Off-Season Doldrums

By JCB on Monday, November 7, 2005

Well, I’m definitely all the way into the off-season doldrums. I don’t know if it’s like this for any of you, but days just don’t seem anchored correctly to me when there isn’t baseball. After a couple of weeks, I find myself wondering why I feel like I’m sort of drifting sometimes, and then I remember why I’m a bit off kilter.

Of course, there’s music to keep me preoccupied, and here in Austin that scene never slows down. There’s writing, which, when I’m on, lets me get out of my head for a while and concentrate on something I enjoy. There’s the stack of books I always queue up during the baseball season, promising myself I’ll tackle them with the time I normally spend watching the Cubs. There’s the NFL and the NBA, both of which feature teams from Chicago with intriguing personalities. There’s Texas football, and a possible national championship pulsating beneath Austin’s surface.

But none of that eliminates that feeling materializing some days when it gets to be about 1:00 and I instinctively think, “Lead-off man!” before I have to catch myself, or when it’s evening and there is no baseball game about to start.

I don’t even know what I’m trying to say. I don’t have much of a point. I apologize for the drivel. I’m just going to meander for a while, so feel free to drop off reading early if you’d like.

Actually, come to think of it, what I'm feeling is very similar to a rain-out.

I’ve been thinking about what to write about here at Agony & Ivy. There are some baseball books and essays to comment on, and some thoughts on stuff like the Wild Card and Interleague Games (both of which I am still against, as I will probably explain at some point). There’s the baseball hot stove, although I don’t like to get too caught up in perpetuating rumors, besides which there aren’t even that many of those. And maybe there are a few other items that will summon the muses at some point; at least, I can hope.

Right now, though, it’s still a struggle.

What I’m wondering right now is whether it’s worse this year than most. For example, I saw the early ESPN power rankings for next year, and the Cubs came in at #22. Of course, I immediately recoiled, thinking That’s too low! but then I thought, well, on the other hand, they sure did play mediocre baseball last year... and they don’t have a shortstop... or any sure-thing outfielders... and well, at some point, I kind of wanted to give in to being a skeptic. I was tempted.

As much as I truly am over the disappointments of the last two seasons emotionally, I’m still somewhat exhausted, which makes me vulnerable to pessimism. And dread. And weariness.

I hate that.

It probably sounds silly, but as I talked for a couple of hours today with a close friend from college, I found out that his dog died, and I thought about the dog, and about college, but also about baseball. My friend lived in the room across the hall, and had a Welsh Corgi. I was pretty good at avoiding classes during baseball games, and his owner was busy, so I hung out with the dog a lot those afternoons, and we got along splendidly. He was a very smart and personable animal, and even though I hadn’t seen him often in the last few years, I’ll miss him. It struck me as quite odd, though, that it made me think about baseball, especially since I was not nearly as devoted in those years as I would come to be after he graduated.

What’s going on with me? I thought. This is way past normal baseball withdrawal. I mean, it’s normal to miss the dog because he was a great animal, but why the baseball?

So have I reached the point of weird obsession? Because, if so, That ain’t cool! I thought.

I have no idea why it popped up. Reactions like that don’t happen in isolation, so maybe there’s other stuff going on that made me nostalgic, but I’m not much for dwelling on that for too long, at least not for its own sake. Without proper occasion, I prefer to deal with things and move along. Still, baseball's absence is part of these doldrums, no doubt about it. I’ve spent more time than ever watching and going to baseball games the last few summers, and every year I've felt the withdrawal more strongly. This year is the worst so far.

So I remind myself that it’s a matter of perspective. Baseball is a brilliant game filled with grace and, on occasion, wonder, and it’s only a few months until the anticipation will return. The Cubs will be as good as they are, and I will watch them as much as I can. There will be a narrative to enjoy, unfolding slowly over a very long season. That will be that.

Until then, this corner of me that is moping is going to get over itself, because it’s a self-indulgent corner. It took me until now to realize this, but better now than never, right? It’s time to hurry up and figure out how to cope, which is to say stop thinking about stuff like this -- let alone writing about it -- and get on with other stuff.

After all, if withdrawal is this bad right now, how bad will it be next off-season, after the Cubs win the World Series?

When I think about it that way, things feel a lot more balanced again.

Posted Monday, November 7, 2005 by JCB


I too get the doldrums every year at this time. Like you I mourn the loss of baseball, but, living in chicago, I assumed it was more about the weather than the ending of baseball. I have to laugh at your comment about the 1:00 hour. I also find myself thinking Leadoff man or, if i'm in the car Ron Santo.

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Sincerely, JCB

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