As I grow older I am losing my love of sports. Actually, I don’t know that “losing” is the best term, but rather, sports, though I still love them are not as big a part of my life as they used to be.
Being trans* has forced me to do a lot of introspection on this issue. When I was in the closet I was an ardent follower of all sports, studying the newspaper for the most minute event or statistic. When I first came out I shied entirely away from sports, thinking I needed to be more lady like. Then I decided I wasn’t going to let anyone’s idea of what is “ladylike” make the decision for me so I did a complete 180, diving into sports like never before, almost as an overreaction (over correcting is my strongest skill.) Now I have allowed sports to take a back burner. I like them still, but they never were really that important to me and now they are pleasant aside.
All this is a very roundabout and long-winded introduction to my favorite sports memory, or memories really: summers spent in Silver Stadium in Rochester. For a long time Silver (named after Morrie Silver and his family, the great patrons of Rochester baseball) was home to the Rochester Red Wings. We were fortunate enough to live just a few blocks away and general admission was cheap enough for games to be a regular form of family fun. Especially in 1981 when, rather than sit on the sidelines during the MLB strike his rookie year, Cal Ripken Jr. refused to be called up to the Baltimore Orioles so he could continue to play with the ‘Wings (Baltimore’s Triple-A farm team at the time.)
Mom had a pretty big crush on Cal (and who could blame her: those eyes), so I am sure that had a little to do with the frequency of our visits to the stadium that year. Still she was a legit sports fan and taught me all about the statistics that were not home runs (RBI’s were easy to get, ERA not so much.) Occasionally we would be treated with visits to the many vending stands beneath the stadium. I gathered quite the collection of little plastic batting helmets, the kind sometime used as ice cream dishes.
The ramp to the GA seating was a sort of magic walkway, transporting us to a magic place of bright lights, murmuring crowds and the smell of stale beer. I still think of Silver whenever someone spills their Genny Cream Ale. Mom would buy us Cracker Jacks and a program. After the first few games she let me keep track of the ‘Wings performance, once I had mastered how to mark the different kind of hits, base on balls, K’s (and one of these days someone will explain to me why that letter is used for strike outs) homers and arbitrary favorite: RBI’s.
In retrospect Silver and its replacement, Frontier Field, are small stadiums. The great MLB stadiums would swallow either of them whole. Still, to a nine-year old it was gigantic. It was the Grand Coliseum (said nine-year old was already a gigantic nerd and DnD player) a place where titans performed for our entertainment. I was, and still am, affected by the experience: the singing of the National Anthem, and even more importantly “Take Me Out To The Ball Park” during the seventh inning stretch, yelling “charge,” meeting strangers for the first and last time, cheering with those strangers when our Red Wings won, and commiserating with them when they lost.
I will be the first one to say our culture spends too much energy and time on sports. We let them distract us from important things. They had long since become our bread and circuses by those lost evenings in the ’80’s. Still, I wish I could get some of that back. The bright lights, the cheering crowd, and the childlike wonder at it all.