We live across the country, alone or with families. We earn varying wages, root for different teams, have opposing political beliefs. We even alter in how we play the APBA game — basic version or a more complex master game for those who use the dice and cards to replay baseball (and other sports) seasons, or computer programs.
Yet there is one thing that bonds this eclectic group together and it's something that became very evident to me in the past few weeks of a trying time.
Each one who plays the game, who meticulously records contests either in tournaments or replays of complete past seasons, has heart. It's the common ground, and, as corny as it sounds, no matter who the APBA player is, those hearts beat in unison when it comes to kindness.
I noticed this a few weeks ago when I received an email from the APBA game company. David Yamada, an APBA player from Jamaica Plain, Mass., sent me an electronic gift certificate for a set of cards. I met David through the APBA Facebook page and we later connected as Facebook friends of our own. David is the director of the New Workplace Institute at Suffolk University Law School in Boston. He may be the most intelligent Facebook friend I have. (Sorry to all my other friends who send me funny fart jokes and whacky animal videos). He's a professor, I'm a reporter. Remember what I said about varying careers and education?
He sent it because of the common bond we have for the game. I used it to buy the 1961 baseball season — something I've wanted to get for years.
Then, two weekends ago, David Moss, the owner and optometrist at Eyecare Center of Memphis, messaged me and said he had an extra ticket to a Memphis Grizzlies basketball game if I wanted to go.
I had never met a fellow APBA player before. I live only an hour from Memphis, so I headed to the game. I met David for the first time in the Club 3 section, row E, of the FedEx Forum. And, as the Grizzlies built a double-digit lead over the Portland Trail Blazers that night, we talked APBA. I'm replaying the 1950 season now; David played it before. While Marc Gasol hit hook shots and Zac Randolph grabbed rebounds, we compared notes of that season six decades ago.
At one point, I mentioned that I had played a Yankees game earlier that day and Joe DiMaggio had hit two home runs in the contest. “Single or double-column card?” he asked, referring to the game card Joltin' Joe had for that season.
Others around us may have listened in, but they had no idea what we were talking about. We talked about our APBA history and gaming obsessions. For me, despite only having met David for a few minutes, I felt like I knew him for years. I had found a new friend.
Then, last week, I posted a note about my beloved APBA cat May. I had the cat for nearly 8 years, but she began suffering seizures and things were pretty bleak for a few weeks. I suffered with her; it was constant on my mind. I couldn't help May and it kept bringing me back to when my wife was in kidney failure some 10 years ago. I was helpless and frightened I'd lose yet another family member.
On Saturday, after May was wracked with multiple, violent seizures I took her to the veterinarian where they had to put her to sleep. It was heart-breaking; I wept in the clinic, dealing with death again. I posted a note on the ABPA Facebook page about my loss later that night. It was probably somewhat narcissistic in doing so, but these were the friends I turned to.
(A friend invited me to his home Saturday night for dinner with his girlfriend and said they had a movie to watch that would help me through this. It was a Nicholas Sparks film. A freakin' Nicholas Sparks film! Why not just put on Ol' Yeller for someone who was grieving the loss of a pet?)
Within minutes of my post, the APBA community responded. Several gave condolences. They offered prayers. And they were not patronizing; they were serious.
And then a funny, touching thing happened. Some began posting pictures of their own APBA cats. Pictures of the cats on the APBA playing field, laying among the game cards and in boxes.
They understood. The bond.
A few weeks ago, one of the APBA guys posted a notice that his mother had passed away. Again, within in minutes, heartfelt comments poured in. We didn't know the guy personally, but we each felt his sorrow and pain.
We come from all over and from different demographics that have made us individuals. Those outside the APBA community may see us as “geeks” playing a kid's game with dice and cards. But these past few weeks, I found a strong likeness among all of us. A bond, I feel, that's stronger than many I have with people I've known for years.