It's a story about how we may always be chasing something to make us feel happy and more complete, when, in fact, what we already have is probably enough.
Twenty-three years ago today on Oct. 21, 1991, I became a college dropout and fled the PhD program in English I was enrolled in at Texas Tech University. I had chased after a girl who was accepted in her own master's program at the Lubbock university. To stay with her, I bluffed my way into the English department. I wrote an impacting letter stating my case for admission and actually was awarded a teaching assistantship. I moved into a dorm on the college campus, lived with a 20-year-old energetic kid who always wanted to sponsor church dances, did laundry in the basement of the dorm building, endured West Texas sandstorms, took three classes that first semester in advanced literature and English teaching methods, taught two other English classes and dealt with homework, thesis writing and the general panic associated with college.
At first I didn't intend to go to Texas. But the girl actually cried and said she couldn't make it without me there and I fell for it. I was a sappy romantic.
It was a bluff. As soon as she got to the campus and acclimated, I was no longer important. She began making excuses for not seeing me. She had meetings to attend, functions with other students to go to, study time of her own. I ended up hanging out with the 20-year-old roommate and listened constantly to his plans for hosting yet another dance. And wondering why I was so stupid to chase romance for 750 miles only to have it dump me. I mean, break up with me at home, for cryin' out loud, not in some tumble-weed land where, just a few weeks prior to me moving there, was the site of five tornadoes touching down at one time.
But I stayed there and I tried to mend the relationship as I also worked on my own coursework and taught other classes.
All the while, the Minnesota Twins were marching toward winning the American League West division that season. I caught a few games on the radio or the dorm lobby television. The games helped. I grew up in Minnesota and have loved the Twins for more than 48 years now. Four years earlier, when the Twins won the Series in 1987, it was a magical time. It helped me deal with the loss of my father, who died that spring after a lengthy illness. The 1991 season again gave me a focus, a diversion from what was going on in my own life.
I watched one game of the American League playoffs against Toronto at the Lubbock airport, feeding quarters into the coin-operated television set near the concourse while we waited for the girl's parents to fly in to visit her. I also watched some of the games at a golf course bar, drinking martinis with the denizens there who were mostly Toronto fans.
I could see the relationship with the girl was sliding down the pipe quickly, so I turned to my second comfort. The APBA game. I called home and asked my mother to order the 1990-91 basketball game and said I'd be home to get it soon. She understood. I had played the basketball game since I was 16 and, while most people didn't like the replay game because it was too plodding, I loved it.
So, I focused on the game and the idea of beginning a new season. While the girl was out with her new boyfriend, I sat in my dorm room, preparing a season's replay, writing out schedules and rosters in anticipation of getting the game. I was feeling the anticipation that all APBA players — regardless of age — feel when they know they are soon to receive a new set of game cards to replay games with.
And Minnesota won the American League pennant. I watched Game 7 of Atlanta and Pittsburgh on a small television set my roommate had gotten that week and knew the Braves would face the Twins in the Series.
I planned my departure of Lubbock around the Series' schedule. I actually dropped out of college to coincide with a travel day between Games 2 and 3 so not to miss any games, and at about 5 a.m. Oct. 21, 1991, I backed out of the dorm parking lot and headed north on I27 to Amarillo. Yes, as the song once said, “Lubbock was in my rear view mirror.”
I made it to my mother's house that evening and sitting on her kitchen table was the large box that contained the APBA basketball game. I was home.
The next day, I drove to the town where I would begin a new job, found an apartment to live and returned to my mother's house in time to watch Game 4. On Saturday, Oct. 26, 1991, when Kirby Puckett hit his home run off Charlie Leibrandt in the bottom of the 11th to win Game 6, I knew I would stay at my mom's home the following day, rather than move to my new home, to watch Game 7.
Of course the Twins won. I knew they would. They had to in order to help me maintain the new focus and deal with the loss of the girl in Lubbock.
I moved to my new job that Monday morning, bringing clothes and some furniture. And the APBA basketball game. I rolled the first game of the 1990-91 replay that first night I was there and I played many games during my stay there.
Some may think it's a silly game. The APBA gamers roll dice and match up results with numbers on player cards to determine outcomes. I've graduated from the basketball game now to baseball. I play the game nearly every day. The lure of it is not just the sports aspect. I think it brings some semblance of peace, a time when we were younger and things were simpler, back to us. I don't get that feeling with any other game, so APBA is my mainstay when things get tough.
On a postscript, the girl got married in Texas the following spring; she called to tell me about it. After a year or so of wedded bliss, the lovely couple divorced and went their separate ways.
I still have that 1990-91 basketball game.