#ThrowbackThursday — Radio Segment on Suzyn Waldman

Lesser known SM facts: I worked at the Brooklyn College Radio station for about a year, starting as an intern and winding up an associate producer, which meant I got my own segment to talk about whatever I wanted, as long as it was at least tangentially related to the designated theme of the episode. I’m writer more than I am a talker, but I write conversationally, so I always wrote out my bits and read them, using them as jumping off points for conversation with the other members of our show, which would fill up the remaining minutes of the segment after I’d started it off.

I came across the printout of this segment when I was cleaning my room this week, in an attempt to clear space for the MONSTER PILE OF TOOLS that I bought this week when it went on sale for $310. Alas, I have no date written on it anywhere, but the file on my laptop says it was last modified on July 25th 2013, so I’ll go with that.

 

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Since we’re putting a spotlight on journalists and journalism tonight, I decided I wanted to focus on one particular journalist, and through that, maybe talk a bit about the larger topic of women in journalism.

 

The female journalist I want to focus on is Suzyn Waldman. She is the current color commentator for the Yankees radio broadcasts, and she gets no respect. Almost everyone I’ve ever talked to has an opinion about her, and that opinion is almost universally, “She sucks.” And the less tactful accuse her of sleeping her way up the ladder.

 

I don’t find that surprising, but I obviously find it very frustrating, because let me tell you some stuff about Suzyn Waldman.

 

1) She’s been working in baseball broadcasting for 20 years. If she’s been sleeping her way to the top, she’s been very slow about it.

 

2) She was the first Yankees beat reporter for WFAN in 1987, and people would literally walk out of the room when she was on the air. She would get condoms sent to her in the mail. And she still didn’t quit.

 

3) She started at a time when female sports reporters had just been granted permission to enter the locker rooms to do their jobs. There’s a famous story about how a Toronto player named George Bell started swearing at her and declared that he wouldn’t answer any questions as long as there was a woman in the clubhouse. Nobody stood up for her, and she was about to leave, when another Toronto player, Jesse Barfield, said, “Hey, Suzyn, I got three hits today. You want to talk to me?”

 

(I met Jesse Barfield, by the way, in Yankees fantasy camp a few years ago. He is really nice.)

 

4) She worked in musical theater for 15 years and has performed on Broadway.

 

5) She’s a breast cancer survivor who went to work all through her chemotherapy in 1996 because she knew that if she took any time off, she wouldn’t get her job back.

 

She’s a pioneer for women in sports journalism. She’s been the first female color commentator in a broadcast booth. She’s the first woman to call a World Series game. She’s won the respect of players, managers, and many people in the broadcast world. She’s persevered through a ton of garbage and had a long and successful career.

 

But her critics are relentless. They hate her voice, they hate her face, they hate when she agrees with her broadcast partner, they hate when she’s dramatic, they hate when she’s repetitive.

 

I don’t think she’s necessarily the best analyst or commentator in the galaxy, but she’s far from the worst, and I think that unquestionably, if she were a man, she wouldn’t face nearly this much scrutiny.

 

So I wanted to bring up that question and ask if you’ve found that your female colleagues face more criticism than you do? Or different types of criticism? Like it’s very rare for a successful guy to be accused of sleeping his way to the top, but it happens all the time with successful women.

 

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#ThrowbackThursday — “Wow Factor”

I was already planning to post this today as my Throwback Thursday piece because it’s one of the few things I could remember having posted in a previous November (although it was written well before that, as explained below), and then today I found myself in a conversation where a friend was asking my advice regarding things “wow” related, and I was like, “Okay, DEFINITELY gotta post this piece today.” Not all of it applies in exactly the same way it used to, because it is a five-year-old piece and I’ve evolved as a human in the past 5 years, but the gist remains true.

Original post was a from November 29th 2012, but it’s a throwback to a throwback, to before Throwback Thursday even existed. Yes, back in the Stone Age.

 

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Found this piece I wrote in [during] class in my first semester of college, three years ago [EDIT FROM THE FUTURE: that means 2009]. Been thinking a lot along these lines lately, for various reasons.

 

Wow Factor

 

I worry about my emotional health. Not often, but when I do happen to think of it, it worries me. I have so many barriers between what I know and what I feel that I’m sure I must be part Vulcan.

