January 17, 2011
All three of my novels have a sports angle, which may be somewhat unusual for chicklit. In Secretarial Wars, three frustrated office drones spend many of their non-work hours watching, hanging around, and trying to meet members of the Washington Redskins. The Rock Star’s Homecoming deals with a college football team that is in danger of imploding along with the rest of the campus. And in Let’s Play Ball, a fictional Washington baseball team provides the dominant motif.
The sports world seems to churn up plenty of grist for a writer. Each game is a story, with its own built-in drama, compelling characters, and outsized significance for fans who care about the outcomes. Why do we invest so much emotion in something that doesn’t directly affect our quality of life? Because for whatever reason, rational or not, we identify with our teams. Fans are by definition fanatics. Each game is a chapter in a larger story: a winning or losing streak, a season, the team’s history as an organization, its history as part of a community.
We Washington Nationals fans are particularly overwrought at times because of our convoluted baseball drama. I’m old enough to remember the loss of two previous teams, one decamping to Minnesota and the other to Texas. Both teams were saddled with appallingly bad owners while they were here, yet the city was blamed for these losses. We spent 34 years in the wilderness as two-time losers who didn’t deserve another shot. There were countless teases over the years from owners threatening to move their teams to Washington if their cities didn’t agree to finance new stadiums. Then in 2004, Major League Baseball owners realized they had no choice but to reward us the Montreal Expos, a franchise they had collectively “owned” and left to die on the vine. The team was welcomed joyously to D.C., but has yet to recover from that neglect.
I support all of the local teams, but the Senators/Nationals saga is the closest to my heart. I was about seven when my dad took me to my first game at Griffith Stadium. I think I whined all the way through the frustrating 11-2 loss to the hated Yankees, but he refused to leave early. Somehow, I was hooked. My dad lived just barely long enough to see the return of baseball to his home town.
And now, spring is coming again. Another chapter is about to begin.