I posted the start of this as a comment over at The Loss Column on a post about Mike Mussina entering the Orioles Hall of Fame and immediately realized that it was one of those rare moments where what I'm trying to say actually comes across. I know a lot of you out there don't feel this way, and I respect that. This is my story, and this whole thing really cuts deeply into who I am, not just as a baseball fan, but as a person.
And really, this is why we induct people into the Hall of Fame, to remember and to celebrate them and their impact on ourselves. So I wanted to share with you all.
I lived in Rochester, NY for six years and spent a lot of the disgustingly hot summers up there watching Yankee games on YES because that’s what was on. It wasn't entertaining; spending your life rooting against a team – especially a wildly successful one – isn’t remotely satisfying.
It got to the point that I could feel myself becoming less of an Oriole fan and more of a Yankee hater. You might think those come in one package, but they don’t. I cared less about the Orioles getting better and more about the Yankees getting worse. I’d celebrate their losses, especially in the playoffs, with far more glee than any Oriole win would give me.
I hated that feeling.
Living in anger and hatred, even on as trivial a scale as sports fandom, really blows. I blamed New York for the sorry state of the Orioles and I wanted revenge somehow. I wanted to watch the Yankees fall apart and experience what I've been through rooting for the O's. But then I did two things: One, I realized the sorry state of the Orioles has nothing to do with the Yankees, or Mike Mussina, or Mark Teixeira, or anybody except the Orioles themselves. Two, I stopped wallowing in my anger and stopped obsessing about New York and starting loving the Orioles again.
I mean, I still root against the Yankees, don’t get me wrong, but screw’em, who cares about ‘em? I’m an Orioles fan – I root for the Orioles and I celebrate the Orioles. And when I made that conscious choice, I found that – damn it – I loved Mike Mussina again.
You know, when I was first learning to love baseball, it was because of Moose, Chris Hoiles, Brady Anderson, and of course Cal Ripken.I can't honestly say I remember much if anything game-wise from when those guys were around, but I do remember playing in my parents' backyards and pretending to be each of them. I'd mimic Cal's weird batting stances, check the runner on first before pitching like Moose did, slug grand slams like Hoiles, and even bat left-handed, bat perpendicular to the plate, like Brady. Those four guys are why I fell in love with the game, and so are the very definition of Orioles, because without them I'd be a completely different - and lesser - man.
I hope that the six year olds of today have found their heroes on this team, too. I'm not sure I would have.
When Moose goes into the Orioles Hall of Fame, I will be there toasting him, cheering him , and wearing my late ’90s Mussina t-shirt that I still have after all these years. The Orioles that I knew and loved, the Orioles that I miss so dearly, will feel whole and re-united again. For at least a little while.