 

For one thing, it is so hard for me to tell if I like something. I’ll see something, and my reactions are usually just . . .  bland. It takes a lot to make me go “wow!” My sister will ask me to read something of hers and tell her what I think. Invariably, I’ll hand it back to her with a lackluster, “Yeah. Was good.” In my head, I’m saying, “It was okay.” Just “okay”? Why just “okay”? What makes something more than just okay? I have no idea. One of my English teachers had “wow factor” as an element on her grading rubric, and I could never understand that. None of my essays wowed me, but apparently they wowed her frequently.

 

This isn’t modesty or immodesty. This is just a confession regarding how incapable I am of judging things.

 

It’s worse when it comes to people. I can’t judge, so I can’t label. It’s incredibly frustrating. I’ll meet someone and we’ll part and I’ll have no idea what to make of him/her, but a friend of mine who meets the same person for the same amount of time will walk away having neatly categorized him/her in five different ways and will know exactly how to relate to this person in the future. I won’t even know if I like the person. The most I can usually know after meeting someone is whether or not they interest me. Yeah, how’s that for a great pickup line? “Hi, I think you’re . . . interesting.” Isn’t that what you say when someone cooks something you never want to eat again but you can’t be so impolite as to say so? All right, nix the “interesting.” How’s this: “You intrigue me.” Oh, worse: “You fascinate me.” See? Part Vulcan, no question.

 

There are of course a few things I have liked right off the bat, and these are things that I tend to grab tightly with both hands and refuse to let go of no matter what. A brilliantly worded sentence. A fresh, intelligent point of view. A color-coordinated outfit. Baseball. Movies. The subway. The Yankees. New York.

 

I can’t tell you why I love these things, just that I do. Maybe that’s just the way it is with me — that something either strikes a chord or it doesn’t.

 

I wish more things would strike chords, but you can’t hurry love.

 

(http://santarosaredwhiteandboom.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/fireworks.jpg)

 

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“Explain Derek Jeter.”

“Explain Derek Jeter.”

 

I’ll always remember that request. It was given to me by a boyfriend (now ex) who knew next to nothing about baseball, when we were still in that barely-knowing-each-other phase, trying to find a comfort zone and topics of conversations that would provide us each a window into the other. I think I’d become a bit withdrawn for whatever reason, and he, eager to bring me out again, offered me this on a silver platter.

 

“Explain Derek Jeter.”

 

I’m sure I fumbled for something in the beginning, all “I don’t even know where to start” and “you can’t explain someone like Jeter” — there are so many factors contributing to his image, his reputation, whatever that “Jeterness” is, completely aside from whatever his skill level may be on the baseball field. Derek Jeter the Phenomenon is something separate, or at least in addition to, Derek Jeter the Player, and requires its own explanation.

 

The current season, being Jeter’s last and thus subject to a retirement tour ala Chipper Jones and Mariano Rivera, has brought out the vitriolic minority who hate him and have internet access to express themselves. And I’ll admit that sometimes it makes me a little bit angry, and a little bit sad, because I don’t particularly like seeing this side of humanity, this tendency to tear people down just because they’ve been elevated.

 

I should start by saying that Jeter has never been my favorite player.

 

I became a serious fan in the early 2000s — because of the 2001 World Series, to be exact — and a pattern that I’ve noticed in young fans including myself is that we latch onto the guys that start their careers around the same time that we start following the game. For people who started following in the mid-to-late 90s, that was often Jeter, sometimes Mariano Rivera, sometimes Jorge Posada, sometimes Andy Pettitte — or as they were known, the “Core Four.”

 

Since I was a late bloomer who only became obsessed with baseball when I was in 6th grade in 2001-2002, my guy was Alfonso Soriano. He was young and explosive and did everything with flash and flair. He struck out too much, he hardly ever walked, sometimes he didn’t run out his ground balls, sometimes he stood too long at the plate admiring his home runs before remembering to actually round the bases, and he wasn’t consistent defensively.

 

But when he was on, he could hit for average, he could hit for power, he could steal bases, he could make spectacular defensive plays — he made everything exciting.

 

Jeter, as you might or might not know, is the opposite.

 

The first time I ever saw him hit, he sacrificed to advance the runner. Little SM was confused and disappointed because Little SM expected home runs every time at bat from the great Derek Jeter.

