Sunday, April 6, 2014

Why We Play

All of us who play the APBA sports replay games are at some point asked why we play it. Why do we roll dice and flip through cards and recreate seasons and play endless numbers of games?

For the uninitiated, the game may seem silly, especially considering that the bulk of those who play the game are well into their adulthood. Why do we spend so much time recreating a season or some tournament for baseball, basketball, football or hockey? It's a simple game — easy enough for a youngster to play. But it stays with us. It may be the only game that made the long trip with us from adolescence to what we are today.

I end up rolling the dice at least an hour a day and I don't miss many days of doing so since I began playing the baseball replay games in 1998. I've put it aside for a while when life steps in — like college, new jobs, marriage — as I'm sure all ABPA players have done. But I always came back. We begin as children, rolling the games, keeping standings, playing make-believe seasons with our favorite players. 

Most begin with baseball. I did it backwards, starting my APBA journey with basketball and not getting into the signature sport of this company until 16 years ago.

Why does this game maintain its consistency? Why do we play it?

Here are some of my ideas for the lasting love of APBA:

It provides an escape to better times. It's a distraction. I've played the games while my wife was in the hospital with kidney failure to help ease the fear. It gave me something comforting to cling to while my life changed around me. It's soothing because the world we create with the replays is something we are familiar with, so while we may be going through uncharted waters of life, we can still have the life preserver of an APBA season that offers a familiar world.

We can recreate favorite seasons. I've replayed 1987, which is my favorite year in baseball. When the Twins won the World Series, I actually cried with joy. My father died that year in March. He missed the magic that was the season. I replayed 1987 to feel that again. Unfortunately, the Twins didn't win in my replay, but I was able to spend over a year with the replay, playing games with the players who made that year the most magical in my life.

We can learn. After reading Al Stump's biography on Ty Cobb and Eliot Asinof's “Eight Men Out” about the 1919 Chicago Black Sox gambling scandal, I ordered the 1919 baseball season. I wanted to learn more about that year and what better way than playing the season with the players who actually were there?

We can answer 'what-ifs.' I answered my own question of “what if the 1981 strike never happened” and replayed the full season. Other APBA players may wonder what if the 1927 New York Yankees played the 1998 New York Yankees in a seven-game series or what if the Cubs didn't trade Lou Brock to the Cardinals in 1964. APBA lets us do that.

Where else can you actually say, for example,“Stan Musial hit a walk-off home run off of Branca and the Cardinals beat the Dodgers” and actually see it happen with the cards?

We can think about upcoming games like they are real. I've found myself at work daydreaming about a good game I've got scheduled in my replay. When I played the 1942 season, the Cardinals and Dodgers were in a dogfight for the National League pennant throughout the season. It gave me something to think about during times I was away from the game.

It's cost effective. For the price of a bleacher seat at any major league baseball game, we can buy an APBA baseball season. The ticket will give us about three hours of baseball fun. A single season replay lasts months for me and for some players with lives, years.

We can start a blog about APBA and, two years and 120-plus posts later, we can still come up with ideas for things to write about.

We can hang onto our youth. One of my upcoming replays will be the 1969 season, which was the first one I really paid attention to all year. Of course, the Twins were a good team then and living in Minnesota helped fuel my interest in that season. Others can hold onto years of their own. In APBA, for instance, replayers can keep playing seasons with the Dodgers and Giants before they left New York and moved west. We can play before there was the designated hitter, before the steroid era, before artificial grass, before night games if we so chose.

We know we're not alone. There are internet message boards and a Facebook page devoted to APBA baseball where like-minded people converge. Before, I somewhat kept my hobby to myself. I'd try to describe the game to someone and he or she would look at me like I was a geek discussing my knighting ceremony in some Dungeons and Dragons fantasy game. The websites let us talk to our brethren and bypass the initial “Here's how it's played” talks.

I've come up with a few ideas. There are many more and readers can feel free to list their own reasons here. I'd like to spend more time thinking of reasons why we play, but I've got the Cubs and Phillies squaring off in my 1950 replay calling me.

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