for laziness or moments of weakness when I was caring for the child with cerebral palsy. But I’ll move on from her, and focus on the child I worked with during the year. He was severely autistic, and just learning verbal skills. Communicating with him was almost impossible. I was very close to giving up out of frustration. I was mad at myself for failing. I found it so difficult to be this boy’s friend.
As fans, our hollering in game threads is not exactly going to reach Andy MacPhail or Buck Showalter or any individual player. We can’t communicate with those people who make our team what it is: good, bad or incredibly ugly. We do get frustrated, but not fully at ourselves. We get frustrated at MASN, which broadcasts commercial starring the amazingly talented Kevin Gregg. We get frustrated at the players. We get frustrated at the product Andy MacPhail refuses to improve. We get frustrated at Buck for his in-game decisions. Am I missing anything? Undoubtedly yes, but I’ll continue.
There are reasons to care about others. Perhaps a person has a very low IQ, and can barely chew food. Perhaps they are autistic, and don’t know basic social skills and etiquette. Perhaps they can’t walk properly, and need you to hold their hand every step of the way. And it’s the same story with a baseball team, even the worst of the lot. The Orioles have plenty of problems, and give us plenty of reasons to turn away and never look back, but we care about them. It may be an inexplicable type of caring. But we do because they are the team we love, despite their issues, and we need to care about them.