Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sleepy Time



Blowfish Chronicles: Sleepy Time



MONDAY JUNE 9 v WILMINGTON SHARKS

 

 

 

Sleepy Time

 

 

 

The Blowfish lost to the Wilmington Sharks on June
9 by a score of 8 – 1. I was at the Cap, but I write four days later amid the
rush of Midtown Manhattan, remembering not one play of the game, my notes being
now of archeological interest.

I turn first to the last entries, which include
the number 12, for our first baseman and designated hitter, Jesse Barbaro; the
letter B, for the first of two pitches tossed Barbaro’s way, judged a ball by
the ump; and the phrase “Fly Out to Deep Center,” which documents the failure
of the Fish in the bottom of the ninth to buck the long odds, to tie the game or
win.

I turn back to the first note. It reads “100 fans
at start” and refers to a crowd sparse enough at the beginning of the game to
be counted person by person. Official attendance was eventually computed at
667, a figure whose accuracy I should not for an instant doubt. But those 567
late-comers must have become 568 fair-weather friends, for I would bet
ninety-eight bucks that only ninety-nine of us were still around to see that
last ball Barbaro hit descend from the stratosphere to make its safe landing in
a Shark mitt.

I turn again to the end, and there see also
“Sleepy Time,” which I remember jotting in just before we survivors heard the
song of La Señora Gorda. They are not, as some may suppose, words in
exasperation of boredom. The mere feeling would have been a heresy, not to be
confessed, even to myself, even in a doodle, for the first and last commandment
for any true-believing fan is Thou shalt
follow thy bliss until the game is over.
There are rewards, small but
sweet, for this obedience. “Sleepy Time,” composed when the score seemed truly
hopeless, denotes whole seconds, in the Cap, of Quaker-meeting silence, seconds
that make precious the solitary sounds that ensue—a cough, a cry of
exhortation, the connection of bat and ball.  

Those silences and the sounds they celebrate
prepare us for the benedictory spectacle. The teams form two lines, walking
along each other in opposite directions, everyone on one side shaking the hand
of everyone on the other, victors and vanquished together, young men of summer
hinting at a furtive bond between opponents greater than the bond they share
with their fans. Then the teams retire into their separate clusters, to receive
words of criticism, condolence, or praise from their respective elders, and a
man seated on a little machine like a riding mower to which is attached a wire
mesh screen drives in circles around the wide base paths, perfecting them for
the next performance, and other groundskeepers cover the mound and the batting
area with tarps, securing them with sandbags that look like statues of geese,
and the dog named Sophie, a Cap resident for some fifteen years, frolics and
then comes to rest on the grass near first base, licking the pile of ice shaken
from a drink cooler.

One night, years ago, when I was living in Boston,
I lingered so long in the bleachers after a game at Fenway Park that I became
the only fan inside, so far as I could see, and there came this clicking, like
the click of a home breaker switch but a hundred times as loud, and the towering
lights went dark, and the famous field, lit by nothing but the Citgo sign and
the moon, was for a moment mine.  


I have never stayed
that long at the Cap. Perhaps I do not need to. Our field is mine when I arrive
an hour before the game, to watch the sun-parched base paths colored brown,
with water sprayed from a hose attached to a spigot in the ground behind the
mound.

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