Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sounds Of The Game




Fast Freddy Goodman shows us what goes into ballpark hot dogs

In general, getting older has not meant much to me. That is, I haven’t had too many age-related complaints so far. Sure, I gripe about the world in general as much as any old fart, but it’s not because I find myself falling apart in any of the myriad ways usually associated with aging. It’s just that modern life sucks spectacularly, in some respects, when compared to the relatively recent past. My bleating is usually confined to bemoaning the loss of some part of the outside world rather than some part of me. However, there is one physical loss that I really am sad about, and that's the loss of my eagle-like eyesight.

When I was a kid, I had 20-15 vision. That meant I could see at 20 feet what most others had to be within 15 feet of to see clearly. Ted Williams, the great slugger for the Red Sox, was said to have had 20-10 vision, and I figured if he could hit .406 with his vision, and ‘normal’ folks hit .270 with their crummy 20-20 vision, then it was reasonable to assume I would split the difference and hit about .337 in the majors. That did not turn out to be the case, but I was consistently able to read billboards and street signs from up to a city block farther than when they’d come into focus for my friends. Outside of sports, there was little practical use for such a skill (unless I had pursued a career as a sniper) but it did come in very handy in one way that personally gratified me. I’d buy a seat in the bleachers at Fenway Park and view the game as easily as the folks who paid twice as much to watch it from the grandstands. The action being 500 feet away presented no hindrance to my enjoyment.

I mention this because, a few weeks ago, I found myself in the right field grandstands at Fenway with my friend, Fast Freddy Goodman, and I couldn’t see shit. Even when I put on my glasses (which I had never had a need for until the age of 47) I still wasn’t able to see things as sharply as when I was a kid. The glasses only correct to 20-20.

Of course, being in the right field seats at Fenway is no bargain for seeing a game under the best of circumstances. Most of the seats face approximately toward second base, necessitating always turning your head to the left in order to see home plate (and then you’re looking through about 8,000 heads in front of you, so you can’t see it anyway.) Since I couldn’t really watch the game in any way that afforded me pleasure, I sat back and listened to it. And (here comes the old-fart-bitching portion of our program) it sucked. You can’t hear even a tiny portion of the actual game these days. No crack of the bat; no ball thwacking into the catcher’s mitt; no "Strike!" or "Out!" or "Safe!" from the umpire. Every aural space is filled with hideous music, canned crowd chants, superfluous announcements from the P.A. system, advertising noise accompanying the video scoreboard, and, on top of those annoyances, most of the fans are attempting to hold conversations by shouting at one another over the general cacophony. The only fans not talking to each other are the self-important dickheads on their cell phones calling home to ask if they’re on camera (and, as far as I’m concerned, bringing a cell phone into a ball park should be punishable by having a flaming hot Fenway Frank shoved up each of your nostrils. As a matter of fact, that would be funny enough to get me to hand out cell phones at the gate to the unsuspecting. And I’d pay for the franks, too.)

At what point did sporting events themselves become not enough to hold a patron’s attention?

When I was a kid, the only sounds at a ballpark - at Fenway, in any case - not coming from the game itself were player introductions by Sherm Feller and the organ playing of John Kiley. Had cell phones been around then, and someone had had the temerity to pull one out and make a call during the game, the fans in that section probably would have grabbed the thing and shoved it up his ass while Kiley played a rousing rendition of "The Mexican Hat Dance". Had anyone tried to start The Wave, they would have been carted away to the Massachusetts Home For The Terminally Bewildered.

Certain people I am acquainted with – Hi, Daryl! – find baseball a hideous bore. I always used to counter such complaining by saying that baseball is the thinking man’s game, and if you find it boring, well, it’s not because the game is stupid. Now I have to acknowledge that argument as being false. There is absolutely no way for anyone to even begin to think at a baseball game these days. As soon as any sort of cogent thought begins to form in your head, it’s time for a sausage race, or time to guess tonight’s attendance, or time to sing Sweet Caroline, for God’s sakes (although I do have to admit to getting a certain perverse pleasure from imagining some visitor from out of town hearing 35,000 Sox fans singing a Neil Diamond tune and trying to fathom why. The fact that there is no good reason is what makes it an especially entertaining thought.)