 

Little SM didn’t know that Jeter rarely hits home runs, and definitely not with the frequency of a Barry Bonds-type slugger.

 

Jeter doesn’t hit for crazy-high average like a Tony Gwynn.

 

Jeter doesn’t steal a ridiculous number of bases like a Rickey Henderson.

 

Jeter doesn’t play defense like an Ozzie Smith or an Omar Vizquel. (There is a neverending debate over how bad his defense really, truly is that I’m sure will continue well after his retirement.)

 

He doesn’t do any one thing on the field extraordinarily well. The Jeter brand of excellence isn’t to dazzle you with extremes the way Soriano did. It is simply to be very good at many things, and work hard to stay that way, quietly piling up numbers that almost never lead the league in any individual seasons but add up to impressive career totals.

 

I’ve seen comparisons to Craig Biggio in terms of playing ability, and it’s a very apt comparison — just look at that link. Biggio deserved to be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer just like Jeter certainly will be, but he wasn’t, and the uproar was relatively small, and that’s because of all those other factors that surround Jeter that Biggio — not necessarily through any fault of his own — does not have.

 

“Explain Derek Jeter.”

 

A lot of it is the Yankee thing, plain and simple. The media firestorm that surrounds this team and all its players and amps them up to preposterous volumes. Come to New York, hit one important home run, and you’re a legend forever. Just ask Aaron Boone. Play in New York for two decades, have a season’s worth of playoff games, win 5 World Series Championships, be good looking, have a hell of a smile, and get the magic Hall-of-Fame-guaranteeing 3000 hits? JESUS. (Being biracial in such a multicultural market doesn’t hurt either. Though I wonder how different things would be if his coloring were more like President Obama’s. Somewhere in a parallel universe is a Derek Jeter who would never be able to pass as white. I’d like to see that.)

 

And while I said earlier that Jeter is the opposite of early-2000s Soriano in that he does not make everything exciting all the time, he has a definite flair for the dramatic. He has playoff moments that have become immortalized, thanks to the nature of playoffs and of being a New York Yankee — the famous “Jeter flip” where he managed to be in the exact right spot at the exact right time to get a game-saving out and preserve a 1-0 lead; his game-ending walk-off home run in extra innings in the 2001 World Series after midnight had pushed the game into the month of November, and thus Jeter became “Mr. November.”

 

He has famously dramatic non-playoff moments too, of course — leading off numerous games with home runs, diving into the stands to catch a Manny Ramirez foul ball and coming up bloody but successful, breaking an 0-for-32 slump with a home run, going 5-for-5 and hitting a home run for his 3000th hit. And of course, his recent 2-for-2 showing at his last All-Star Game, despite having a mediocre season to this point.

 

But he never toots his own horn about any of it; he’s self-deprecating and, yes, classy, as all the haters hate to hear. I heard him asked about diving into the stands and he laughed about hitting his face on a seat, “50,000 people in the stadium and I picked the spot where nobody was.” And I’ve heard him interviewed about the “Flip” and he gives all the credit to Jorge Posada, the catcher, for making the tag on the runner, and shrugs off his own role.

 

You see, what’s truly exceptional about Jeter, what I am fully prepared to say is his actual extraordinary ability, is that he is the most media-savvy athlete I have ever seen. I recently watched the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game with my older brother (who became a fan during the Core Four 90s era), and both times Jeter was interviewed, we both just wound up looking at looking at each other with big grins on our faces, because it’s hilarious how perfect he is at interviews. He knows exactly what to say, exactly how to say it, he knows when to crack a joke and when to be serious, he pays attention to the questions, he gives thorough, matter-of-fact answers to everything he’s asked, he keeps everything strictly baseball-focused, and he never says anything wrong. Ever.

 

And that’s part of the appeal that I think gets glossed over by a lot of people — the fact that Jeter is really frikin’ smart. Not in the scholarly, intellectual giant kind of way, but in the self-awareness and people-handling kind of way. He knows how to represent himself. He has navigated 20 years in the spotlight, starting at such a young age, and all this with minimal scandal, despite having dated Mariah Carey, Jessica Biel, Minka Kelly, and a whole bunch of other models, actresses, and celebrities, not to mention whatever one night stands between relationships.

