Friday, May 09, 2003

An Imaginative Surge

If you're a baseball fan, then you've heard the bleating of the unenlightened � "It's boring." "It's so slow. How can you watch it." Or this one I got on Monday at work after expressing satisfaction with the MLB.TV broadcast of the Sox game on my iMac: "Sure, baseball is fine for a web telecast. I mean who cares if you miss a few things because of pixilation or buffering?"

And what can you say? If one doesn't get it, doesn't feel the game of baseball at a spiritual level, if you will, there is little point in proselytizing to them.

But if you feel you must try to convert them, add this passage from baseball writer Roger Angell to your arsenal of retorts.

Baseball is meant to be watched all the way through. Sure, it's boring. There are boring innings and sometimes there turn out to be bad games, but you're not going to have a feeling for the good games unless you're willing to watch. I think I wrote once that baseball in many ways is very much like reading. I said there are more bad books than bad ballgames, or maybe it was the other way around. I can't remember. But each have formal chapters. There are wonderful beginnings that don't stand up and boring beginnings that are great in the end. You just don't know. They're both, baseball and reading, for people who aren't afraid of being bored (Welch, Powells.com1).

Angell's comparison of baseball to reading is an interesting one. I have to agree for the most part. Though, I'm less convinced that the game of baseball is ever boring. Honestly, I haven't been bored with anything for over ten years now, least of all the game of baseball.2

For me, baseball speaks to that hidden pleasure of the unknown, of unlimited possibility. To lose oneself in the game is to become creative.

The poet Marianne Moore gets at this so much better than I in her poem "Baseball and Writing"

Fanaticism?  No.  Writing is exciting
and baseball is like writing.
   You can never tell with either
      how it will go
      or what you will do;
   generating excitement--
   a fever in the victim--
   pitcher, catcher, fielder, batter.

"You can never tell with either how it will go." That's it!

And the late scholar and former MLB Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti gives an erudite spin on the same:

[Baseball] is autotelic activity� transformative of negotium to otium, tedium to freedom (in Aristotle's terms, war to peace), because it is a medium for self-transformation� A "win" is the actual realization of what is centrally an imaginative surge.

So maybe there is the perfect response to the "baseball is boring" crowd. Tell 'em, "It's an imaginative surge, something you wouldn't understand."

Pedro tonight! And who knows how it will go? Our excitement grows by the hour.

1Hat tip to reader "LD" for the link to the Angell interview.
2In September of '92 I had a major self-awakening, induced by what Aquinas might call a "gratuitous grace"; henceforth, my entire world view changed and one result of this epiphany is that the concept of "boredom" simply vanished.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

One More Than Nine; Twice Five.

I'm as happy as a Bush twin on the herbonium with this data:

[Yesterday's victory] marked the 10th time this season [the Red Sox] have come from behind to win and the sixth time they have rallied to victory after trailing through six innings (Hohler, Globe).

Of course, at coffee shops all over New England this morning there is undoubtedly a contingent of fans who, between bites on their jelly kruellers, are lamenting, "Fer crissakes why are these bums always behind in the game?"

And their coffee mugs are half-empty, too, I'm sure.

Though it seems most fans are in agreement that the Boston Globe went too far in suspending Bob Ryan without pay for a month over the Joumana Kidd incident. Tim, aka the Portland Sox Fan, is going so far as to boycott for a month. Admirable. I love the notion of boycotts. My problem is I'm just ADD enough that I forget or, worse, get confused between whom I'm supposed to boycott and whom I supposed to support. I still can't remember if it's OK to eat grapes or not.

Another thing we all can agree upon: The Moose must be stopped.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Man's Best Friend

No one likes to think of themselves as petty, jealous, and vengeful, but I'm pretty sure I'm all those things, at least when it comes to sports. Case in point, last night when the Red Sox closed out the ninth with a 7-3 win over the Kansas City Royals, breaking the Royals' 11 game win streak and perfect record at home, I did a high-stepping, ass-shaking, head-bobbing victory dance around the den.

Of course, the dog, Butch, seeing such wackiness flowing from his best buddy, decided to join in with barks and nips and standing on hind legs, all 105 pounds of muscle that he is, which, as it always does, led to six-legged chaos and things breaking. This time it was the bowl of peanut shell husks left over from my fourth inning feast, bowl smashing and peanut shells flying…

"What is going on out there?" my wife yells from the next room. "I thought we agreed to no roughhousing inside?"

Heh heh…

So I had the vacuum out early this morning getting the remaining shells and shards of ceramic reminders of the rowdy, uproarious inside the house celebration between dog and man — I wish I could take my dog to a baseball game. He'd really enjoy it.

