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The chirping of the birds outside the window was the sole incumbrance to my steadfast refusal to acknowledge that it was, in fact, a beautiful day outside. It was a hot July afternoon in 1993 and the conditions for were ideal for a swim at Peltoma Lake, a popular weekending spot for a few dozen families in rural southwestern New Brunswick. My thirteen year old id knew that there were girls outside and, unaware that it would later experience a five year Jordan Bulls-like period of dominance over my ego and superego during the high school/university years, was anxiously imploring me to put on my swim trunks and attempt interaction.

But I could not do it. The reason? The epic Jays/Athletics stratomatic series that my friend and I were playing in the cottage was about to crest in a game seven. Susie on a beach towel never had a chance against Juan Guzman on three days rest. And so it went. These are the choices that we make, and undoubtedly, if you are reading this, you experienced similar instances of budding baseball nerdness interfering with normal adolescent development.

Fast forward thirteen years and I have somehow managed to outplay my pythagorean projection and become involved in a meaningful relationship with a wonderful woman. This is important for all of us because, as with other traits that are barriers to procreation, baseball obsession carries with it the risk of being naturally selected for extinction. So many other baseball nerds have had encounters with serendipity comparable to mine that I remain convinced that the baseball gods - in fact, the baseball nerd gods - are interfering with the Darwinian process as redress for the 1994 strike. Zoilo Versalles won a Most Valuable Player award, the 2005 White Sox won a World Series, and some of us have significant others. Go figure.

When the dust of serendipity settles, we realize that we must create an environment in which baseball nerdness and a romantic relationship can coexist without either subsuming or overtaking the other. This is a delicate balance, and I am only beginning to learn. To skillfully navigate this landscape, the baseball nerd, who is already intimately familiar with his own appetite for baseball, must ascertain his partner's tolerance for same. This is often accomplished through painful trial and error. When she recommends a book, tell her that it will have to wait because you are rereading Moneyball. Slowly work Ken Burns into your conversation about the previous night's documentary on the CBC. Replace her favourite snack with Crackerjack. Start incorporating baseball phrases into your pet names for her, like "Youppi" (do not, I repeat do not, refer to her as the "Rosin Bag"). Gauging her response to these techniques will reveal her level of tolerance.

Your first goal after ascertaining her level of tolerance is, naturally, to increase it. The preferred means for achieving this goal is a slow process of baseball desensitization. One method that I have found to be particularly useful is to slowly interfere with her enjoyment of her favourite television programs by asking if you can check the score of an ongoing game during the commercials. As this process progresses, you should be constantly increasing the time spent watching the game until its breaking point (which you should already know if you completed the ascertainment exercises in the above paragraph). You start with one plate appearance which, if timed properly, will last for approximately one half of the commercial break. You then try to squeeze in a second plate appearance, finally working your way to entire half innings. This process can take weeks, but this will increase your partner's baseball tolerance level. The zenith of desensitization is when you have watched an entire game with your partner in the room. If this happens, do not panic. You have reached the precipice of this delicate balance and it is best not to look down.

The next thing that you must do is engender a rooting interest. The next time that you are in a book store, go to the $0.99 bin and find a copy of Johnny Damon's book. Find the pages where he explains how the discovery that he could have any woman that he wanted led him to sleep with and generally exploit as many women as possible and leave his wife and children to further pursue those opportunities unencumbered. Show her the passages, and then the cover of the book. You have an instant Red Sox hater. Then explain to her how he has since signed with the Yankees and presto, she hates the Yankees too. Now you have half of the Jays' AL East cohorts covered. Making a Jays fan out of a Yankees and Red Sox hater is easy, once you explain the unbalanced schedule and economic disparities. There are countless other ways to engender a rooting interest. Look for human interest stories that show Jays' players in a positive light, or make an appeal to her nationalism by pointing out that the Jays are the only Canadian team in the majors.

Once you have ascertained her baseball tolerance and begun the desensitization process, you must learn to maintain the delicate balance by not going too far. The baseball nerd/meaningful relationship equilibrium is a beautiful thing, but you will live in constant danger of flying too close to the sun. It is okay to express an interest in statistics, maybe even explain OPS, but you should probably keep your VORP spreadsheets in a file that she cannot find. It is okay to let her see you clapping and cheering when Vernon Wells hits a homer, but maybe she should not see you crying to the footage of Joe Carter's homer. It is okay that she knows that you ordered the Extra Innings package from Rogers Cable, but maybe you should not tell her that you did it in part to help pay for A.J. Burnett.

Though some of these techniques may appear to be surreptitious or deceptive, they are for the greater good. You must maintain the balance. Brothers: the continued existence of our respective bifurcated romances is essential both to our sanity and to the propagation of our unifying trait, baseball nerdness.
The Baseball Politics of Romantic Relationships | 17 comments | Create New Account
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Mick Doherty - Monday, April 10 2006 @ 04:33 PM EDT (#144848) #

My top baseball-nerd-anti-romance moment came in 1988, when my then-fiancee of about four hours called her parents to tell them the news while I was listening to the ninth inning of a Cincinnati Reds game in which Ron Robinson, I think it was, took a no-hitter into the ninth. He got the first two outs and as he was pitching to the third batter, she called me to the phone. So while I was talking to my future parents-in-law, Robinson was giving up the hit that broke up the no-no. How do you balance the sound of despair with the "congratulations" coming from the party on the other end? 

Incidentally, I have been happily married for a number of years -- to someone else.