 

It’s fairly common knowledge that the lack of scandal is largely due to how his parents raised him: from the time he was very young, his baseball-playing was conditional, dependent upon factors such as finishing his schoolwork, no alcohol or drugs, and treating girls respectfully. There was a contract written up that he had to sign every year. Tip of the hat to Jeter’s parents; they had their priorities straight, and that’s evident in their son’s behavior. (There was a brief dustup some years back when the late George Steinbrenner, the Yankees volatile owner, accused Jeter of partying too hard, but that was quickly dismissed with a commercial that they did together, with Steinbrenner famously asking Jeter something like, “How can you afford to party all the time??” and Jeter flashing his Visa card. Classic.)

 

I’ve never wanted to date Derek Jeter; I’ve never wanted to sleep with him; I’ve never even contemplated meeting him until I sat down to write this piece and thought about that angle. Because I don’t think we’d have much to talk about, but you know what I do think? I have no idea what we’d talk about, but whatever it is, he’ll be warm and engaging and attentive and respectful and we’d probably laugh a lot. That’s impression I get, because that’s the persona he’s crafted for himself.

 

And yes, of course it’s a persona and I have no freaking clue who the man actually is, what he likes, dislikes, how he sees the world and what he wants from life. But he chose to craft that persona, and those ideals are what people respect and admire about him and why parents feel comfortable saying to their kids, “sure, go ahead, copy Derek Jeter.” Because being warm and engaging and attentive and respectful and having a sense of humor and fun are all wonderful qualities, and they’re undeniably magnetic to men and women alike, hence Jeter’s outrageous popularity, even among non-Yankee fans. I’ve met people who hate the Yankees with a fiery passion but admit that they respect Jeter and would even love to have a beer with him.

 

Managers and players talk all the time about Jeter’s “intangibles,” the things he brings to the table beyond just his skill level, and the haters hate that, of course, because it’s so amorphous. And obviously I can’t say that it has any impact whatsoever regarding Derek Jeter the Player, but Derek Jeter the Phenomenon definitely benefits from it. During the Steroid Era, I heard people say that if Derek Jeter was ever found to have taken steroids, baseball might as well close up shop, because Jeter is the Last Bastion of Integrity. He represents clean, professional baseball, with no off-field crap. Not a bad symbol to be.

 

One of my favorite little facts about Jeter is that in his high school yearbook, he was voted “Most Likely to Play Shortstop for the New York Yankees.” And maybe it’s my favorite partly because it’s funny, and partly because it represents his most compelling intangible: that Jeter seems able to make things happen by sheer force of will. He doesn’t hit the most home runs, he doesn’t steal the most bases, he doesn’t get the most hits — and yet he sets his mind to things and makes them happen. Certainly not all the time, and obviously team accomplishments are not Jeter’s alone, but he has had a long and successful career and is living his dream, and is never ungrateful for it. He’s a symbol for that too. And sure, symbolism isn’t reality, but I adore the things Derek Jeter symbolizes, and while I don’t worship at the altar of the Jeter, I’m glad someone like him exists.

 

“Explain Derek Jeter.”

 

I can’t. I just can’t.

 

 

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On Responsibility to the Community — Sexism, Intermarriage, and Other Fun Stuff (Part 2)

 Commissioned post count: 2 out of 8 requests so far.

 

[Continued from Part 1, found here. Requested by Elissa G.]

 

This part is going to be a lot more Jewish, because Judaism and community are so inextricably intertwined and as an agnostic Jew who keeps most observances for all the “wrong” reasons, I of course have much to say about the communal aspects of Judaism as opposed to the religious ones.

 

But first I have to talk a bit about what makes a community. A common (but by no means universal) Jewish take on community is that it’s like a diagram of concentric circles — you and your personal bubble (or “dalet amot”) in the center, your family in the circle around that, your Jewish neighbors in the circle around that, then non-Jewish neighbors, then Jews in your city, then non-Jews in your city, then Jews everywhere else in the world, and everyone else in the world in the circle around that.

Like this. Only not as tasty.

The closer the circle is to the center, the greater the urgency for you to help those people. Responsibility becomes diffused the further out you go. Which is quite practical when it comes to allotting the limited resources that we all have in life — if you try to help everyone equally and spread your resources too thinly, then no one gets the help they need. So “take care of your own first” is as good a way as any to divvy up the resources.

