Oh, the firsts. How, if I were in a Jamesian mood, I would pile them up, largely by holding them back. The first time on two subway lines all the way to/from their termini. The first time to Coney Island. The first time to a minor league baseball game. The first time going out for an evening of simple fun with my daughter, her boyfriend, and a few others, one of whom knew Fossil Darling.
But it's impossible to wax Jamesian about Keyspan Park. At least for me. The stadium is fantastic - how not Jamesian is that?. It's comfortable, easy, and built with the idea that many people go to ball games without wanting to pay much attention to the game (this is what makes baseball so different from football or basketball: baseball is nice to be around.) There is a wonderful lack of agony. Does nobody care if the Cyclones - the Mets' farm team - win or lose? Certainly not. But nobody feels much of an obligation to attend to the game. This, perversely, made me care about it much more than I might have done. I got very involved in the sheerly professional aspect of the proceedings. Farm players come and go, as anybody who has seen the archetypal movie on the subject, Bull Durham, knows. The teams exist to provide hothouses for imminent stars. Most of the players will never go anywhere - may not even hold onto their minor-league jobs. Their skills are so generally matched that nothing much happens. Somebody hits a ball now and then, and somebody else catches it before a base can be reached. I don't know if this is true of baseball in general, but in the minor leagues, victory depends upon fumbles.
But we won! I was totally invested in the outcome. If the Cyclones had lost, I'd probably never go to another minor league game - I'd have blamed the loss on me, on my being there. Ms G, the architect of the evening's entertainment, seized upon this confession to demand that I attend all Cyclone games, which would, thanks to my presence, win, and thereby make her happy.
I thought about all the times that I've said that I have no use for sports, and I wondered where I was. I was certainly happy enough to watch these guys play their game. Undoubtedly more perplexed than most about the difference between strikes, balls, and fouls, I found my eyes racing between home plate and the scoreboard. I wanted, immensely, for the Cyclones to reach bases - and for their opponents to not. Who were their opponents? The scoreboard listed "Brooklyn" and "Auburn." What's the Auburn team called? And where is Auburn? I'd have liked to know.
If I were forty years younger, I'd have been an even bigger social reject than I was in my own day, because my hand-eye coordination is very poor. That is how I am wired. I used to think that I was bad at games of catch because I didn't care about them. I've since learned that many men who don't care about them are naturally very good at them. That's important to know. I didn't care about games because I wasn't very good at them, not the other way round. I was terrible. And nothing, I think, could have changed that. Just as nothing could have prevented me from becoming the author of this site.
Kathleen was afraid that I'd be "bored to death" at the ball park. I knew that I wouldn't be, but I had to honor all the complaints that I ought to have had - complaints that, as my daughter, perhaps, Miss G turned into huzzahs. The kitsch, the catering to ADD, the cheesy distractions - Keyspan Park was a fountain of vulgar, shortlived entertainments ("Volare") having nothing to do with baseball, from "waves" to T-shirt giveaways - these might well have inspired me to denounce the evening's entertainment. In the end, I laughed with a slight regret: insufficient respect had been paid to the teams. How do they manage, with all the carnival in the stands, to play a demanding game? Do they turn off their ears? One hoped not, when a run was completed and the crowd burst into applause. But had anybody seen the hit? (August 2007)
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