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In Defense of Baseball Being So Much More Than Just a Game: Coexisting With Triumph and Tragedy

Yesterday, as the A's celebrated one of the most exciting moments of their storied franchise, news broke of the passing of Pat Neshek's brand-new infant boy, adding a somber note to the unadulterated celebration of the AL West. Many say that this puts the game in perspective, but does it really, when baseball is so much more than just a game?

Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Yesterday's celebration quickly turned from tears of joy to tears of sorrow as our AN community learned of the passing of Gehrig John Neshek, the newborn infant son of Pat Neshek. Responses were immediate and touching; a whole wide range of raw emotions after all of yesterday's activities. But one sentiment really struck me, and it hasn't been able to sit well with me for the entire night; the thought that "This really puts the game of baseball into perspective; baseball is just a game, not real life."

My first experience with that sentiment was in 1989, when I watched my first and only A's World Series win. I was 12, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me as an A's fan, but there was a distinct pall on the celebration because of the horrific earthquake that had ripped through San Francisco. The city was in disarray; people had lost houses, roads, and in some cases, lives. How could baseball fans celebrate at a time like this? I was too young to express how I was feeling at that time, but I remember being told that baseball was just a game, and of course it was my whole life; I hadn't yet experienced "real life". I assume that meant husband, job, mortgage; all of the adult responsibilities that keep one away from baseball.

Here it is: 23 years later and I care about the A's so much more now than I ever did then. I have a husband, job, and a house, and I can say with complete certainty that I have spent more time cultivating my relationship with the 2012 Oakland A's in September than I have with my husband, my job, my house, and probably most of my non-baseball friends. Just a game? Just a hobby? Not real life? My relationship with baseball IS my real life. At least for the last month, it's the first thing I thought of in the morning and the last thing at night.

Baseball is so much more than just a game, and even in the midst of this tragedy, we all know that it is. Without baseball, the Neshek family grieves with their immediate family and friends. But because of this wonderful, amazing community, they are able to reach thousands, if not tens of thousands of people, and read heartfelt words of sympathy from many whom they have never met. The city of New York knew this in 2001; the first thing that seemed "normal" was the return of baseball, and even after the tragedy that September day, the outpouring of love and support that from the family of baseball was overwhelming. It still is.

Because of Oakland A's baseball, this man is able to have one last magical season with his father, before his father will succumb to cancer.

Because of baseball in my own life, I have double the friends, and a community that is available to me 24 hours a day, even if no one else is around. At least half of my closest friends were met through baseball, I met and married my husband through Oakland Athletics' baseball, and I have had the distinct privilege of meeting and befriending people from all walks of life, whom I otherwise would have never had a chance to interact with, through baseball.

Because of baseball, we celebrated yesterday like it was the best day ever, and for many of us, the feelings are just as real as our wedding days, or our promotions, or our accomplishments, or any else that happens in "real life". And just as intensely, we grieve for one of our own, whom most of us have never met and never will, with the sorrow and tragedy he is experiencing right now.

But it doesn't mean baseball takes a back seat to "real life". It means baseball IS real life. That we can dance in joy and cry in sorrow, and it's okay to do both in the same day.

Here's to an amazing postseason run by our 2012 Oakland A's, and I hope that the Neshek family is comforted by the wide net of baseball love that has been cast over them.