Back to the Royals, unabashed KC fan and ESPN columnist and popular sabermetrician Rob Neyer says unequivocally:

[The Red Sox] do have to win sometime, and it is going to happen. In our lifetime the Red Sox are going to win a World Series.

That's from an interview with Alex Belth posted at Bronx Banter. If Alex continues to touch all four with his excellent insider interviews, we are going to have to start referring to him as the Bob Woodward of the baseball blogosphere.1

Speaking of the blogosphere, those of you who have blogs of your own should take heed of what happened to Globe columnist Bob Ryan for his inappropriate remarks directed at Joumana Kidd. Ryan has been suspended without pay for a month and can't appear on TV or radio during the suspension period. Just as big time columnists like Ryan can't say whatever they want without risk of serious repercussions, neither can we who write and publish blogs. While our readership is miniscule by comparison, we are held to the very same legal and ethical standards. Keep that in mind the next time you feel the urge to rip on someone in your blog.

1I really wanted to say the "Barbara Walters of the blogosphere," but I didn't want to bust Alex's balls too much, even though he is a Yankees fan! The interviews are superb. (Then again so are Baba Wawa's.)

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Parable of the Error

… Brent Mayne hit a hard grounder to a semi-screened Garciaparra, who had the ball strike off his glove and skip between his legs, allowing Mike Sweeney to score the game-winning run (Horrigan, Herald).

Whoever has ears, let him hear:

"I lost the game for us," [Garciaparra] said.

For those of you who have kids in youth sports, last night's game offers a couple of lessons to impart on your child athlete when he or she makes the inevitable mistake during a game.

  1. Be honest and own up to your mistake.
  2. No human being is infallible. Even Nomar makes errors that can cause the team to lose.

I remember one time my early years of youth hockey, probably a mite or maybe a squirt, when I put the puck into my own goal late in the game. It wasn't a deflection or an errant pass or attempt to clear the puck away from the net. Nope. It was a temporary loss of sanity. I saw the open net. Saw the puck. And blasted it into the cage. My six and seven year old teammates were dumfounded. The crowd was dumfounded. I was dumfounded. And I was crestfallen, feeling as miserable as is possible to feel at that young age.

After the game, as my dad and I were walking through the parking lot of the rink to the car, he put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Eddie, don't let it bother you. Even Bobby Orr has scored on his own net."

"Really?" I asked hopefully.

"Yep," my dad confirmed, and we drove on home, putting the game and the incident behind us.

I think I was a teenager before it dawned on me that Bobby Orr had never done any such thing, at least not while he was a Bruin. But that my dad offered his timely white lie made all the difference in the world to a heartbroken little hockey player.

Brandon Lyon, who forced in the tying run last night by hitting Desi Relaford in the left knee with a pitch with the bases loaded, says it best:

"I have confidence that we can do the job on any given day. I'm not going to beat myself up over this. I'll be back tomorrow."

And so will I.

Monday, May 05, 2003

Call Me Ishmael.

I love this line from Hench at DirtDogs:

The Red Sox don't "play" defense, they "fight" defense.

And then there's this bit:

Today, the Sox created one of the largest Bermuda triangles in Major League history by starting Millar in right with Ortiz at first, leaving second baseman Bill Mueller responsible for all the acreage between the two thick-wasted statues.… Captain Ahab and Peter Stuyvesant would cover more ground than this seemingly peg-legged duo.

Nice cultural references! Heh heh.

Honestly, while bummed at yesterday's loss, I'm not feeling quite as inimical as Hench, and certainly not as unctuous as Shaughnessy. (Not sure anyone on the planet can touch Shaughnessy in that regard.)

It's baseball. Mistakes will be made. Games will be lost.

Maybe I'm just buoyed still by Pedro's win Saturday, and the Red Sox record overall?

On top of that, I actually was able to tune into and get the game on MLB.TV yesterday on my iMac. Considering the problems I've had, that's nothing short of a minor miracle.

Better still, I got a message in my inbox from yesterday morning asking me to be on a fan panel to help them improve and shape their online service. Guess the 23 angst-filled emails I fired off didn't go for naught.

So I remain optimistic.

If on the other hand, you're still feeling like Hench, feeling like a World Series pennant is akin to the quest for Moby Dick, I offer the words of Ahab himself:

As I sat there in that now lonely room… I felt a - melting in me. No more my splintered heart and maddened hand were turned against the wolfish world.

In other words, settle down Beavis. It's a long season.