by Allison Gibson
I have heard that the human brain has the ability to generate emotions by simply watching a person experience something rather than directly experiencing it himself/herself. Our brains take in the data from our eyes, transform that information into thoughts, and catapult us into feelings ranging from elation to despair. We experience this in day to day life when we watch our friends and family triumph over or struggle through adversity, but it can also happen when you watch your favorite team score the winning goal or intercept a pass.
Baseball gets my brain neurons all fired up. When the Atlanta Braves win I feel like I’m on the field giving high fives. When they lose I feel like I am going back to the locker room to watch game tape so I can learn from what I did wrong. To a degree, I feel how they feel.
Whether it is watching a game with my family on my parents’ couch or making the road trip with my sister Candice, I get excited about baseball. Whether my favorite player is in position or on the disabled list, I get excited about baseball. Whether my team wins or loses (though it is always better when they win), I get excited about baseball. What I am trying to say is I get excited about baseball. The hardest decision I have to make in planning a trip is which of my Braves shirts I am going to wear. My adrenaline increases the further down the interstate we get and, once in my seat, I do my pre-game stretches so that my Tomahawk Chop arm is ready to go at a moment’s notice.
I know I am not alone in this. My parents, my sister, and the countless friends share it, too. And if you’re reading this and you’re a baseball fan you know exactly what I am talking about.
Because it is more than just a game. For many of us, baseball is a common interest with some of the people to whom we are closest. I love baseball mostly because my parents love baseball and started taking us to games 20 years ago. Some of the baseball memories that come to mind the quickest aren’t even related to the game, like how we bought our very first game tickets from a scalper and I freaked out with anxiety. Then there is the time our family minivan got stolen from a local hotel the night before and we had to attend in a rental car, or when we sat in front of a kid who called Adam Wainwright from the Cardinals “Waino” every ten seconds for the duration of his time on the mound. Our love for the game is just as much about the moment to moment experience as it is runs batted in and earned run averages.
Many of the moments that baseball gives us are unforgettable. For some people it is catching a homerun ball and making it on the big screen, for others it is getting that piece of memorabilia signed during batting practice or watching your team come through in the clutch with a walk off hit. In 2012 my sister and I stood for 9 straight innings as we watched Chipper Jones play in his final home stand in Atlanta. Even if they hadn’t given us battery operated tomahawks that night, the entire evening was electric. We clapped until we couldn’t feel our hands anymore, but we kept on clapping. Each time his walk up music played the officials had to take a 20 second break from play because the stadium was erupting in applause. It was an experience that brought tears to my eyes and that I will be telling people about for as long as I remember it, though I am still searching for the right words to use in describing what it felt like.
The late 90’s were years where Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz dominated major league pitching, which meant that there were a lot of disappointed batters making their way back to the dugout after they fell victim to another strikeout. In these moments my mom would say to the dejected batter, “Walk slowly. Savor the moment.” It started as a jeer at the opponent and an attempt to rub his face in the fact that he had gotten out. Yet as I look back at my years of being a baseball fan and I consider how to describe it to someone that same phrase comes to mind. Each moment that we have doing things that we love doing should be cherished. I want to remember the smells of the park, the smile on my sister’s face, and the feeling of belonging that I experience when we are watching baseball together. I want to soak in the roller coaster of emotions I have when a pitcher and batter are battling it out with foul ball after foul ball. I want to walk slowly and savor the moment.
Allison Gibson lives in Nashville, Tennessee where she works as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. In addition to spending time with her family and cheering on the Braves, Allison is also an avid fan of the National Park System and recently began pursuing the goal of visiting all 59 National Parks.