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Addicted to Baseball

Sept. 4, 2000 -- According to Kevin Quirk, recovered "sportsaholic" and the author of the self-help paperback Not Now, Honey, I'm Watching the Game, my husband is addicted to baseball. I, in turn, am addicted to my husband, Ed. This means that five or six times a year I accompany him to the ballpark, though I care nothing about the San Francisco Giants and understand few subtleties of the game. I would love it if my husband were addicted to me rather than to Dusty Baker and his merry spitting men, and so I turned to Quirk's book for help. More accurately, I suppose, I turned to Quirk's book to make Ed feel bad about his passion for baseball, for I am a jealous and needy person. No doubt I suffer from some as-yet-unnamed personality syndrome that someone will one day write a book about, which Ed can then buy and use to make me feel bad, too.

The first thing I learned from Quirk's book is that as sports addicts go, Ed is hopelessly minor league. He qualifies by dint of a checklist on page 59, which is like one of those depression checklists psychologists dream up, where if you answer yes to three or more questions like "Have you ever sighed audibly?" they tell you that you may want to seek professional help. Even though Ed answered yes to five of the 20 questions, qualifying him as an addict "to some degree," he is nothing like the men Quirk describes.

Ed doesn't collect pennants and programs and display them in a sports memorabilia room. He didn't name his kids after players and dress them in tiny Giants uniforms when they were too young to protest. He doesn't paint his face in team colors or fax advice to the dugout. These are actual behaviors sports addicts admitted to in a survey conducted by Quirk. He was, for a time, as extreme as any of them. He once had a heated argument with his wife over his sports habit, all the while sneaking glances out the kitchen window and in through the living room window to keep up with the game. They divorced soon after.

The extreme sports fan strays from ordinary devotion to deeply irrational, compulsive behavior. In Troy, N.Y., there lives a man who will not eat during Dallas Cowboys football games because one day during a game, he got up to fix a snack and when he returned, the Cowboys had fallen behind and proceeded to lose. He blamed himself, as though the act of eating a sandwich could affect the actions and decisions of a group of men in tight pants and helmets 2,000 miles away.

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