The ball park – any ball park – used to be a pastoral place, green and relaxing, where you could watch a ballgame unfold while enjoying a bit of sun and the ambiance peculiar to the sport. If the game went four hours, or went into extra innings, or – pleasure of pleasures! – you attended a doubleheader, so much the better. That was just more enjoyment. Now, however, the "baseball is too slow!" crowd, their charge led by the cretins at FOX, has seized the day. They've done their damnedest to turn major league baseball into football. What they've succeeded in doing is to make attending a game something much less than pleasurable for fans from a generation or two previous; neither a thinking game nor a game of constant adrenalin rush, but some hybrid monstrosity of sport containing not enough of either to satisfy.

Despite my moaning, baseball IS still the thinking man’s sport. It’s just that you have to do your thinking at home with the sound turned down on your TV (or, better yet, with the game on your radio, where you often can use your imagination to create any ballpark and any era you like.) Actually being at the ballpark, these days, is good for getting drunk on lousy beer and stuffing your gullet full of questionable food choices. That used to be only part of the experience, but now it is the best part of it. What a shame. For me, ticket prices have gone through the roof and entertainment value has plummeted to the sub-basement. I’m sure mileage varies tremendously for most baseball fans as shown by ever-increasing attendance figures. For me, though, I think my last baseball game at Fenway may have been my last baseball game at Fenway. I loved the company – Fast Freddy is always a kick to be with – but I can’t imagine subjecting myself to that experience again.

(Of course, if you invite me to a World Series game, I’ll accept. I may be crotchety, but I’m not totally insane.)

Soon, with more better stuff.

P.S. Some real ballplayers, The Bombers, finally resume play this Sunday. I'll have a wrap-up of that action come Tuesday (I'm taking Monday off.) See you then.


34 comments:

Matt Conlon said...

My eyes started giving me grief about anything that's further than 10 feet away a few years ago. I attribute it to years of working on computers... Very frustrating.

Jazz said...

Look at the bright side, at least once upon a time you could see. But then of course, having had the eagle eyes, it must be all that much worse to join the rest of us mortals.

Uncle Skip, said...

"...flaming hot Fenway Frank shoved up each of your nostrils."

What a waste of a frank.

I also lament a certain loss of vision, some of which can be chalked up to aging, the rest to stupidity on my part.
I could hear better if this hair wasn't growing out of my ears.

Later this summer I will be attending my first major league game in about 15 years... unless you count the Twins - Yankees game last July. I won't because we were in one of those suites somewhere near center field at the Hubert Dome during Dollar Dog Night or some other silly promotion. Anyway, My cousin, our wives and I are going to a Giants - Cubs game at the relatively new [none of us has been there yet] ballpark.
When I listen to the occasional game I remember hearing Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons call the play by play. Now it's John Miller and some former players. I'd listen more often if any of the local stations carried the games... and I could get rid of the hair in my ears.

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

"I went to Fenway Park . . . and couldn't see shit."

What, David Ortiz wasn't playing that night?

*rimshot*

Anyway, I see what you're saying about the MLB experience. Go to a game in Anaheim someday and try to deal with their friggin' Rally Monkey.

Still, it's the best game in the world. I go to a lot of minor league games, and that's always a blast. The single A California League is a decent brand of ball, and you're right there on the field, practically.

Eva Gallant said...

I've never been to Fenway, and since even with glasses I'm sure I don't have 20/20, I'll settle for watching the games at home on our 42" screen TV. I love the closeups of the players faces, the instant replays, the "window" that shows where the pitch actually went, and all else that goes with it. I guess I'm not what you'd call a traditional fan, but I only really became a fan half a dozen years ago, and I'm coming up on my 66th birthday in August.

slommler said...

I have to say that you are right on! Baseball has become an advertising mecca!! And what is with the t-shirt gun??? Ack!!
It really is a shame...is used to be so entertaining.
Now we go and watch the locals play and at least that is close to the real thing. But they still have those damn t-shirt guns!!
Oh and who can forget the hot dog races??
Ha!
Hugs
SueAnn

Carolina said...

Why is Tom Selleck holding a fish?

