— In the late '60s, a middling Philly soul outfit called The Intruders had a minor hit with "Love is Like a Baseball Game." The track has been forgotten, maybe because of lyrics like "Up to bat/ I thought I hit a love run/ But to my surprise/ I found I didn’t hit none" that make me think the songwriters were unfamiliar with both baseball and love. (Seriously, a love run? How do you designate that on a scorecard?)
Anyway, "Little Sonny” Brown, "Big Sonny" Edwards and their jazz-inflected grammar mistakes warrant a Valentine’s Day mention for their observation that "love and baseball are just the same." They’re right, although they could’ve sung the same thing about 60 minutes of football, four quarters on the hardwood or a hip check into the (love) boards. There’s nothing closer to love than following sports.
If you swing through the self-help section of Barnes & Noble (Note: Don’t do this on Valentine’s Day, unless you want to exchange sad smiles with the woman buying Asthma for Dummies) there are shelves of pastel-colored, Dr. Phil-ish paperbacks that explain the stages of love, and you don’t have to have fallen for anyone other than Jeremy Lin, Tim Tebow or a late-March mid-major to relate.
Stage 1: The Honeymoon
Based on the amount of ink (A Lin-festation!) of in-game mentions (With Lin-terludes!) and stupid puns (I’m Lin-ebriated! From Lin and Tonics!) he’s earned lately, we’re all starry-eyed over one particular point guard. New Knick Jeremy Lin stole our collective hearts — and pretty much every headline — after he rolled off his teammate’s sofa to collect 25 points, five rebounds and seven assists in a second-half explosion against New Jersey.
Five straight wins and an NBA record 26.8 point scoring average later, we’re Lin-satiable because he’s been Lin-capable. He’s Jedi Master Qui-Gon Lin! He’s … yeah, we're moving on.
How could we not be smitten? (Except for Floyd Mayweather, who sounds like Walt Kowalski the Welterweight) Lin has been hailed as an overlooked, undrafted Harvard-educated incarnation of the American dream, a hard working eternal optimist who has made the most of his latest — and so far only — opportunity.
This time last year, he was bouncing between Golden State’s bench and the D-League’s Reno Bighorns. Hell, this time last month, he had a one-game stint with the Erie BayHawks, although nothing gets you yanked out of the Louis J. Tullio Arena and brought back to the NBA like a triple-double.
Now, after outscoring Kobe and becoming the Eastern Conference Player of the Week, watching Lin’s Knicks (and make no mistake, they are Lin’s Knicks right now) take on the Raptors is an appropriate way to spend tonight.
Happy Va-Lin-tine’s Day.
Stage 2: Accommodation
The standard psychiatrist’s Stage 2 definition is "So love isn’t perfect." We reach this stage at different times every season, depending on which team’s logo is stitched on your hat or screenprinted on your alternate jersey. Lin hasn’t led us here yet but the player he most admires — Tim Tebow — became a part-time resident of Stage 2 when he essentially lawn-bowled his way to a 2-for-8 afternoon against Kansas City.
But, just like a romantic relationship, in order to be disappointed, you have to buy in to begin with. Lin hasn’t let us down, both because we didn’t have any expectations and because he’s playing his face off. He’s a wonderful surprise, like reaching into that heart-shaped Russell-Stover sampler and pulling out the one candy with caramel filling. Normally New York basketball tastes like pecans and wasted potential.
Stage 3: The Challenge
Stage 3 is missing the postseason the year after a playoff run. It’s last September at Fenway Park. It’s everything that’s happened to the Colts between Peyton Manning’s first neck surgery and when someone scraped Bill Polian’s name off an Indianapolis office door.
This is what we dread the most, when the doubts creep in and gradually get louder than the in-game announcers: They’re going to blow that wild-card lead. They’re going to lose to Tennessee State. They’re going to start Jake Delhomme.
Stage 4: The Crossroads
One expert says this is when "you’re resigned to sticking with the bad decision of staying in the relationship" or, as Cleveland fans refer to it, "Forever." Enduring Stage 4 is the most difficult aspect of any relationship, but getting through it is the most rewarding. Wearing that faded Cubs hat or worn Wake Forest jersey is what separates the faithful from the fair weather, the Bleacher Creatures from the bandwagoners.
You’re not — nor will you ever be — the one who stands beside the Giants Super Bowl parade route looking for Mark Sanchez.
Stage 5: Rebirth
It’s pitchers and catchers reporting for the Cactus League. It’s seeing every team listed with an identical 0-0 record. It’s a preseason ranking, the upside of every prospect … or the unexpected arrival of a 6-foot-3 couch-surfing season saver.
Maybe it’s love. Maybe it’s Linsanity. Or maybe they’re exactly the same.
Jelisa Castrodale has learned a lot about life by making a mess of her own. Read more at jelisacastrodale.com, follow her on twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/gordonshumway, or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org