THROUGH THE FIRE: Our Irrational Pastime


(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on October 28, 2010.)


I was in the lobby bar of the Anaheim Hilton last Thursday, watching my beloved Giants play those mouth-breathing Phillies in the NLCS. And I was surrounded by nerds.

It was the night before Blizzcon, Blizzard Entertainment’s annual celebration of its massive multiplayer online games, like World of Warcraft and Diablo. It was clear that everyone in the room was in town for the event. The room reeked of Cheetos and Mountain Dew. And the only Giants fans in the room preferred Trolls to ball players.

I was clearly out of my league. There was a Blizzard on and I was out in an orange and black bathing suit.  I admit it’s ironic – especially coming from a guy who won’t shave during the playoffs (see: mug shot) – but these Gamers are obsessed.

A better man than me would have embraced the situation. A more rational man would have noticed more than a few similarities between the two cultures. But as anybody who has experienced a sports fan in a postseason will tell you, rationality has nothing to do with it.

And so the night marched on. In the second inning, a group of conventioneers sat down at the table to our right. They were quite pale, very loud, and were wearing matching “I Survived Barrens Chat” T-shirts. I had no idea what Barrens Chat was. One of them leaned over and started talking to me. He asked me what server I played on. I told him I didn’t play WoW. He said I should try it; it beats watching baseball. That put me on tilt. “Cute shirt,” I said. He then pointed to my chest and said “Thanks, you too.” Puzzled, I wiped beer froth off the Giants logo on my Grateful Dead Steelhead jacket. He must have been jealous.

I returned to the game. It was 1-0 my team. I turned to my roommate, a baseball novice, and started explaining to him the intricacies of the game. What he called “points” I corrected as “runs.” What he called “referee” I corrected as “umpire.” What he called “watching paint dry” I corrected as “Our National Pastime.”

That’s when things got a little weird. I was trying to explain to my roommate’s friend the difference between VORP and WARP when I started feeling as if I’d stepped into an alternate universe. I looked to my right and the Barrens Chat group was talking wildly, something about a recent PUG they played in PoS, and then laughing as if the things they were saying made sense. If only they realized how ridiculous their silly acronyms sounded. I decided to ignore them, and returned to my conversation about BABIP.

My mom called me in the fourth inning. She and my dad were watching the game at their house. By then the score was 3-1 Phillies and she wanted to tell me how nervous she was getting. I wanted to console her. So I told her about this ludicrous thing I overheard from one of the Blizz-nerds. Apparently, there are actually families—whole families—that meet online and play World of Warcraft…together! Isn’t that weird, I said, entire families getting together and bonding just over some game? She said something about baseball being just a game too. I laughed. She’s funny.

The Giants ended up losing 4-2 that night. I had a moody for the rest of the evening. As I left the bar, I passed a guy wearing a Giants jersey. Around his neck was a Blizzcon credential and he was smiling from ear to ear. What’s the world coming to?

A co-worker asked me recently why I like baseball so much. I said it was hard to explain. But maybe just having a passion for something, anything, is meaningful enough, no matter how irrational it might make you seem. He shrugged.

“I still think it’s boring,” he said.

What does he know anyway? He likes Dungeons and Dragons.


Alex Isao Herbach is a freelance writer and sales director for a Southern California toy store. He can be reached by e-mail. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.


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