 

Still, in reality, a diagram of the communities that we belong to probably looks more like this:

 

 

There is family, there are school friends, there are neighborhood friends, there are internet friends, there are colleagues, there is extended family, there is step-family, half-family, people who were in the same school clubs as you, people who went to schools you graduated from, summer camp friends, people who are fans of the same shows/music/youtubers/sports teams that you are, people who are the same gender as you are, people who are the same ethnicity as you are, people who are the same religion as you are, and so on and so forth, and some of these may overlap a little and some of them may overlap a lot, and some may have absolutely no overlap at all.

 

And you may feel a strong connection to some of these communities and little or no connection to others, and other members of the community may see you differently than you see yourself. For instance, colleges are always going to consider you part of the alumni community and ask you for money, whether you feel any affinity toward them or not. Some Yankee fans may consider you basically a brother if you’re a Yankee fan too, while you yourself may have much more stringent criteria for what makes you feel connected to someone in a brotherly way. And you may feel more of an affinity for your friends than you do for your own family, or vice versa. Or you may feel very strongly drawn to a particular cause that involves a particular population, like the homeless or LGBTQ teens.

 

So when it comes to “taking care of your own first,” the question of who “your own” truly is becomes muddled and confusing.

 

Personally, I usually tend to latch onto people, not communities. True, I may feel a connection and common ground with a person who is Jewish, or a Yankee fan, or a woman, or a rabbi’s daughter, but that alone is seldom enough to inspire any kind of loyalty. I’m not gonna put myself out there for someone and do them any special favors just because of those things, if the person as a whole is not someone I find compelling. I don’t owe anyone anything just because they may belong to a community that I belong to. But for my friends, my real true friends, who are there for me and have established a reciprocal relationship? There’s very little I would not do, regardless of what community they may belong to.

 

Obviously I try to have a basic baseline of human decency with most people I meet, and I try to stand up for what I think is right/fight injustice on a situational basis as discussed in Part 1, but just as obviously, I’m not an unendingly generous person who will just give and give and give to anyone who needs regardless of who they are and how they treat me and what they mean to me. Just because we inhabit this world together or share some particular commonality does not put some cosmic, crushing responsibility on me for them, or on them for me. I don’t think that is a healthy way of thinking.

 

[Side note: I wrote this conflict into characters from the series of (mostly unpublished) novels I wrote in elementary school and high school — one of the characters, Jake, has a phenomenal range of superpowers, one of which is the power to heal others, and once he develops that one enough, he begins to feel that any time he spends sleeping, or eating, or talking to his girlfriend, is essentially causing other people to die, because he could be healing them. He internalizes that cosmic, crushing weight of responsibility to others, any others, to the point where his friends begin to conspire to somehow weaken his powers because the guilt is destroying him. Great power, great responsibility, etc. Yeah, that was the way High School Me grappled with this issue and the pressure to be a good person. Aaaaaangst.]

Self Portrait of High School SM

 

Nowadays, I rarely do things that are “good for the community” or “what the community wants/needs” if I do not also have enough personal reasons to do those things.

 

For instance, religious Jewry is a very small minority in the world, and is probably getting smaller. As a result, what is good for the community, and what is built into the cultural programming of most people in it, is that you should a) remain religious, b) marry someone religious or at least Jewish, c) have lots of Jewish babies.

 

I do not think that “because the community needs you to” is a good enough reason for any of those things. People should be able to remain religious because they want to, and stop being religious if they want to, and if a different religion speaks to them more, they should be free to go for that. And people should have children if they want children, and if they don’t want children, well, they probably shouldn’t be having them.

 

And this may be a controversial thing to say on a public blog, but I have zero philosophical/ideological problems with Jews dating and marrying non-Jews, because I don’t think anyone’s responsibility to the continuity of their community should supersede their own personal needs. If I were 1000% convinced that religious Judaism is the absolute best of all possibly ways of living and that bringing it closer to extinction is this horrible, unspeakable crime toward future generations and the world as a whole, then maybe I’d be sad about people intermarrying. But…I don’t think that. I think Judaism is certainly a valuable, valid, often excellent way of living, but so are lots of other ways. And yeah, I think it would be a shame if it died out completely, but I don’t think that putting that responsibility on any one person’s shoulders, at the cost of their personal happiness or fulfillment, is fair.

