Opening Day: Thoughts from Paris

I hate to admit it, but I have been a bad baseball fan. The good news? Every year there is a new season, a clean slate, and another opening day.

When I first moved to Paris four years ago (four already?) I wrote here about starting a new chapter as my beloved Kansas City Royals were too, with the sale to a new owner, John Sherman. Since then, we have seen a global pandemic, two presidential elections (in the US and France), and my other favorite Kansas City team, the Chiefs, win the Super Bowl twice. The Royals played 384 baseball games and I saw, maybe, 15 of them. I fear I am becoming the dreaded fair-weather fan.

Watching baseball from France is hard. It is exhausting to wake up at two in the morning to watch week-night games during the regular season. On the weekend, I would rather savor a translucent French summer evening from my terrace than watch a matinée game on MLBTV from my couch. Plus, there is no one to watch it with.

My French boyfriend, Louis, listened to me talk about how great baseball is for two years, but he just didn’t get it. How could he? He had never been to a game and watching it on TV didn’t do it.

“One happy Frenchman”

Last summer my family and I took him to his first ballgame. It was a perfect, late summer afternoon at Citifield. The sun was shining but it wasn’t too hot. We ate peanuts and hot dogs and drank ice-cold beer.  I kept score while Louis chatted with my father and brother. We watched the jumbotron and the wave make its way around the stadium. We sang “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” at the seventh-inning stretch. Best of all, the home team won.

Louis had a blast–and why wouldn’t he? The conviviality and leisurely pace of a live baseball game translates perfectly into French. Have you ever heard of pétanque? It is a favorite pastime in the south of France. Picture this: Old Marseillaise men and their families packing up their baguettes, cheese, saucisson, and Ricard (a French liquor that tastes like licorice) and heading to the pétanque court to play in the afternoon sun. Parents toss boules while children run around or learn the rules of the game from their grandparents. Pétanque is basically the French version of an afternoon at the ballpark.

This year I’m prepping for Opening Day by rededicating myself to baseball. I have been rereading Wait Til Next Year, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s memoir about her girlhood love for the Brooklyn Dodgers. I find myself in her story and her obsession with the Dodgers inherited from her father. I’m just like six-year-old Doris, nervously walking out of earshot of the radio during tense at bats and close games. But what I love the most is the idea of “wait until next year.” There is always the promise of next year.

While some are focusing on the new rules of baseball this season, I am thinking about a fresh start. Will it be the Royals year? I can hope. Will I have the month of April to believe? Sure. Do I have the fresh slate of a new Opening Day to be a better baseball fan? Absolutely.

I already have my first win–Louis asked me the other day, “Are we watching baseball this weekend?”

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