I will turn 62 at the end of this month. Writing that previous sentence is a very strange out of body experience, for in my head I still feel 24 much of the time. I still play rock and roll live every week, and I watch Adult Swim pretty much every night, so even if my body ages, I am trying to remember the joy and wonder we all get to experience when we first move out of our parent's nest and take a stab at making a mark on the planet.
But, the reality is like it or not, I am staring down the final phases of my time here.
As I go through this odd process of aging, and reflecting, I have been thinking a lot about about the fine line between becoming a cranky old man, and mellowing into what I hope will be akin to some kind of Bohidsatva, patient, and accepting, and mostly kind.
I did pop into this world in Oakland, the year that Topps produced their first baseball cards, and the year "Rashomon" won the best Foreign Film Oscar, which I often think explains my love for Kurosawa films and cards.
But, it wasn't until the late 50's I became enamored of baseball for sure, and as noted before, being contrary, I chose to become a Dodger fan in the heart of Giants territory.
Because of baseball cards, I bought football cards as well, so when my hometown of Oakland actually got an original AFL franchise in 1961, I was a fan right away (funny, because again the area belonged to the Niners, so I could be both contrary and loyal at the same time).
For years, I just loved the hell out of both the Dodgers and Raiders, though I also had flings with other teams (like the Royals, who were my principle Strat-O-Matic team in the late 70's). I mostly kept those allegiances until the 80's, when I started picking weekly NFL winners with my friend Dee Holloway, and then began writing about fantasy.
I learned that the surest way to lose money was to bet on the team you liked, as opposed to the team you thought would win in picking every game with Dee, and then as I began to play fantasy ball, I realized that it was essential to remain objective when assessing player skills.
Over the years, I have really loved it when indeed the Niners or the Athletics or the Giants have done well (not the Raiders, over this span of 20 or so years) but, again, I might admire the same things in a player as Billy Beane, but contrary to public opinion, I don't take his players because they are Athletics. Rather, I take them because they can get on base.
Still, over the past few years, I have felt some degree of sentimentality within. I did follow the Bears pretty closely while Diane and I were carrying on our relationship long distance, but over the past couple of seasons I invariably find myself turning on the Raiders on Sundays (they are not good enough for Monday Night any longer).
It is a tough go, for they are not just awful, but don't seem to have a cohesive plan for how to get out of their swamp of awfulness.
By the same token, a couple of years back, when the Athletics surprised the world by winning the AL West title in 2012, I have so totally enjoyed watching the team coalesce into the dominant squad they were over the first two months of this season.
But, somehow I could feel that the Yoenis Cespedes swap would not bode well (I guess it is the Zen), but I hit a point this late summer where I simply was afraid to watch the team, for every time I would turn them on, something bad would happen. A walk. An error. A seeing eye single or a failed fielders choice (it seemed the A's were always on the losing end, both at bat and in the field). And then usually a homer in there somewhere.
Though the Athletics did squeeze into the postseason, I just had a feeling of doom about them despite the fact that the team had excellent pitching, the real key to playoff success.
True to form, I did start watching the Tuesday game with the Royals, but I had been to the dentist for one of those marathon appointments earlier in the day, so I began dozing off once Oakland dropped their 2-0 lead. Sure enough, I awoke in the 7th to find the Athletics were ahead 7-3, with Jon Lester on the hill, and only a pair of innings for the great bullpen to mow through.
I should have turned the game off right then, but I simply couldn't help myself, however, when the game was knotted at 7-7, and going into extras, I followed Diane's suggestion to turn on the Food Network or "Family Guy" or something. So, I turned the channel (although someone does need to explain to me why Bob Melvin did not stick Sean Doolittle in to face Alex Gordon in the bottom of the 8th, especially knowing he would use his lefty closer for two innings if necessary anyway).
Still, between commercials I would flip the channel back to the Athletics, but again, never at the right time.
I suppose it really was a great and epic game had I both watched, and been able to retain my equanimity, but all I could, and can feel, is the vertigo of lost hopes.
Over the past couple of days, I have been trying to figure out why I have been so ambivalent about the playoffs (though I did watch bits and pieces of the Giants Wednesday) when while messaging with Todd, somehow I blurted out that since the fall of Oakland, I didn't really care who won.
Up until that moment, I guess it had not dawned upon me that like it or not, I was indeed an Oakland fan, baseball and football, and with my mellowing age, that simply rooting for the home team was kind of comforting.
Life is so odd, as is our journey through it.
Since the Athletics are toast, I guess I will simply keep turning on the Raiders every Sunday (it doesn't mean I cannot catch a Seattle game, whom I really enjoy watching) and take my lumps and hope they get the hang one of the next 15-20 years.
It doesn't mean I cannot write objective player profiles.
It just means I am getting too old to fight some things any longer, and old enough to find some comfort in things familiar.