Friday, February 09, 2007

Change in the winds

I'm not sure exactly when the change happened.

It could've been when Jim Harbaugh and company came within a touchdown pass of making it to Indy's first Super Bowl.

It could've been when baseball players cancelled the season over greed in 1995.

It could've been when Peyton Manning threw a slant pass to Marvin Harrison for a touchdown on his first pass in his first preseason game.

It could've been when the Cincinnati Reds became a shell of their former selves and a joke around the MLB.

It could've been when my high school baseball coach started being a jerk.

Somewhere along the line, baseball, my lifeblood, my passion, became second fiddle to NFL football, and football in general. I used to have a t-shirt that said, "Baseball is LIFE. The rest is just details." I used to believe that.

I don't believe it anymore.

Oh, yes, I get as excited as anyone for spring training, and look forward to seeing the boys of summer jack monster home runs and dive insanely to rob the batter of a well-hit line drive. In the back of my mind, though, I'm thinking about football. It's like the Arby's commercials, except there's a big Horseshoe floating over my head.

When we get through the awesomeness of March Madness, and past the novelty of the first three weeks of baseball, I'm already thinking about the first preseason game. I'm ready to see Peyton and company show up for two series, and cash it in. I'm ready to watch four quarters of mind-bendingly bad preseason football, because that's better than watching the 90th Yankees-Red Sox game. After all, by then, the Reds won't be near first place anyway.

It's hard for me to admit this, and I've been avoiding the admission for a very long time. I love baseball. I still do, and always will. I just love football more. Baseball was the game I played in high school, the one I was best at. My favorite team, the Reds, even won the World Series in 1990. That's the Chris Sabo/Billy Hatcher/Glen Braggs/Rob Dibble/Tom Browning team that swept the far superior (and, as we now know, "gamma ray-enriched") Oakland A's. I lived and breathed baseball every summer, and spent long hours playing with my brother and my father. I knew the ins and outs of every position, and would just as soon take batting practice than go to the mall.

I think Jim Harbaugh changed all this. With one magical season, he transformed me from a casual football fan (and predominantly a Bengals one at that) into a person completely consumed with the phrases "Go Horse" and "Let 'er Rip." It also probably helped that I played my single season of high school football during this period. The Colts made two straight playoff appearances before turning into the laughing stock of the league for two seasons with back-to-back 3-13 campaigns.

Some may wonder why I even followed Indy. After all, Harbaugh, the fan favorite, my favorite, was traded. Replacing him was a kid named Manning. The team fired Bill Tobin, the GM, and Lindy Infante, the head coach. In their places came men named Bill Polian and Jim Mora. With Harbaugh exiled to hated Baltimore, I wasn't sure if this Manning kid would be all he was cracked up to be.

Take a look at February 4, 2007, and try that statement on for size.

There have been ups and downs, triumphs and disappointments. But through it all, I remained a converted Colts fan. Baseball, once a year-round obsession, became a milder summer diversion. I suppose it's kind of sad. After all, there's nothing better than spending an afternoon at a baseball game. Well, except for devoting the day to a football game.

I guess things really do change.

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