I love baseball, but I love it in a weird way. I don’t actually know a lot about the math of it, of statistics and sabernomics. My history on it is spotty at best sometimes, beyond what I like and what really sticks out for unusualness and morbidity. But I love it nonetheless, because I love going to games and watching games, listening to people talk about it, reading about it, and I love that it’s one of the things that I have to share with my father. It’s an impulse we’re drawn to and we automatically follow if the game is on TV or the radio. We don’t have much in common honestly, but of the few things we do is baseball.
The other is reading.
Genre fiction is one of my other major loves, in particular detective-slash-crime mysteries. I read voraciously as a small child, jumping as soon as I could to my parents’ straight-to-paperback novels about cops and private eyes, about mobsters and deep conspiracies unraveled by reporters and hapless civilians. They were his books for the most part, retrieved from the bookshelf in my parents’ room on his side of the bed, and I ate them up. I still eat them up, the discovery of a mystery-themed bookstore by one of he schools I teach at is a delight that made my day.
It’s hard sometimes to describe why I like these books sometimes, why I can be so obsessive about this genre that in a lot of ways can feel incredibly limited. It’s hard to describe how that can be the appeal of it, how it’s amazing to watch this very classic framework that ebbs and flows with suspense and comfort, that can be a slow burn with small but amazingly-important moments of fast loud burns and bursts, where you can’t blink for fear of missing something, where you have to go back and just revel in the amazingness of what just happened.
It’s just like baseball, right?
I have a hard time explaining why I love baseball, because to most people, it’s also seen as boring and stale, as conventional and limited, just like mystery novels. It’s so hard sometimes to explain to people how engrossing the strategy of it can be, how I’m on the edge of my seat for so long and the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it aspect forces me to actively pay attention to every bit of motion on the field.
While it sounds intensely cliché at this point, I was an odd child more interested in reading and loud music and being alone and contemplative, making me shy and overthinking teenager with zero interest in traditionally masculine things like sports. I leaned more on my mother for emotional support, not really understanding my dad’s seemingly-simplistic and stripped-down methods for approaching problems and discussions. I wasn’t embarrassed of him like I knew other teenagers were or would be of their parents, but I just didn’t understand what drove him, and I knew that he didn’t understand me and what drove me.
In the same way, my father has struggled, not just with understanding his older son, but in his own way with his personal life and with his work. He’s by no means a perfect man, but he’s always been a figure I could look to for practicality, even when I knew, logically, that he just wasn’t physically around to help me. It’s from him that I get my propensity for useless knowledge about anything and everything I read, that I get my sense of humor at times, that I get my love of grilling. Sitting down with him when I visit family isn’t a deep personal or existential dive into self and emotion, but it’s a comforting one, where so much just gets stripped away to focus on what really matters at that moment, big or small.
I got to appreciate this more as I got older, and he and I have settled into a level of understanding with each other. Time and life experience sometimes have ways of making you look back on a parent’s up and downs and recognizing what they really meant or what they were trying to do. Hindsight’s great like that. He and I each have our own definitions of what it means to be a man, an adult, a Greek-American with immigrant roots, a successful and functional person. We’ve both recognized that we can’t rely on the other to be anything other than the person they are, insecurities and overthinking and all.
So often we want our relationships with people to be intricately-intertwined braids, when in fact they’re independent threads measured by where they intersect briefly, and how often they intersect. He and I intersect repeatedly with casually enjoying baseball and reading mystery novels, because they’re both emblematic of the major and solid intersection we both have, which is the strength of reliable comfort.
The familiarity and comfort that exists in that familiarity is intensely attractive to me. So much of daily life, especially these days as the news and or daily interactions continue to actively drain us of energy, sometimes of the very life and legitimacy we’re owed as people. Is it any wonder we try to find solace in familiarity? In comfort food, in comfort reads and experiences? Baseball and crime fiction are fundamental comfort experiences, not just because they can be the threads that help a weird kid connect with his awkward father, but because those two people are emblematic of the kinds of people who need that comfort.