Sometimes I wonder why I care so much.

Why does a meaningless game in September, when my team is 10 games out of first place and eliminated from playoff contention, still get under my skin?

Sometimes albeit briefly, in a moment of weakness I wish I didn't care so much.

But then I watch Ken Burns' series on baseball, and I am reminded why.

There are legions of baseball fans who go through what I go through every game their team plays.

And make no mistake, these teams do belong to us.

Players come and go, and owners do, too. Stadiums are built and torn down, and managers are hired and fired. But fans remain.

There were New York Yankee fans before Babe Ruth ever homered in the stadium he built. There were Yankee fans long after he was gone, and there will be Yankee fans after Derek Jeter makes his last throw from shortstop.

At the core of every sport are the fans the ones who buy the tickets, wear the uniforms, scream until they are hoarse and bleed their team colors until they feel they can't bleed anymore, but then get up and do it again the next day.

There are generations of these fans whose passion is passed down from family member to family member like a cherished heirloom.

I remember seeing a documentary on a recent season of the Boston Red Sox and the lives of their fans.

These fans watched in horror at times and relief at other moments during the playoffs. They watched from certain chairs that brought their team luck, and they watched while literally becoming sick to their stomach.

But they watched.

Fans either have the gift or the burden of a short memory. No matter how many of "our" players spurn the local team for greener dollars elsewhere, no matter how many boneheaded decisions by executives, no matter how many losing seasons, we come back.

We come back because we have no choice.

It is so ingrained in our DNA to root, root, root for our teams that every spring every fan of every team thinks this is their year.

Until last Saturday, when my Oakland A's were eliminated, I was dreaming of a historic comeback.

It is impossible for me not to think about the impossible, or to get excited about next season.

My earliest and fondest memories of the time I shared with my father are when we talked baseball.

I learned about Tony Oliva and Joe DiMaggio and Three Finger Mordecai Brown when my friends were just thinking about the modern players on their baseball cards.

And not until my father thought me responsible enough did he hand me down his cherished autographed photo of his idol, Ted Williams, with the admonition to take care of it.

It's framed and hangs in our house, and I cannot look at it without thinking of my father.

Baseball and my dad are entwined. When I went off to college, our phone calls were dominated by talks of the grand old game.

Because the love of the game was passed down to me, it was natural that when we brought home our son, Alek, from the hospital, a baseball glove and ball was placed in his crib.

And so it goes. One day Alek will tell his children why Jeter was the only player he ever looked up to.

That is how baseball continues to grow in our hearts. It is passed down from father to son, from fan to fan. That is why a meaningless September game still matters.

Patrick Murphy, of Columbus, Neb., is the former assistant managing editor of The Telegram.