Craig B - Monday, April 10 2006 @ 04:37 PM EDT (#144849) #
Hopefully to Ron Robinson, because that would really make one hell of a story.
Craig B - Monday, April 10 2006 @ 04:40 PM EDT (#144850) #

do not, I repeat do not, refer to her as the "Rosin Bag"

Darling, you are the pine tar on the batting glove of my life.

Mike Green - Monday, April 10 2006 @ 04:48 PM EDT (#144852) #
We, the Batters Box roster, solemnly vow not to place this column next to "How to work in a baseball glove".  Or death will do us part.
VBF - Monday, April 10 2006 @ 04:59 PM EDT (#144853) #

So here was the situation in which I was presented this following week.

-Opening week, games from Tuesday to Sunday, tickets to all.
-RC needs noise, and most importantly, cowbell.

Do you bring her to the game with the cowbell? Is it right to go to a game and not try to make noise for the ten thousand people sitting on their hands?

It would be nice if Godfrey could start marketing to the young female generation. It'd save a ton of work.

Matthew E - Monday, April 10 2006 @ 05:04 PM EDT (#144854) #
Nice job. An interesting counterpoint to this article can be found here.
Gerry - Monday, April 10 2006 @ 05:27 PM EDT (#144858) #

Great article Leigh.

Last Friday my wife says "you know I have had about enough of extra innings already."  Five days into the season!

alsiem - Monday, April 10 2006 @ 05:43 PM EDT (#144860) #
I'm obviously too soft.  I have settled for a stalemate where I accept that my wife does not like baseball and only attends the occasional game to sit in the sun and get on jumbotron.  I have given up trying to convert her and even accept the intrusion of reality tv shows during the game.  I think she's been reading Leigh's gorilla tactics.

I'm going to dig in my heels and refuse to do any chores around the house until she perfects the circle change.

Geoff - Monday, April 10 2006 @ 06:37 PM EDT (#144863) #
I thought at first that this article would be about Adams and Hill, an exposť worthy of the tabloids.

Instead, I'm glad to find that the cognoscenti of baseball mind-control might gather here to share ideas. Anyone have plans to do 'training camps' or 'couples therapy' at various stages of the season?   Perhaps start a company called the Stepford Group? It's hard to realize how widespread some problems are until a cure is proposed.

Long live baseball nerddom.

Pepper Moffatt - Monday, April 10 2006 @ 07:59 PM EDT (#144865) #
It's funny.. I've had *no* problem getting Hannah into baseball, in all it's forms (including slow-pitch).  It's likely because so much beer drinking is involved.

She misses some of the nuances of the game, though, which is why I suspect she cheers for Dave Berg.  It also explains why she constantly requests I "hit a home run" whenever I'm up-to-bat, which is about as likely as Molina consecutively stealing second then third.

Awesome-ist thing ever: 1986 World Series Game Sex Re-Cap, done in RBI Baseball for the NES

Magpie - Monday, April 10 2006 @ 08:17 PM EDT (#144869) #
Much of this doesn't even apply to me. I had it ridiculously easy, so easy that you may all find cause to hate me. Any incipient baseball nerdiness dissolved under the onslaught of the Holy Trinity of the 1970s - sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll (we didn't just like them, we believed in them.) I know they played baseball during that decade the same way I know they played it during the 1930s. I've read about it since.

But I came back to the game in the 1980s and Liam's mother was in the picture, and guys, the advantages I had. She was already a sports fan, if we can consider NFL football a sport. She just needed a little nudging in the Proper Direction. And pat, right on cue, the local baseball side suddenly became a fun and exciting contender, tickets were cheap, and we had years of entertainment as she learned the game.  Wait, there's more. She's a history buff, who very much admired Ken Burns' film on the Civil War. And what did Burns do next? Thank you, Ken. Every little bit helps.

Anyway, just the other day I heard that she drafted Johan Santana with her first round pick in this year's fantasy league.  Pretty good choice, I thought. And by now you're probably wondering how I let such a prize slip away...

Sins and failings far too numerous to mention - but I will share one with you. I absolutely insisted that she choose Hank Blalock ("trust me", I said) as her team's third baseman. In 2002.

I still hear about that. I'm not even invited to consult anymore....

Leigh - Monday, April 10 2006 @ 09:17 PM EDT (#144873) #
Awesome-ist thing ever: 1986 World Series Game Sex Re-Cap

A positively Freudian slip from a Sox hater.
Named For Hank - Monday, April 10 2006 @ 09:38 PM EDT (#144876) #
Last Friday my wife says "you know I have had about enough of extra innings already."

As I recommended in the Toronto Star roundtable: get her into a baseball pool.  Use the carrot of "imagine if you beat me".

Mrs. Hank beats me as a matter of course -- I have not finished above her a single time in a pool we've played in together.
TA - Monday, April 10 2006 @ 11:20 PM EDT (#144884) #
Great piece.

There have been a lot of tremendous articles posted here over the years, and I think this ranks right up amoung the best. Nice to see Bauxites flexing their creative writing/self-help muscles.

That said, my girlfriend caught a peak of this article and is now wise to some of the more effective tactics so nicely detailed in your treatise.

Sometimes a little information is not such a good thing...

Leigh - Tuesday, April 11 2006 @ 08:31 AM EDT (#144887) #

Thanks TA.  In January, I resolved not to write about statistics anymore.  Safe in the knowledge that further derision of Hillenbrand and the White Sox would be redundant, I dove headlong into VORP-free prose.  It is good to hear that it has not been an abject failure.

I have used variations of most of the techniques detailed in the article, with the exception of the Damon Method for Engendering a Rooting Interest, which I used verbatim.

The Baseball Politics of Romantic Relationships | 17 comments | Create New Account
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