far too much writing, far too many photos

There was a time in what passes for my life when I had lots of friends, all concentrated in one or two places, making it easy to be in touch, easy to maintain a social life. Somehow, somewhere along the way, they got ahold of the bizarre idea that they had lives of their own, that they did not need to put those lives on hold to keep me happy. And everyone bolted, skipping off in different directions, making it impossible to get together for a movie or a meal or a field trip without driving hours and hours first. (Bastards.) I got back at them by moving overseas. Inexplicably, I received no distraught pleas to move back, forcing me to remain overseas and do things like learn a foreign language. (Bastards.)

When I return to this part of the world, after a few days adjusting to being back, I grab the phone and begin reconnecting with some of those alleged friends, making plans for 3-D rendezvouses. (rendezvous’s? rendezvousses? there must be a correct plural form for that goddamn word.) Those calls began last week, the first rendezvous happened this last weekend.

Sunday morning found me up far too early, dragging bags out to the car, heading south. Shortly before midday, I pulled into a parking space in Cambridge where spring was well underway, greenery abounding, flowering trees and bushes putting on a shameless display of color. And not long after found myself in a friend’s Subaru, being driven through Cambridge to Brookline where the car was left on a sidestreet and we made the long hike to Yawkey Way to watch the Red Sox tangle with the Baltimore Orioles. My first time in Fenway Park in… (pause to count slowly on fingers) …a while. A long time. Years. A sellout, families there in full force, park employees reminding us every few seconds in one way or another that it was Mother’s Day: signs, announcements, blurbs on the diamondvision screen in the outfield, salesdudes hawking sox-related gifts suitable for mom. And big, bulky ballplayers wearing pink sweatbands on heads, wrists, forearms.

The game gets underway, the first inning sets the tone. The Orioles are at bat, the Sox commit errors, the Orioles score two runs. The Sox are at bat, the Orioles’ pitcher is in complete control, the Sox go down in no time flat, scoreless. And so it goes for eight and a half innings: the Orioles in control, the Sox hapless, mentally off in another universe (except for Manny Ramirez, who had shown up but only, apparently, to pick up a paycheck and could have cared less about anything else, especially anything that might involve the word ‘hustle’ — a display that grew more annoying as the innings wore on).

Second half of the ninth, the Orioles are up 4-0. A Sox batter hits in infield pop fly, should have been an easy out. The catcher for the O’s bobbles then drops the ball, the Sox have a man on base. And at that point, maybe figuring the game was already in the bag, the Orioles’ manager relieved the pitcher who had a three-hit shutout underway. After which the game took a fast, skidding 180 degree turn. The Sox woke up and began smacking balls around, the first relief pitcher got pulled, a second one took his place, the Sox continued with the fireworks until they’d pulled within one run of the Orioles. The final batter strode to the plate. The score: 5-4.

A wave of fair weather Sox fans had bolted at the end of the eighth inning, weary of their team’s pitiful showing. Those of us who’d stayed behind found ourselves watching a drastically different game, so radically distinct from the previous innings that the stands quickly morphed into a heaving mass of screaming wildpeople. No one exactly sure how things would go on the field, but loudly hoping for the improbable.

And it all came down to the final pitch of regulation play. Score 5-4, bases loaded, count full. The wind-up, the pitch. Runners jerked into motion, wood hit ball, driving it into the infield where the Orioles’ first baseman snagged it, far enough away from the bag that the pitcher ran to cover first. The first baseman tossed it, not in sync with his teammate who tried desperately to make the out — desperately but unsuccessfully, dropping the ball. The batter made it to first, saw what had just happened, began leaping about with disbelieving joy. Big, bulky men (wearing pink sweatbands) poured out out of the Sox dugout, cavorting wildly. Pandemonium on the field and off. So much happening, and happening so fast that I couldn’t absorb it all. I only knew that events once improbable had become bizarre reality. (My friend, S., at this point wore a huge, blissful smile, cheeks flushed with joy, high-fiving me and all her other neighbors.)

On the way out, we stopped before a video screen showing post-game commentary on NESN, watched a clip of the climax, my teeny brain still trying to absorb the game’s final twists and turns. Around us, happy people streamed out into afternoon sunlight, groups of males hooting, crowing, exchanging high-fives. Which got me thinking about the strangeness of how we identify with a team, how that identification breeds competition with other cities, hatred of other teams and other teams’ fans. Couldn’t think about it for long, though — had to keep up with S. without getting trampled by any of the hordes heading away from the park.

[continued in next entry]

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The Green Monster, Fenway Park

EspaƱa, te echo de menos.

3 Responses to “heading south, part I”

  1. alphawoman

    this comment will be in progress then….my husband and I got caught in the area when they were having an after noon game!! Isn’t every game a sell out considering the size of the field. Man, I wish we could have gone to that game. Later on, we toured the ball park and it was fun.

  2. mad

    It’s going to be a looooong season, mi amigo.

  3. rws

    aw: after the game on mother’s day, all mothers and kids were allowed to run the bases. fun!

    mad: i know. after the first 8-1/2 innings of this game, it felt like i’d already sat through one endless, brain-deadening season. (it’s amazing to me that some from this side of the pond find soccer boring. ah, well — to each their own.)

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