Fowles: A Baseball Fan’s Guide to Dealing with September (and Hopefully October)

Marcus Stroman
Photo credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

One of the fundamental problems with being a human being is how quickly we forget the lessons we’ve learned in the past. You would think that, after what Toronto baseball fans went through last year, we would remember that A) we survived it and B) we should prepare accordingly for the personal ramifications of “meaningful baseball.” We would recall that what transpired a year ago was hard on our psyches, our social lives, our relationships, and our bank accounts, and put measures in place to assuage the pain of the emotional onslaught. Instead, we’re currently trapped on this looping roller coaster of costly baseball feelings and wondering why things seem to be slipping out of our control.

If you’re like me and deeply, and perhaps irrationally invest in MLB goings on, you’ve probably already started to feel like the stress of the game is taking over your life. This feeling has likely been pretty acute for you over the last week or so, when the first place spot slipped slowly and then quickly from our grasp, and a dark cloud of malaise overtook any hopeful glee that was still hanging around. Loving something that hurts you certainly takes a toll, and I’d be lying if I said my laundry wasn’t piling up, my fridge wasn’t lacking in appropriate groceries, and my ability to book non-baseball social time hasn’t been impaired. It would have been nice if at the end of last summer I’d sent a note to my future self that said, “baseball is gonna fuck up your life, get prepared,” but better late than never to try to set ourselves on the right path.

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I’m here to assure you hope is not lost. If Tim Tebow can become a baseball player, you can get through the meaningful-est of meaningful baseball with your happiness, your health, and your social life intact. It’s just going to take a little thoughtful labour, preparation, and planning on your part. You will have to be deliberate in your choices, and yes, occasionally force yourself to detach from scoreboard watching and arguing with strangers on the Internet for periods at a time. (While out to dinner with my husband last night, I sat with my back to the television and made it a whole two and a half innings without checking the score. I’m pretty proud of that.)

Your first step should be to manage the expectations of the people you care about. If they saw you at the end of last season, they’ll likely have some idea of what you’re dealing with, but it’s helpful to honestly explain that you’re going to suck on the reliability front for a little while. Let them know that your general availability will be limited, and when you are around you’ll likely be anxious, cranky, and distracted. If they don’t sympathize, try to unpack your fanaticism in analogies they can understand and refer to the things they care about as examples. All of this being said, don’t use the Toronto Blue Jays as an excuse to not acknowledge the births of children or not to attend weddings. I mean, complain about it to fellow fans in private, but don’t be a legitimate monster.

As baseball consumes your life, it is now actually more important than ever to talk to and spend scheduled time with people who don’t care about it at all. This action falls under the umbrella of “perspective,” which you’re going to need a lot of, lest you become a shut-in who builds and lives in an elaborate pillow fort stocked with Cheetos until the Jays’ final out. If you really genuinely can’t handle conversations with people who couldn’t care less about this thing you’re devoting all of your spare mental energy to, I recommend spending time with animals. (Bonus, they’re cute.) Your friend’s German Shepherd certainly doesn’t give a shit about the minutia of baseball, unless it involves him stealing a ball from a little league team at the local park.  

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If you do find it completely necessary to spend all of you precious social time with people who can speak your language of sports desperation, try some hockey fans—they’re super helpful in this regard, and don’t have a lot going on at the moment. Just make sure you return the favour come spring.

This next recommendation may seem radical, but hear me out: try befriending a fan of another team facing the same amount of stress. (Again, perspective.) The MLB is currently rife with teams that have a shot, so it certainly shouldn’t be hard to source a Tigers, Astros, Mets or Mariners fan to have a little consoling chat with.  If you’re feeling really adventurous, why not find a Red Sox fan to talk big picture baseball misery with? I have a couple that I respect on my roster of baseball friends, and sending a few kind words their way tends to shatter this whole rabid rivalry fiction and remind me that we’re just human after all. (Don’t get me wrong, I still hate the Red Sox.)

You’re also going to have to pay really close attention to household chores during this difficult time, lest you wake up on November 5th and find that there are no clean dishes and you’ve completely run out of underwear. (Don’t do what my friend did and wear a bathing suit instead. That’s just sad.) Take one of the Jays’ off days to prepare future meals and freeze them, or you’ll find yourself with a pile of pizza boxes and take out containers to rival your laundry pile of “but I couldn’t wash it because they won when I was wearing it” baseball tees. (Last year I nicknamed that pile “The Floordrobe.”) The time to tidy is now, especially if you share a space with other humans, because it’s only going to get worse from here on out. If you just can’t seem to get it together, maybe find a way to resign yourself to—and conceal—your own rising filth. (Insert obligatory endorsement of dry shampoo here.)

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Above all else, please remember that though it may be tempting to be enraged when a well-meaning loved one says, “it’s only a game” in response to your hysterical happy or sad crying, they do have a point. As much as things feel life and death in baseball-land right now, your logic brain knows they’re really not, and that we’re lucky to even have the room in our lives to care so much about what is really, at its core, a leisure activity. There is an obvious luxury to all this overwhelming concern, and having the self-awareness that you’re being a tad ridiculous, and that that’s perfectly okay, will go a long way in getting you through.
So fellow fans, get plenty of sleep, drink lots of water, and try your best to be thankful for your worry. Know that you are blessed to be able to love and care and be overwhelmed by feelings that many people may not understand. And if that fails? Just go out and buy some underwear in bulk.