 

Again, personally, I keep many religious observances for various different reasons, as I’ve written about before. I also, after much consideration, decided that I am not willing to date non-Jews, not for ideological reasons, but rather for practical and emotional ones.

 

Practically speaking, I know it would alienate me from my community, my family, many of my friends, and even the possibility of being truly, madly, deeply in love does not make up that cost. And since I am not the sort of person who falls truly, madly, deeply in love without an intense period of dating, it’s unlikely I will form an emotional connection with a person who is not Jewish that is strong enough to make me want to date them and risk all the fallout.

 

Emotionally speaking . . . oy. So much of my fight for my identity and my life struggles are deeply tied to religious Judaism. And that’s a part of me that needs to be understood, and understood on the intuitive soul-deep level that only comes from having been through it yourself. I don’t need everything about me to be understood that way — I don’t need a partner to intuitively understand what it’s like to be from a big family, or what it’s like to want to be an automotive technician, or what it’s like to be a woman — but I need this, I need a partner who intuitively understands what Judaism has put me through. It’s like how some war veterans find it difficult to adjust back to relationships with civilians and only feel at home among their old army buddies. I’m not saying that my upbringing was the equivalent of a war, but it was an emotional pressure-cooker of an experience that’s difficult to convey to others who haven’t lived it. That’s also why I’m reluctant to date people who’ve never had their heart broken. I’m a snob like that.

 

Well, Elissa, I hope you got your money’s worth. I did not intend to write this much, but your topic gave me thinky thoughts.

 

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Heartbreak (and baseball)

[I know that a lot of my friends don’t give a hoot about baseball and probably won’t read this. They don’t know what they’re missing.]

Former commissioner of baseball Bart Giamatti once wrote a famously eloquent essay on how the game “will break your heart,” how it is, in fact, “designed to break your heart.”

I used to think that was true, and it is to some extent. I’ve written about how baseball intertwines with passion and love and romance (http://yankees.lhblogs.com/2013/01/18/pinch-hitting-sarah-rosenberg), and I stand by that, purely from a sports-fan perspective. The ups and downs of a season, the ebb and flow of passion, the despairs and frustrations and joys of watching your team win and lose and win and lose, year after year after year.

But it’s come as a relief to me recently to realize that outside of sports fandom, in real life, it is people who will break my heart, but baseball never will. And it’s kind of wonderful to have something in your life that you enjoy so much, and to know that it will never hurt you like that, will never cut you that deep, will never make you bleed.

For me, baseball has become a repository of positive memories, a well so bottomless that it cannot be poisoned, even when pain comes into the picture.

I have been known to develop “trauma triggers” regarding things that remind me of past heartbreak or betrayal, triggers that, when unexpected, can flat-out ruin my day, render me sick or nauseous or, if I’m lucky, just plain miserable. Thankfully, they are few and far between. Several times, though, I was afraid that baseball could become one of those trauma triggers.

Because when you’re passionate about something, you share it with people that you’re passionate about, so you guys build memories around it. But then if those people break your heart, does everything they touched turn sour?

I never wanted baseball to be collateral damage in my relationships. That would suck.

But baseball is something I’ll share with anyone and everyone, especially people I like. I won’t shelter it and hide it just because I’m afraid of it getting tainted somehow or turning against me if things go bad. As a result, both of my serious relationships are steeped in baseball-related memories and if I tell you some of them, you might wonder how I can still enjoy baseball and escape those associations.

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My first boyfriend and I started out as friends. Then close friends. Then really close friends. Then so-close-teetering-on-the-edge-of-dating-but-not-actually-dating. And then I invited him to a Yankee game.

I hardly ever go to games. In fact, I generally go once a year, when my uncle comes in from California in the summer and takes the whole family out to one. But that year, the midsummer game we were supposed to attend had been rained out and rescheduled for late September.

The thing about late September is that every night is a school night, and when you’re in elementary school and high school, the phrase “school night” actually means something. None of my little brothers or sisters were available. So it was just me, the college sophomore of the family, with a bunch of extra tickets that I would have to use or lose. I invited some friends, but nobody could make it.

So I invited him, even though he couldn’t care less about baseball. And I invited his dad. And then his older brother asked if he could come along, and I said sure why not. And we were adamant that it was not a date, because who the heck brings their family on a date? Not idiots like us, no sir.

