I was really, really good at it when I was a kid. As people who were fans of the Montreal Expos go (and there were dozens of us! dozens!), I had pretty unimpeachable credentials: I said individual prayers for the best players, I had a lot of cheap merchandise, we watched every single game on the French channel (the English language sports channel usually didn’t bother, and my father liked to hear the game noises but not the commentary anyway), I cared with every fibre of my being, and, every year, my parents would take my little brother and me to Montreal on the train to see two games, twice (best seats in the worst stadium, about $20). The other day of our trip, we would go to La Ronde, which Wikipedia tells me was eventually acquired by Six Flags, further destroying my regard for French-Canadian enterprise. And then we would go to Ben’s (Bens) Restaurant and eat cherry pie. I went back to Montreal in 2004. The pie is not as good now, and Montreal is really cold and the Expos are gone. Oh, wait. Bens is closed now, too. You really can’t go home again.
I pretended that Darrin Fletcher was my husband (he looked a lot like Jason Bateman.) My mom once saw Dennis Martinez on an elevator and had what I now recognize as a spontaneous orgasm. I pretended that I, much like the hero of “Rookie of the Year,” was actually the greatest pitcher the world had ever seen, and got to play for the Montreal Expos and then, obviously, we all doubled-up on rooms and Darrin Fletcher and I got married. I was ten, I didn’t know how these things worked. I had opinions and baseball cards and true love and an age-inappropriate copy of Ball Four, and it was pretty great.
If you’ve ever met me, or read something I’ve written for basically any publication, at some point you’ll hear me talk about the 1994-95 MLB strike. It’s not complicated, but I’ll break it down quickly (not the strike, just what it meant for Montreal Expos fans):
Montreal, under the leadership of the great Felipe Alou (whose son, Moises, was also a potential husband of mine), was pretty much the farm team for the rest of baseball for a long time. Alou brought up players you have actually heard of, they would play for Montreal for a few years, and then we would trade them for magic beans and that would be that. But in 1994, we just happened to have a bunch of the good players at the same time: Wil Cordero, Marquis Grissom, Rondell White, Larry Walker, Cliff Floyd, Pedro Martinez, Ken Hill…Darrin.
I didn’t need to look those names up, because they were all I thought about that year. And, in retrospect, my parents tried to warn me that the strike was going to happen. But we had the best record in baseball FOR ONCE, and we were winning, and I was eleven and stupid and thought the universe loved me.
But there was a strike, and when the dust cleared, people were traded and gone, and then the team mostly sucked, again, forever, and then it folded. Don’t talk to me about the Nationals, it’s insulting, it’s like “oh, your puppy’s dead, here’s a new one and it lives in DC and has some minor connection to the old one.”
I root for the Mets now, I guess. I like them okay. I went to college in Boston (“Well, NEAR Boston. No, not Tufts.”–Toofer), but, I mean, seriously, I came from a team that didn’t have any money, I’m not going to develop meaningful sympathy for a team with tons of money that just keeps failing anyway. Do you know what Felipe Alou could have done with that money? So I like the Mets, even though they have a lot of money and fail too. I like going to Mets games. David Wright is cute, I have a shirt and a couple of hats. But it’s not my team. It’s just a pleasant vicarious experience of fandom. I miss the Expos.
So, you know, I’m phoning it in now, a bit. I say I like baseball, but I just can’t get excited about it like I used to. Now, I think I just like A League of Their Own, and the Shake Shack at Citi Field and men who are just that right kind of doughy-hot in tight pants. I think I said this on Twitter once, so, sorry, but basketball players always look like they’d want to drag you out to clubs to go dancing, and baseball players look like they’d eat nachos in bed with you after you had sex. And I like being in Toronto for a Jays game, and remembering how viscerally I hated the Jays for having John Olerud on first base when we had Mike Lansing, who once dropped his bat while crossing himself before swinging.
But I’m never sure if the fact I don’t religiously follow baseball is because I miss the Expos too much, or because the strike soured me on the politics (unlikely), or if I would have drifted off anyway, even if my team had endured.
Maybe I’m overthinking the whole thing, and it’s what Bob Lemon once said:
“Baseball was made for kids, and grown-ups only screw it up.”
Nicole is an Editor of The Toast.