I tried. Lord knows, I tried. I tried, and I failed.
Knowing there was going to be an MLB work stoppage as far back as 2019, as my friends and I discussed regularly on Facebook. I started taking steps to ween myself off of baseball and get into something else. But that was an exercise in futility.
Starting in the summer of 2021, I started trying to push myself toward other sports I had enjoyed in the past. The NHL, and college football, basketball and baseball. I figured if there was a baseball strike or lockout, I’d have something to do.
At first I started following the Chicago Blackhawks, as I had been a huge NHL fan back in the 1990s and early 2000s. I also tried to follow West Virginia University and UCLA football and basketball, but no matter what I tried, it kept coming back to baseball. Baseball has had a stranglehold on me since 2006, and it’s not letting go.
I basically stopped watching the NFL in 2004, the sport was changing so much I was losing interest on a weekly basis. I had been a fan of the Cleveland Browns since the late 1980s, and the Chicago Bears for several years before that. My college sports fandom hung around until the mid-2000s, and absolutely cratered during all of the conference realignment of the second half of the 2000s.
By that point my time was completely consumed with baseball, And for the past 17 years or so I’ve made a point of following baseball 12 months out of the year, whether it was spring training, the regular season, the post-season or the offseason, I was always involved and following the happenings on a daily basis, 365 days a year.
I’ve always had such an easy time letting things go. In 2005, after almost 25 years as a fan of professional wrestling, I had reached the end of my ability to care. At the time I had posters of Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock in my man cave, a VHS and DVD collection anyone would have been jealous of, a closet full of wrestling t-shirts and a massive action figure collection I displayed. I watched wrestling six days a week (WWF and WCW had their flagship shows on Monday, WCW Thunder on Wednesday, WWF SmackDown on Thursday, ECW on TNN on Friday, and syndicated shows from WWF and WCW as well as independent Pittsburgh-area wrestling shows on the weekends. My only day off was Tuesday, so I would spend Tuesday watching wrestling videos or playing wrestling video games.
You might say I was all in. And then I was all out.
Some people laughed and said I was such a huge fan there was no way I could walk away. But I did. I sold my entire video collection, donated my shirts to Goodwill and sold the vast majority of my action figures and posters. And I never went back. That was 17 years ago and I have had no interest in ever going back. It’s dead to me.
Football and basketball became nothing but thug sports over the years. I read more stories online about arrests than I did transactions or scores.
But I always had baseball. So I absolutely sunk my entire life into baseball and the Chicago White Sox. But don’t misunderstand; I first became a White Sox fan in 1991, when I was a freshman in high school. We’re talking over 30 years. This didn’t happen overnight. Overall, I’ve been a baseball fan since 1988, as I followed the Pittsburgh Pirates prior to jumping on the White Sox bandwagon. While I did follow many sports during the 1990s and early 2000s, baseball was usually number-one on the list.
But now I’m at a point where I can’t picture my life without it. By this point most people are thinking “just wait it out, there will be baseball at some point.” Which, yes, is true, but I’m at the point where I don’t want to hand my money to MLB anymore, they’ve already gotten thousands and thousands of dollars out of me. I was ready to start handing money over to anyone else. I bought an insane amount of Chicago Blackhawks gear (which I still intend to use in the future) as well as WVU and UCLA gear.
So when the deadline came to get a new collective bargaining agreement signed between MLB and the players union, I figured it was time to move on. I was able to do that for roughly 24 hours. And now I’m just physically ill at the thought of moving onto something else because my heart isn’t into it. I want spring training and regular season baseball. And I’m trying to figure out what I can do to fill that void.
I’m still willing to give UCLA sports another go, my favorite college team since the mid 1990s. But at this point, I don’t know how I can get myself mentally motivated for it. My best hope is March Madness, but I feel no real urgency or desire the way I feel for MLB spring training to get underway. I know part of this is because everywhere I look in my house there’s a White Sox logo staring back at me. That’s definitely not helping.
So if jumping ship to UCLA doesn’t work, I figure I’ll do a variation on what got me through the lost 2020 summer due to COVID: I’ll start on a video game. I haven’t played Grand Theft Auto V yet, so I think I’ll start on that. I will also watch Chicago Fire/PD/Med on a nightly basis and that should help me to pass the time as well.
Ultimately, I hope UCLA can extricate me from this mental prison, and I plan to start putting that in motion very soon. But if it doesn’t, all is not lost and at least I know, once and for all, that I won’t be going back to college sports or the NFL ever again.
I have decided, though, that it would be a real good idea to leave baseball alone as soon as the season is over and get back to following the NHL, the Hawks in particular. This should alleviate some of my problems and give me something else to do besides baseball every minute of every day all year long. It can’t keep going like this.
This lockout needs to end, but if it doesn’t I’ll get through it, one way or another.
THE BREAK-UP I COULDN’T HANDLE: THE 2022 MLB LOCKOUT
I tried. Lord knows, I tried. I tried, and I failed.