lenten journal: diamond days


    I wrote before I went to bed last night and I’m back at it this morning because I’ve got a deadline. According to the counter on my desktop, the Red Sox take the field in Kansas City to open the 2007 baseball season in less than six hours.


    In the steroid-ridden-unconscionable-salary-giving-over-the-top-
    loss-of-perspective world of professional sports, I’m an unabashed Red Sox fan. I have been as long as I can remember. It’s something about both the team and the game. “Baseball, it is said, is only a game.” writes George Will. “True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.”

    As far as games being unequal, here is one of my favorite George Carlin routines in which he compares baseball and football.

    Baseball is a nineteenth-century pastoral game.
    Football is a twentieth-century technological struggle.

    Baseball is played on a diamond, in a park. The baseball park!
    Football is played on a GRIDIRON, in a STADIUM, sometimes called SOLDIER FIELD or WAR MEMORIAL STADIUM.

    Baseball begins in the spring, the season of new life.
    Football begins in the fall, when everything is dying.

    In football you wear a helmet.
    In baseball you wear a cap.

    Football is concerned with downs. “What down is it?
    Baseball is concerned with ups. “Who’s up? Are you up? I’m not up! He’s up!”

    In football you receive a penalty.
    In baseball you make an error.

    In football the specialist comes in to kick.
    In baseball the specialist comes in to relieve somebody.

    Football has hitting, clipping, spearing, piling on, personal fouls, late hitting, and unnecessary roughness.
    Baseball has the sacrifice.

    Football is played in any kind of weather: Rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog…can’t see the game, don’t know if there is a game going on; mud on the field…can’t read the uniforms, can’t read the yard markers, the struggle will continue!
    In baseball if it rains, we don’t go out to play. “I can’t go out! It’s raining out!”

    Baseball has the seventh-inning stretch.
    Football has the two-minute warning

    Baseball has no time limit: “We don’t know when it’s gonna end!”
    Football is rigidly timed, and it will end “even if we have to go to sudden death.”

    In baseball, during the game, in the stands, there’s kind of a picnic feeling. Emotions may run high or low, but there’s not that much unpleasantness.
    In football, during the game in the stands, you can be sure that at least twenty-seven times you were perfectly capable of taking the life of a fellow human being

    And finally, the objectives of the two games are completely different:

    In football, the object is for the quarterback, otherwise known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use the shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy’s defensive line.
    In baseball the object is to go home! And to be safe! “I hope I’ll be safe at home!”

    I write a lot about trying to get home, or at least to find it. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I love this game: home is that well defined base with a rooftop between the dugouts, surrounded by the grandstands. Home is the smell of the popcorn and peanuts, the incessant murmur of the crowd that bursts into cheer when the Hometown Team makes them proud. Home is the place you go to sit and watch and talk and eat and, for awhile, keep time by innings rather than hours and minutes. Home is the place where the kid in the top row of the upper deck brings her glove because she just might catch a fly ball. Home is the kind of place that calls up the kind of feelings Milton Bracker describes in “Tomorrow!” (after all, it is National Poetry Month):

    Hoorah, hooray!
    Be glad, be gay-

    The best of reasons

    Is Opening Day.

    And cheering the players
    And counting the gate

    And running the bases

    And touching the plate.

    And tossing the ball out
    And yelling Play Ball!

    (Who cares about fall-out-

    At least, until fall?)

    Let nothing sour

    This sweetest hour;

    The baseball season’s

    Back in flower!

    I would love to see the Sox take the Series this year as much as any Boston fan and, cheering for a team that has won two championships in the last ninety years, I’ve learned winning is not the only reason to go to the ballpark or turn on the radio at night to see how the boys are doing. In August of 2004 I got to perform a wedding at Fenway Park, thanks to a friend who recommended me to the couple getting married. That Sunday was the first day the Sox allowed weddings up on the right field porch and ours was the second wedding of the day. The attendees received a program and a box of Cracker Jacks when they sat down. I stood with my back to the park, so the couple looked out over the ball field as they exchanged vows. Afterwards, we went down on the field and had our pictures taken in front of the Green Monster, just steps away from where Manny Ramirez stands during a game. When the Sox went on to win the Series that year, we all took partial credit for helping to break the Curse. We couldn’t help but make ourselves a part of Red Sox history.

    “Time, like an ever rolling stream, bears all its sons away,” wrote Isaac Watts. “They fly forgotten as a dream dies at the opening day.” (I had no idea he was a baseball fan.)

    Find your cap and dust off your glove. Watch The Sandlot or The Rookie or Field of Dreams. Swing for the fences. Make yourself a hot dog. The parks are open and the season has begun.

    Put me in, coach; I’m ready to play. Today.



    1. I just have to say that I love the John Fogerty/CCR reference there at the end. I’d love to see my team win the Series this year too, but alas, they’re the Cubs, and of course, we’ve already started 0-1.

    2. A number of years ago I was home during the summer. There had been rumors of tearing down/replacing Fenway, so I asked my Dad to get me tickets to a game. It was a cool, rainy August evening, but we had seats about 8 rows behind home plate (thanks to some friend of my Dad). I had to keep reminding myself there was a net between me and the fastballs barreling. I’ve always loved the intimacy of Fenway; somehow Dodger stadium or the big A don’t feel like real baseball parks. Here’s to a championship season, despite today’s results.

    3. From one unabashed Sox fan to another–they say this is the time of year that hope springs eternal, and that’s never as true as it is for the followers of the Beantown Boys in Red. Less than an hour ago I was explaining to a friend of mine how it’s a GOOD sign Boston lost to the Royals today, so they don’t start the season overconfident…

      …hope springs eternal, indeed.

      God bless you–thanks for your writing!!!


    4. I’m not much of a baseball fan but I have to say I’ve been impressed by Curt Schilling. He’s taken on the cause of a 5th grader at my kids’ school who has cancer and lots and lots of Red Sox fans stop by Pete’s blog on Schilling’s recommendation. What a big-hearted group of folks.

      and I’ve always loved that Carlin routine — I can picture him saying it as I read it.

    5. Well, and the best comedy routine EVER is about baseball (Who’s on First) so that must be a good thing.

      I have to admit I love baseball movies but have never understood the game. I even like baseball books (WP Kinsella rocks!)

      I even like the baseball songs…

      In real life, I’m a hockey gal, myself.

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