For Love of the Game

by Nathan Hartswick

Over the weekend I got to see my father play baseball with a bunch of other middle-aged fathers. I have blogged on this topic before, but it’s a deep well.

When my dad tells people he plays in a league, they usually reply, “Oh, is it softball?” This is a reasonable assumption given that A) my father is in his mid-fifties, and B) a softball is generally easier to hit, throw, and see out of the corner of your eye when you are drinking a beer in center field.

But there are no large balls or beer at my father’s games, so he will typically glare at the person asking the question and intone seriously, “It’s hardball. We play hardball.”

As it turns out he is not the only overly serious person on the team. To the casual observer this might look like a simple pickup game, but there is an array of equipment, a seriousness to the verbal patter, and a noticeable lack of levity at these games. Oh, they are still having a good time. They are just very, very committed to it.

Sitting there watching them, I realized that being passionate isn’t necessarily the same thing as having fun. When you see people doing something they love, there’s an intensity to it, a focus they don’t have for other things – you can tell they’re enjoying themselves, but they may not even be smiling while they’re doing it.

It’s a little bit magical to watch people do this, because you know you’re witnessing them living completely in the moment. They could do this for hours and hours, oblivious to the weather, to the time, to their own physical pain (and there’s plenty, with these guys).

My dad’s team lost this weekend, but you’d never know it listening to him talk about the game afterwards. He gave my mother such a dramatic play-by-play it was nearly impossible not to get caught up in his passion for it – and I’m not even a baseball fan. Passion is contagious, I guess.

So what’s yours? And how much of your life is built around it? Is it a hobby, or your job?

What do you get lost in?