I know that in the Netherlands there are football stadiums who have special seats for the blind and they have special commentators to describe to them what's happening ;-)

Oh, and I'm all for the idea of 35,000 people singing 'Sweet Caroline'. That would be lovely.
;-)

I know an even better tune they could sing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MAtltZAlN4&feature=related

Craig said...

Jen and I both made it to 50 with uncorrected vision, which put us in pretty selective company. Actually, that's not quite true; I got myself a pair of glasses around my 40th birthday, because I was sitting in a darkened meeting room, and some guy put up a slide with 0.1-font financial numbers on it, and I couldn't read 'em. But I think I've actually worn my glasses three times. . . Night driving in the rain (high-contrast, high-glare) can be a hassle, but mostly, I'm fine. Altho, I notice that I don't handle the 'transitions' as well as I used to. I can drive (distance-focus) just fine on my unaided eyes, and I can read (close-focus) just fine, but if you make me read something two minutes after a long drive, it doesn't work so well. . .

And man, I hear you re the ballgames. We have a minor-league team in our town, and I'll go to a game from time to time, but (especially on 'promotional nights') the damn kids only want to do the damn Wave, even while the game's going on! One of these days, I'm just gonna smack somebody, and yell, "Sit the hell down! I'm tryin' to watch the game!"

Michelle H. said...

Old fart? Sigh... whatever.

I had strayed from watching baseball for a long time. It wasn't the atmosphere of the place. Merely a girl entering her teens and losing the heart.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

You are not old, my friend...do not insist upon that or you will drag me into old age as well! Humph!

As for the game? Yes, it certainly has been touched by the Hollywood crowd...sigh...But it is still a great game...

Very funny post, Jim...Thanks for the big, big grins...Hugs, Janine

Teacher's Pet said...

Yep...the shape of the eye does change as we get 'older' (is that word allowed?).. :))..and things aren't what they seemed to be 'before'...
As for the sounds at the game...well, the hearing will be the next thing to probably go. I can attest to both....
Your posts bring smiles to me. The smiles seem to be forever ones!
Hugs to you, Jim...
Jackie

TechnoBabe said...

I moved from San Diego two years ago. While there I was a season ticket holder for many years. So I was a dedicated Padre fan and knew the stadium and had great World Series tickets there and participated in the welcoming in the new ball park downtown. I think it is the same at all ball parks, price out of the roof for tickets and for the food there, so noisy you can't enjoy the game. You sound like an old fart who knows what you are talking about on this one.

Joan said...

My Dad always puts the mute on when watching baseball games on TV. He likes to watch and think himself instead of listening to the announcers. I would walk in the room and see him staring at the TV and wonder what he was doing. Until I saw what he was seeing. :)

IT said...

I got beat to the Selleck comment.
There isn't a punishment sever enough for those who think their cell phone is THAT important. Well, maybe a taser up the @$$. I remember when the P.A. announcer would only announce a batter the first time they came to bat, not every time. The only other sounds heard over the P.A. system were special announcements which were few and far between and organ music ...not farts, but they real musical kind.

why is my verification word packfu?

Hilary said...

Frank has been suggesting that we attend a Jays game sometime this summer. Considering my lack of interest in the sport to begin with, you're not making a great case for it. ;)

Sorry you were disappointed, Sully. I know that had to be a letdown for you.

i beati said...

interesting ut I bet I will test it and find it to be true this sounds theory . I know I love every sport and can never get enough.sk

Cricket said...

Yep. We've talked about this before. I have the same problem with Schaefer/Sullivan/Gillette. No, thanks.

Give me McCoy Stadium and the PawSox for pure enjoyment. Cheap tickets, cheap concessions, free parking. Easy in, easy out. You can see the game and everything. There's even a lawn section where you can spread out a blanket and whatnot. What's not to love?

You even get to see the big boys sometimes: Youk, Schilling, Papi... I've seen 'em all play there. Usually recovering from an injury, but still.

If there's a downside, I can't see it.

Suldog said...

To touch on something Carolina said:

I've had friends who were blind, and I especially bemoan the loss to them. It used to be that a blind person would go to a game and be able to soak in the sounds, really experience it. Now, all they'd hear would be loud music and advertisements and the other distractions. A real shame.

Suldog said...

