It turned out that five different perspectives on RBI Baseball were not nearly enough. In a special bonus post, Kim Landrigan demonstrates the impact the game could have on you, even if you never picked up a controller.
Read all the essays in the series here
The Mysterious Allure of RBI Baseball
My third year of college I scrapped a plan to spend spring semester studying abroad and ended up living with four of my guy friends: Conor, Derek, Greg, and Richard. (My sister, a year behind me at UVA, also had an empty room but reasoned that living together would be bad for our relationship.) I saw a lot that semester – and not just because the adjoining door to Greg’s room refused to fully close (before it became permanently stuck). While we already knew each other pretty well, having all gone to high school together and survived experiences such as AP European History, living together inevitably added a new layer to our friendships. I learned what DVDs would prompt the adjoining door to Greg’s room to slowly swing open so he could watch too (Sex and the City); the culinary joys of Hamburger Helper; how to blithely ignore a growing mountain of dirty dishes even as the kitchen became impassable; where to walk on the lawn to avoid broken glass from bottles exploded with fireworks; and a deep appreciation for YouTube sensation “Money Funny” (coincidentally, also my breaking point, on its third repeat next door at 3AM). But it surprises me now, given how often it was played and how much I loved hanging out with those guys, that I never learned to play RBI baseball. I don’t even remember ever wanting to watch it being played, much less to play myself.
The mysterious appeal of RBI baseball was always beyond me. The graphics are terrible, the game seems to move at a snail pace, and sure it was 2002 but there had to have been better options. The brief obsession with Super Nintendo’s Mario Party the year before when we all lived in Preston Place was more comprehensible, Mario Party was fun. (I may just have betrayed that I myself have terrible taste in video games.) Yet it was—and is—RBI baseball that inspired the fiercest devotion and most intense emotion among my male friends. Therein lay its sole entertainment value for me: you’ve read about the whipping bets and I can exactly picture Danny’s face when, in his own words, “I could look away from the screen and stare right at Conor’s face, press A, and listen for the whistled strike call or missed swing.” Risking a whipping was not something I was personally interested in but it was amusing to watch the aftermath of RBI baseball tournaments, even as my eyebrows rose in disbelief as they actually whipped each other.
Regardless of my inability to understand the obsession, RBI baseball was a constant in our lives, as was its attendant extreme reactions. I learned to sleep through the shouts of victory, cries of disbelief, and of course, the inevitable yelps of pain. Waking up to find a pie upside down on our living room floor and the game on pause was perfectly normal. The very mention now recalls good times at UVA and that house on Rugby Road. That’s why, regardless of still wanting to roll my eyes slightly at its very mention, I manage to have an enduring fondness for RBI baseball.
But even to me, RBI baseball is more than just a set of fond memories. A few years after we graduated, Conor created a short video reenacting the end of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series with RBI baseball. Some of you may watch this video and think, “genius!” I wondered how long it took him to create. The video ended up garnering some attention, getting picked up by ESPN.com for instance, and landing Conor a job in film editing – so clearly fans of RBI baseball are not limited to my former roommates and our extended circle. This is one of my favorite stories of my friends’ post-college successes (another being Greg’s victory in the Jimmy Kimmel “Laziest Man Alive” contest) and I have told it often. On the one hand, it’s nice to know some things don’t change. But mostly, I am proud—and admittedly somewhat incredulous—that Conor managed to translate his enduring passion for RBI baseball into a great opportunity. This is the American Dream.
This is why, as I await the birth of my own son and wonder what new mysteries of the male mind I will have to endure, I know I will never discourage him from finding his own RBI baseball. Clearly from their essays, RBI taught my roommates new dimensions of friendship, determination, creativity, sportsmanship, and even offered rare insight into the human psyche. So while I may not understand this particular passion for some archaic Nintendo game or its future equivalent, who knows where it could lead? Just as long as no one asks me to watch them play.