As an avid baseball fan, I must confess I never really deeply contemplated what makes watching sports in general, and baseball in particular so great. Perhaps it is the mastery of the hitter, being able to time his swing to hit a ball coming at him 95 miles per hour, often curving away from him at the last millisecond. Perhaps it is the prowess of the pitcher, the way he is able to throw the ball as hard as he throws it with the pinpoint accuracy of a skilled marksman. Maybe it is the infielder who reacts instantaneously to a ball that is converging on him at 100 miles per hour, or the outfielder who has to plant himself underneath a fly-ball hit hundreds of feet in the air. Or maybe the strategy– figuring out when to bunt, steal, replace the pitcher, pinch hit, or intentionally walk the batter.
Truth be told, these are all incredible aspects of America’s pastime. However, over the past few days I have come to realize that I omitted one component that undoubtedly goes under the radar: the fans.
I blessedly do not have a television, so I have not seen too much live action– but I have seen enough highlights to have reached the following conclusion: Baseball without real fans is odd. There is something missing.
One of the greatest aspects in professional sports in my estimation is the camaraderie the fans have with one another, and the unity that I, even from the comfort of my couch at home, have with those fans as well. When Nolan Arenado hits a clutch RBI double and thousands of people start cheering in unity– that is special.
When Dante Bichette hit the ball out of sight in the bottom of the 14th inning in the first game ever played in Coors Field in April of 1995, raising his pudgy arm in jubilation and everyone in the stands started high-fiving each-other, it was special.
When my then six year old son Avrumie was at his first ever Broncos game, a glorious, albeit ugly playoff victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the drunk folks around us were fist-bumping him, thinking it was the best thing ever that this was his first game, we felt as one with our fellow Bronco-Countrymen. The dialogue about the game with strangers on the light rail home was incredible.
But now, without the fans connected to each other, and to the team, it is eerie and downright odd. Something major is missing.
I believe that this is perhaps a lesson to consider now as well as we approach Tisha Bav. The Talmud says that our Temple was turned into desolate rubble due to baseless hatred stemming from egregious disunity. Whereas in the times of the Temple there was a vibrancy– all of humanity flooding to our Holy Temple in unity to experience the intense spirituality and the magnitude of G-ds presence manifest in this world–now we only have a vestige of that. There is an eeriness in the absence of the Temple. Upon being exiled originally, the banished Jews gathered by the rivers of Babylon and wept intensely sorrowful tears. The Temple lay in ruins, and the vibrancy of what once was, was gone. Eeriness and desolation reigned supreme.
Let us pray for the day when the fans can return to the stadiums, and l’havdil, the entire Jewish people can return to Jerusalem, celebrating the ultimate rebuilding of our Holy Temple, when the eerie desolation is replaced with euphoric joy and celebration.