Lemme tell you, getting into that game was an adventure. Possibly involving illegal activity. (Hear that, NSA?) Because apparently Yankee Stadium has this very strict no-laptop policy? And I was coming straight from school? With a laptop in my knapsack and nowhere to put it? So we got turned away from the gate twice, by two different guards. If I possessed normal embarrassment genes, I’d have been mortified. Instead I found a brown paper bag in my backpack that I pulled over the top of the laptop, so when we tried our luck with a third guard, he flicked through my stuff and assumed I just had something in a manila envelope that was not a laptop. And we were in!

Here’s where things get sappy. My first-boyfriend-who-was-not-yet-my-boyfriend-at-this-point had always insisted that he did not have a crush on me, that he just liked me a lot and thought I was a great person and friend and yeah he was interested in dating me but maybe not just yet? That was bull, fyi. And the Yankee game was where even the most oblivious person would have known there was something going on.

We sat next to each other, and he couldn’t stop staring at me. And when I’d look at him, he’d blush and giggle and I’d tease him and if his brother noticed, he’d tease him too. But part of the amazingness of being in a stadium is that it’s wide open and well-lit and breathable, but absolutely nobody is paying attention to you. Ironically, some of the best privacy you can get is in a stadium of 40,000 people. So we had a little bubble all to ourselves, and I was talking baseball at my non-fan-non-boyfriend and he was staring at me with those pretty blue eyes and that blushy smile and confiding in me that he really wanted to kiss me.

“You are so cool,” he said when I went off on some tangent about Lou Gehrig that I can’t remember for the life of me. “How did I get someone so cool?”

We retroactively declared it our first date.

Oh, and the Yankees won and clinched the division and Posada homered and Robertson got a double play and also the Red Sox lost and everything was perfect and beautiful.

*

My second boyfriend did not share the first one’s indifference toward baseball itself. On the contrary, he was a baseball fan. A baseball nerd. A baseball geek, actually. A stat-head who could talk about the game on my level and totally understood what it meant to me. Was even more invested in stats that I was.

But . . . he was an Orioles fan. Hated the Yankees with fire and brimstone and pitchforks. Thought Derek Jeter is a pompous jerk and said Jeffrey Maier ruined his childhood. I, well, I laughed at his pain. Quite a lot.

He crushed on me so hard so quickly, it threw me totally off-balance. When he read a piece I wrote where I quoted Cal Ripken Jr, he was so far gone, I probably could have asked him to marry me and he would have said yes. Wasted opportunity, that.

“Younger me used to look at couples where one was a Yankee fan and one was an Orioles fan, and think, ‘Those aren’t real fans,’” he told me. “And by younger me, I mean, like, a year ago me. But now I met you, and . . . I get it.”

(If that doesn’t make you go, “awwwwwww,” you have no soul.)

I changed my profile picture temporarily to me in a Yankee shirt just to annoy him, and he changed his to himself in his Orioles jersey. We sniped and bickered and teased, but really our insanity over the game was one more thing we respected about each other.

He bought me a Chanukah present about a month before the holiday, because he was that sure we’d still be together. We weren’t — we’d split amicably but painfully due to irreconcilable differences, and were keeping our distance when it finally rolled around. He gave the gift to a mutual friend to give to me.

It was a personalized Yankee jersey with my name on it. Not “SM” or “Rosenberg;” no, he went all out when he ordered it: “Sarah Meira.” With a #1.

It was the perfect encapsulation of our relationship: ridiculous, over-the-top, silly, way too intense — and unspeakably awesome.

“I can’t believe you gave the Yankees that much of your money,” I said when we did have a chance to talk again.

He shrugged. “What can I say? I really liked you. Still like you. Just . . . not like that. Well, I mean, yeah, like that, just not, I mean—I’ll just stop right there.”

He still posts sometimes about all the ways he hates the Yankees. And sometimes it makes me smile, because I know that the more he hates the Yankees, the more he must have loved me.

*

Both of these boys broke my heart. Well, we broke each other’s hearts. It was mostly nobody’s fault and everybody got hurt. Bottom line, there was heartbreak involved, and both times I was afraid that everything even slightly connected to it would be ruined forever. And as for something as deeply connected as baseball, I thought for sure it would bring me nothing but pain.

