Monday, August 25, 2014

Let's root for the home team

    I went to a Pirate game. Day game.  Sunday. Four seats, behind the on-deck circle about thirty rows back. Part of the park where the guys wipe the seats, where they know who should be there and whose tickets you borrowed.
  I had a capicolla sandwich, a beer and my phone in hand. Talking to three friends as the usher took us across. Knees bending, sorry, sorry, excuse me. These seats since you'd paid enough you were allowed to come in mid inning which surprised me, and it took me a couple seconds to realize I'd just missed a home run as I juggled my 50 dollars worth of "concessions" trying to pull a fiver out for the man who led us there. 
   All I could get hold of was a flattened pack of ones. Felt like more than five. I thought, I either make the man wait and count out his tip in front of 27,000 people or I just hand over the bills. The tickets were free, one of my guests had bought a round, Hell give the man his money, and hope you haven't  trapped a twenty in there.
  I palmed them to him, he nodded, and as the stadium sat down and the Pirate ran home I thought Christ …."concessions", like they're doing me a favor by feeding me as well. Entitlements for the sporting crowd. 
  We cheered, we clapped, we baked. We were entertained. 
   Baseball's been completely emasculated by its public soundtrack. No one does a thing if they aren't cued. No songs, no cheers, no calls come from the people to the players that aren't set up by corporate karaoke. 
   Not a moment's wasted on peace, on stillness, on the pauses within the game that make the game. Its insistence that This isn't the Working Day. There's no clock here. We are in the city but we are not of it. This is the field of grass within the concrete and the steel and the punch clock. You work. We play. You get to watch. For a few hours you're untethered. 
   If there's a redeeming quality to baseball it's its rhythm. Like a day at the beach, after 4 days you actually start to move differently. You think differently, in longer lines, in deeper troughs, you turn your head less, the check list falls out of your hands, the phone gets left on the floor with its charger. 
   But play the music, give each player a theme song and every play a downbeat and you bring the rhythm of the gym and of the office and the factory into the ball field. Where it should not be.
   The gift of baseball to America was Here's a colosseum, a temple really to the idea that you shouldn't always be working and planning, betting and scheming, parcelling out time like it was change. "Thus I wasted time and now does time waste me."
   And baseball came of age just as the great American cities were booming. Odd.  As we embraced steroid capitalism there was also a giant room in every city and town, a room open to the sky where when you walked thru the gates you shut them on the imperatives of business. 
   Not that the game wasn't a business, ha far from it, but the act of playing and the act of watching, both lived on here at their own pace. Side by side. The noise of commerce and conveyance fell away and you listened to the sounds of  leather, wood, and dirt slapping against each other to build a game. And the smell of all that grass even to the upper deck. 
   An inning later the usher came back around the corner and called out, "Where's the guy who gave me too much money?" 
   I looked at him, he recognized me and put the folded bills into my hand. 
   There were 11 ones. 
    11 dollars. 
    It's not like there'd been a twenty under a few singles, no, he came back to give me my 11 bucks. 
    I said thanks and gave back five. 
    And I thought, only in my town, only in mine.