Nine days ago, I wrote the following passage:
From the airport window, I can see the gray buildings block the horizon where the pavement touches the pavement-colored sky. The sports pages are riddled with so many copies of Peyton Manning’s face that they look like advertisements. There’s the usual static interference of the NCAA tournament, where the same four teams (in my mind) advance loudly to the Final Four each year. Up until yesterday I’d spent the last six months student teaching, arriving at work under the cover of darkness and leaving under similar conditions. Yesterday morning I woke up to snow on the ground.
I’m dimly aware of the fact that, somewhere, baseball is happening. There have been people complaining about Chipper Jones, and making fun of the New York Mets, and I’ve missed out on all of it. I missed an entire Hong Chih-Kuo era, perhaps the last. Coming back, I’ve been going through the baseball equivalent of culture shock. Fragments of news flit through my consciousness: Ryan Braun is a villain who is unjustly accused, or a hero who escaped his horrible crimes through a technicality. Albert Pujols is an Angel. Leo Nunez is Juan Oviedo. Fausto Carmona is Roberto Hernandez. Roberto Hernandez is still retired. It’s all too much.
Nine days haven’t changed much. Yesterday morning, I set the alarm clock on my cellular phone and laid it on top of the dresser, out of arm’s reach, next to my battery-powered radio. I woke up angry, in one of those thoughtless bestial rages that have no real purpose or target, not even Bud Selig. In the dense, periwinkle moments that followed, I had maneuvered to the dresser, studied the radio on all six faces for several minutes in search of its on switch, and crawled back into bed. But ultimately baseball could not penetrate the multiple layers of quilt, and when I woke again I found myself mysteriously several hours older, and untroubled by the sounds of the radio which, somehow, I must have shut off in my sleep. Fortunately, Eric was there to provide the insights I was incapable of forming.
I’m not ready for baseball. After the rigorous, life-halting activity known as student teaching ended a week and a half ago, I spent the following week in Atlanta visiting my in-laws. There I witnessed, as the whole of its sports culture, a single Atlanta Hawks billboard making a pun about the visiting New Jersey Nets. From there I travelled inward/coastward to Savannah, its downtown so surrealistically divorced from the world of sports (among other worlds) that my encounters with it there totaled an Alex Smith 49ers jersey selling for forty dollars in a comic book store, and a stoned Braves fan staring intently into an antique telephone receiver in a museum.
Since I’ve been back, my life has been fixing coat racks and checking off task lists. The trees haven’t even begun to bud. The world and my mind have been in tandem rejecting the concept of spring. My own team faces the possibility of another 100-loss season. My fantasy team relies on a closing tandem of Javy Guerra, Jim Johnson and Grant Balfour. I haven’t been able to let go of this winter, the stress and the worry and the cold. I haven’t allowed myself to sit down for three hours, even to enjoy a game of baseball. At some point, I have to.
What better time to start than two in the morning?
At least, that’s what I thought until 1:30, when the hours caught up to me and the rationalization began. It shouldn’t have to be this hard, I thought to myself, before nodding off for the third time. This wasn’t Thomas Boswell; this wasn’t Opening Day. Bud Selig and I are both trying too hard. So instead I awoke at seven and scanned the box score. The Mariners got three-hit, Balfour earned a cheap one-inning save, and little green buds have appeared on the cherry tree outside. Things are going to be fine.