I explained thusly: We all like a good epic: whether it be Harry Potter or Titanic; Ben-Hur or a Dickensian serial novel; a 3 hour + Elizabethan tragedy or The Illiad. Homer and Virgil's heroic warriors became demi-gods in the eyes of their audience, and those heroic archetypes endured through literature up through the present day. But for some people, it's more meaningful to have a demi-god you can see and hear and touch. And that's what sports offer us: an epic story (162 games) filled with heroes (your local team) and villains (Cou*Yankees*gh!) who are immediate and tangible.
Today's heroes can seem every bit as epic as those from antiquity; but they are far more realistic in stature...at least, they are on the baseball diamond. Only the tall seem to survive in basketball, only the massively muscled survive in football; in baseball both the tall (Mauer) and the short (Punto); the skinny (Neshek) and the not so skinny (Mijares) can be a child's idol.
And that's where Jim Thome comes in. At about 6'3", 240 lbs he's big, but not superhumanly large, and he's been about that big for the past decade. He seems like your average guy, trim in his youth, growing into his full frame and developing a bit of a paunch as he approaches the big 4-0. Jim Thome is just like us...only a little bit more.
And so yesterday, listening on the radio as Jim Thome smashed two more home runs in his epic career, I smiled and cheered. I wanted the good guy to triumph. I wanted a pretty average-looking Joe to come out on top in the end (ahead of those lesser demi-gods who sought to be more like the gods than the mortals, and turned to syringes to help that quest). I want to believe that someone like me, who puts in the effort can reach a higher plateau.
I watch baseball to connect with something bigger than myself: something epic, something majestic, something deeper than the every day world of facts and figures and long-forgotten theses. Baseball is not the most important thing in the world, or in my life; but it's my favorite story, and I'm glad I get to see part of Jim Thome's story, and to cheer him on as he goes.