The other day I was driving down the 23 Freeway, which connects the 118 and the 101, passing through Moorpark and Thousand Oaks, when I hit this patch of road that made me think I might have a flat tire. Like a fool, I rolled down my window and stuck my head out to try to take a look, going about 65 miles an hour, and of course, my Angels cap went flying off...
I watched my cap tumble across the lanes of the freeway behind me in my side view mirror. Cars and Trucks kicking it around under their tires until it disappeared from view. Now this wasn't an expensive hat, it wasn't a 35-40 dollar fitted official starter cap, or a limited edition cap. I've had those kinds of caps, and I find whenever I get a haircut or wash them, they either fit too tightly, or too loosely. No, this was just a simple, cheapo 7/11 style Angels cap with a Velcro strap on the back, that costed less than ten dollars. But, I got off the freeway at the next exit, took a look at my tire, which turned out to be fine, and I had a moment there to consider it.
I got back on the freeway again, going the opposite direction, and I got off at the exit before, and I turned my car and my life around again, and I went back for that Angels cap.
I wasn't sure if it would be in the middle of the freeway, against the center median, or on the shoulder, so I slowed down and I began to scan the road for it. After driving for a minute or so, I saw it on the shoulder, and I pulled off the road on the right side, and parked my car with it's hazard lights on. A sports car was following me too closely and it nearly clipped my car, as I was just near the beginning of an off ramp, missing me by just a few inches. After a moment or two of looking at the state of traffic behind me, I popped open my door, and I hustled my way back to that Angels cap.
It felt strange to be hustling out there on that strip of concrete, which pedestrian feet seldom touch, there was a bit of danger involved in this silly maneuver to be sure; but something told me, this wasn't just a silly hat, it was part of who I am.
When I got to the hat, it was crumpled, and tarnished by the beating it took on the road. There was creases in the fabric in some places, there was the black stain of oil and rubber in others, but the bill was intact, and the halo was still there. I picked it up and hustled back to my car, mindful of the tons of steel flying past me, the fatal consequences of a simple misstep, and my own fleshy mortality.
I didn't regret the little journey out of my way, to go back and get this silly hat. I thought better of putting the oil smudged hat back on my head that moment, but I set it on the seat next to me and I drove on, happy and grateful to have it back.
That's how I feel about this Angels team. Every season is like that hat, that thing we put on our heads, that halo, that piece of the team that we wear and share. As I drove down the freeway, I thought about all the joy and all the anguish, I have shared with this Angels team over that last few years in particular. I thought about how silly it was to put so much into a sport, but then, I thought about how much joy that it brought me all the same. I thought about the way, each spring, I was so excited to have the team back in my life on a daily basis, to break the monotony of work, of traveling the same freeways to do the same job. I thought about how much passion it brought out of me, both winning, and losing, competing and floundering, I thought about the way the team and the sport itself, was such a metaphor for our lives, as people. How we were both the audience and the reason the games are played. How our hopes are tied up in the rookies and the old veterans. How we come back, year after year, refreshed and hopeful, and how we suffer when things don't go the way we hoped, or thought they should. I thought about that hat on the freeway for the past couple season, getting kicked around by the circumstances of life, and how magically it still seemed to fit so well.
This Angels team hasn't been to the playoffs in this decade. This team has faced tragedy, bad luck, and fallen below expectations again and again, but, as this season of spring is about to begin, I'm right there on that shoulder with the Angel; Looking for the best, hoping for the best, and enjoying the drive through life so much more with this team, this game.
When it's all said and done, I never regret being a fan, or going back for that Angels cap. I'm grateful that I have something in this world that can still get me excited by life, and that is worth coming back for, year after year. I'm thankful each spring for the joy of being an Angels fan, a baseball fan, a fan of life itself.