Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Watching Paint Dry

One thing, the most important thing, that anyone who plans to read this blog should know about the author is this:

I love baseball.

I am not a sports fanatic.  I do not have the stats for every one of my favorite teams memorized for each sport.  I don't analyze Sportscenter, read every article on or belong to a single fantasy league for any season. 

I can't name more than a half dozen football players or even three professional basketball stars.  I know nothing about hockey.  I have been known to get distracted by an interesting soccer game on television every now and then, but I couldn't tell you who's playing, and I mostly just watch it for the amusing commentary (European people are hilarious, particularly the British).

But, man, do I love baseball.

It's very easy to pick out a person who doesn't enjoy the sport.  I work at a bar.  In New York. If a Boston Red Sox highlight comes on Sportscenter and I rejoice, everyone in the joint who is a baseball fan (with the exception of the toothless miscreant who lives down the street and the senile blue-haired man who sings Frank Sinatra at random daily intervals - they both like the Sox) will have a nasty comment for me.  Those who are not fans (I like to call them "non-believers") either remain silent or feel the need to toss out a statement like "I can't wait for football season" or "I could never get into baseball" or the most recent, "baseball is so boring, it's like watching paint dry".

This last comment is entirely untrue on several levels.  Paint does not move at all (unless you're sloppy and leave drips).  Paint drying does not draw a crowd,  specifically a crowd of 37,493 for 650+ consecutive home games (if you're a Sox fan).   Fenway Park, incidentally, is the smallest ballpark in the major leagues.  So one can assume the attendance at most other stadiums is higher.

Drying paint doesn't turn you into a crusader.  In 1999, Sox CEO John Harrington announced that Fenway Park would be partially demolished to build a new, modern stadium for the Red Sox nearby.  The city of Boston, region of New England, and members of "Red Sox Nation" across the country revolted.  "Save Fenway Park"  stickers appeared on cars.  It is rumored that the city of Boston was uncooperative with the Sox ownership group, thus blocking the construction of a new park.  Myself, I like to think that city officials are just as big fans as we are.  Regardless of the real cause, Red Sox fans consider it a triumph for their "nation" that the Sox are able to remain at Fenway. 

Paint drying on a wall does not turn you into a selective historian.  I have heard teenagers babble on and on about the "Impossible Dream" season or about the Buckner tragedy of 1986.  I wrote papers in high school about Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and Babe Ruth.  Having read his book twice, I consider myself a bit of an authority on Carl Yastrzemski (I just spelled his name correctly without having to Google it).  I have argued and analyzed at length about the events surrounding the ball-through-the-legs incident of '86.  And I was born in 1985. 

Drying paint does not cause emotions that you never knew you had.  When the Red Sox blew their chances in the 2003 playoffs, I curled into a ball on the single bed in my freshman dorm room and cried myself to sleep while my friends went out partying.   I still get goosebumps thinking about 2004, when I called my mother from a similar dorm room to celebrate the World Series victory and discovered she was crying.

I spent the better part of my childhood listening to the Boston Red Sox on the radio.  We didn't have a cable station available that carried the games, and we were lucky to get to see one every couple weeks on a network.  Joe Castiglione and Jerry Trupiano (exciting in part because their names were fun to say) are the voices I remember from the radio.   "Way back, WAAAAY back, this ball is GONE!"  As it turns out, I don't know if I can tell their voices apart, but both are distinctly etched in my memory.  Trupiano's contract was ditched by the Sox in 2006, long after my parents got cable and also after my move to New York.  However, on the rare occasion that I happen to be driving through New England or sitting at my family's camp in Maine when the broadcast for a Red Sox game begins, they always play a clip of a Castiglione and Trupiano broadcast.  It's enough to make your chest get tight and maybe make your eyes water, depending on the kind of day you've had.  If you aren't a baseball fan, you'll have to take my word for it. 

I may be the daughter of a woman who really, really loves to paint, but I doubt either of us have ever felt that way about watching it dry.