The summer after my first breakup, my uncle came in from LA with tickets as usual, and I was afraid to go to the game, afraid of ripping open old wounds. But I went because there’s seriously no way I’d turn down a Yankee game.

And it was fine and I loved it. No triggers. Intellectually, I knew the association existed, but emotionally I didn’t connect the two. And for the game we went to this year, I wore my personalized jersey and had a blast despite any misgivings I had about it.

You know why?

Because the truth is, however many baseball memories I have with my exes, that number is dwarfed by the number of baseball memories I have without them. And the infinite associations I’ve made and have yet to make.

Like the first time I ever went to a game, and all I knew was Derek Jeter’s name and I expected him to hit home runs every single time he came up. So I was confused when he didn’t swing properly and got out, until my uncle explained to me what a “sacrifice bunt” is — giving up your turn for the sake of the team. And that was Jeter to me from then on.

I remember how disappointed I was that Darryl Strawberry did not actually look anything like a strawberry.

I remember being in the stadium when Mariano Rivera got his 500th save.

Going to birthday party hosted by a middle school classmate whose dad was a sports agent, sitting in a private area of the mezzanine level of a Mets-Padres game, getting Vance Wilson’s autograph, and being one of the only kids there who actually knew that Vance Wilson was the Mets’ backup catcher.

Watching Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez pitch on TV against the Mets in the 2000 Subway Series and finally realizing that the game is about pitching, not about hitting.

Touring Fenway Park on class trips in 7th and 9th grades and seeing my teachers’ stunned faces when I knew more than the tour guides.

Getting invited by a friend to a Met game and rooting against the Mets, and then on the way home, taking the bus the wrong way and winding up on the other side of the Whitestone Bridge, waiting alone at an empty bus stop in the rain at midnight, babbling anxiously to my mother on my cell phone, which at that time was so new it was to be used only in emergencies.

The miracle comebacks in games 5 and 6 of the 2001 World Series, and the devastating loss in Game 7. A curse upon your house, Luis Gonzalez.

Listening to all the games on the radio alone in my room, learning the names of all the players, all the announcers, all the umpires.

Watching Ken Burns’ 9-part documentary on baseball (now 10 parts) on VHS.

Reading voraciously about the famous players in the history of the game and what made each of them different and special.

Learning to identify a good number of Hall of Fame players by their stats alone: Ty Cobb and his .366 lifetime batting average, Roberto Clemente and his exactly 3000 hits, Ted Williams and his .402 career on-base percentage, Mickey Mantle and his 536 home runs, Cy Young and his 511 wins.

Starting up conversations with strangers on buses and subways about the pitching matchups in the papers they’re reading.

Getting through the endless off-season by listening to the tape recordings of the 1998 World Series that my brother had made.

Writing a furious letter that I’d never mail to Jason Giambi after he was outed in the steroid scandal.

Coming into school during the 2003 playoffs and being greeted by my supposedly baseball-indifferent best friend squealing, “Andy was awesome last night!!”

Watching a game on TV with one of my Yeshivish female cousins and explaining what was going on, and her being utterly befuddled by my shtuss.

Going to Yankees Fantasy Camp for a week and coming late to the ballpark on Friday, at just the right time to accidentally run into Tino Martinez and get his autograph.

Sabbath meals at Fantasy Camp, where we were joined by some of the players in their fanciest dress shirts, and Jesse Barfield told us about the first time he ever stayed over with a white family as a minor leaguer, and what it taught him about cultural diversity and acceptance.

A cousin calling me all the way from Israel when the Yankees were losing so badly in Game 7 of the ALCS to Boston in 2004. “I know this stuff matters a lot to you, so I just wanted to offer my condolences and see if you were okay.” If I hadn’t already been crying, that would have done it.

*

The list could go on and on. The more I think about it, the more memories come up. Baseball has been part of my life for so long that it intersects with so many aspects, woven airtight. You can pull out one thread and the tapestry won’t unravel. It’s a constant, reliable as oxygen.

Whatever pain I have connected to this game doesn’t even make a dent in the outrageous amount of joy it’s brought me. In fact, any negativity has a tendency to get transmuted into positivity, like that really irritating friend who genuinely sees the bright side of everything. I can write about my exes and the team’s worst losses and my disappointments in the players and grin from ear to ear while doing it. The memories don’t hurt, because everything is baseball and nothing hurts.