Sunday, July 13, 2008

Getting Religion

Blowfish Chronicles: Getting Religion





Getting Religion




a report from the Cap about the June 7 Blowfish loss to the Wilson Tobs, I
wrote of a wild throw to home by short stop Sean Sullivan, which allowed two
runs to score. Characterizing this kinesthetic malfunction as a “thrilling
disappointment,” I went on to confess that I had taken pleasure not only in the
spectacle of the error itself, but also, perhaps, in the misfortune of the
young man who had committed it. Then, carrying sports reporting to what I
suspect many would call a yet more deplorable psychoanalytic extreme, I allowed
that I sometimes wished the whole show would come crashing down in a comical
profusion of runs, even at the expense of the home team. But in pondering the 6
– 2 loss by the Fish on June 17 to the Fayetteville SwampDogs, I have come to
understand how a thrilling disappointment might be confessed in a context not
quite so controversial.

First, however, allow me to happily profess fealty
to the Fish by muttering: that bastard. With
this elocution, I refer to SwampDog Alex Vertcnik, whose name I am loathe to
add to the spelling check lexicon of my laptop. Indeed I have until this point
eschewed mention of visiting names, treating all who pitch to our batters or
bat at the top of the inning as if they were mere foils for the glory of our
guys, mere Generals to Globetrotters, even though, of course, unlike the
Generals, the aliens at the Cap often win—this season, in fact, they have won
more often than not. But the SwampDog right fielder, deserves, I admit, in
proper recognition for services rendered on this particular night, a proper
name, and also another, less proper: thief.
For ‘twas he, Alex Vertcnik, who, in the bottom of the eighth, robbed Phil
Morgan of the single that would have brought pinch runner Jesse Harmon in from
third to tie the game at 3.

It was a stupendous catch, Vertcnik having to dash
I’d say some twenty yards in to shallow right to make the dive forward that
left him on his face with the ball in his glove, or so we learned when he
jumped to his feet and raised his arm to enter that glove and the ball it
cradled as irrefutable evidence of the side-retiring out. It was, as I would
say, a thrilling disappointment, or, if you will, a disappointing thrill, each
phrase being, perhaps, both a thrill and a disappointment, to any Fish fan who
is, like me, a fan as well of nuance. Baseball games are played in the real
world, but the next day, in recalling them, I live in another, the written,
which, in its own way, is as real as the real world, or even more real, in so
far as writing can reify what might otherwise seem unreal, for example, the
subversive thought, which has been haunting me of late, that whether you win or
lose is not so important as how you play the game, the purpose of competition
for we reflective types being the generation of memorable plays. Thank you,
Vertcnik, for that one memory, and thank you, Mr. Morgan for the almost-hit
that made that memory possible, as admirable in its own way as (in basketball)
a great bounce-pass assist. 

One can, I suppose, be a fan of baseball without
being a fan of any particular team, and in this philosophical vein I think most
tentatively of the local pastime as a ritual of contemplation that informs a
kind of faith. Should I say it now? I am on the verge of conversion. I thought
yesterday of a baseball history I bought last year but have not yet read and
cannot find in my disheveled library—I hungered for this book as for the Holy
Scriptures. How did the rule evolve for not counting more than two fouls as
strikes? I wake up wondering, and then I think “baseball,” as others think
“Jesus,” and find a satisfaction I need not understand. 

This does not of
course release me from reportorial labor in the real and written world. Having
made my sadly joyful or joyfully sad noise about the eighth-inning play by
Vertcnik, I must add what the reader has perhaps already inferred from figures
heretofore provided: that the SwampDogs scored in the ninth three apparently
paralyzing runs. The Fish, in their last at bat, went down in order. Justin
Hopper struck out swinging, and Tyler Bortnick and Sean Sullivan, respectively,
popped a foul and grounded out—to the first baseman, a player I am pleased to
identify as SwampDog 21.

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