I really could give more comments on all of the great comments here, but feel I must at least give one more, to Joan:

The other thing I didn't touch upon - because I complained enough already - was how even the broadcasts have been made lesser by the amount of commercials that are read DURING the play-by-play. They don't even have the decency to wait until the inning is over now.

"This pitch is brought to you by Superfit Gyms. It's a curveball, strike one. Ladies, if you want YOUR curves to be striking, go to Superfit!" - ad nauseum.

Suldog said...

And one more...

Cricket, Knucklehead, and Craig (sounds like a boy band for teen girls who aren't quite right...) speak of the minor league experience. Specifically, Cricket mentions McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, RI, and that truly is a great place to take in a game. Very friendly, less raucous, good quality of ball, relatively inexpensive, and MY WIFE says they have the best french fries IN THE WORLD.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Nothing like good ol' baseball...'specially here in LSU Tiger Country! :)

Buck said...

Ah, I loves me a good rant about This Modern World. While there are Good Things aplenty (like these inner-nets I'm typing on right now) so many other Good Things have been lost. Forever.

Just last evening I worked myself into a minor snit because I couldn't end a damned fine meal with coffee, cognac, and a cigar in the frickin' restaurant. Nope. Had to go home, pour my own, cut my own, and enjoy both (without the coffee - I have my limits) on the verandah. Ah, well. We have our memories of Better Days.

Ananda girl said...

That is so sad! Messes up the antisipation. I agree about the cells.

Ananda girl said...

Oops. Goofed up my last line. It was supposed to go... I agree about the cells... Frank 'wm!

Anonymous said...

Damn Good Lookin Fish!!!

FFG

Shammickite said...

I'm going to a Jays game next week.... but I'm definitely not going to eat one of those questionable ball park hot dogs. I may consume one of those watery beers though.

Kathryn Magendie said...

I have had crappy eyesight since I was a kid - thank gawd for contacts! . . . 20-15 vision! can't even imagine it....

Ruth and Glen said...

Hope you had a phenomenal extended weekend and The Bombers won.

Moannie said...

Come on Jim, I have twentyfive years on you, been wearing glasses for the last thirty and I see what I need to. What is sadder is that you are finding the commercialization of your beloved sports too much for you now...when there was a time that it passed you by...now THAT shows your age.

Still, if it means another savagely funny post from you that's good enough for me.

DJ Big Mick said...

This is the perfect time for me to remind you about the Old Time Baseball Game! St Peter's Field in Cambridge, MA on Wed 8/25 this year. Plenty of lawn, bleachers behind home plate... and Johnny Pesky usually shows up to "manage" one of the teams. Check out their website at http://www.oldtimebaseball.com/
Maybe I'll see you there this year?

George said...

I had to take a physical for work the other day. I thought my eyesight was outstanding, but for some reason, whenever I closed one of my eyes, the other one abandoned me. I couldn't see squat. P's and F's looked like twins. But with both eyes together, I can read for a mile down the road. Go figure.

Your post has got me wishing for those glory days that you are referring to. :)

Maggie May said...

I was 10 when I got extremely shortsighted. Still am. Guess I always will be. Now I need varifocals.........sigh.


So whats wrong with the World Cop then? Do you really need baseball?
Maggie

Nuts in May

Angela Christensen said...

Okay, away (as I said to Michelle H.) for one tiny week and I come back to find you... making me laugh my head off, as usual. Only in this case, I had to read your post out loud to my husband, who was, like you, a youthful eagle-eye who now finds himself needing glasses for everything. Because I started wearing glasses when I was about 10, it doesn't bother me as much, but I can tell you this: when I was serving as a Little League scorekeeper (sitting right behind the plate most of the time) I wore my glasses almost always; the close, fast stuff requires no risk-taking. (Besides, keeping score means switching from deep-right-field vision to backstop-to-plate vision. But who doesn't love that??) Thanks, as always, Suldog.

Jeni said...

Reading this post makes me so very envious of your vision! I've worn glasses since I was 12 years old -always been very near-sighted and by the time I was 17-18, my vision in my right eye was a big fat 200 -a far cry from the 20 of most folks my age. I can't remember EVER having 20-20 vision although I suspect at some time in my early life I may have had good vision. Today, my vision is even worse and I have no clue what the reading is today -just know about the only thing I can with either eye on the chart is the big E!