I knew the Giants had a lead in the series against the Braves and would either win it tonight or be tied and have to return to San Francisco to play again with Tim Lincecum pitching there Thursday. I watched the last three innings. I don't watch baseball much, but I've been reading the sports page. I wanted to see what the game looks like now.
I saw the players chewing furiously on things and spitting bits of those things out while they stared intently off camera. I watched the team managers, older men with large paunches, walking out to pat the pitchers on the butt or talk and spit with them on the pitcher's mound and walk back again. I heard the cheerleading PA system blaring a tom-tom drumbeat and saw fans with big red puffy hatchets waving them back and forth like railroad signals. They chanted on cue and stood up to yell. There were a lot of big sweating American men and women screaming and yelling earnestly and loudly, waving signs, wearing Braves hats mostly and team colors.
The television announcers recapped every move, used special yellow arcs to show again and again the path of the pitch. There were dozens of replays of every catch, every tag, every swing, every throw from angle upon angle, down low, up high, overhead, and everything in between to analyze and examine every last twitch and scratch of every player on the field. Nothing escaped scrutiny and analysis.
The Giants won. Another series begins soon to determine who moves on to the final level of championship prowess, the world series. The men on the Giants' team hugged one another, grinned, slapped shoulders, hit backs, and howled loudly, smiling and laughing. All the players were allowed into a special champagne-spraying room that was hung all around with plastic. Players ran into it, were handed large bottles of champagne and sprayed it over each other and throughout the room while they howled and embraced. They carefully dropped their emptied champagne bottles into blue plastic waste bins and found more champagne to spray.
I thought back to the World Cup soccer matches when I watched players race madly in circles on the field when they won, hugging, piling up, leaping into each other's arms with wild abandon. Baseball players trot and then stand still, chew rapidly and spit. They look like they are going to have a stroke.
Big, large strong men, some of them very fat, wearing the traditional baseball uniforms played a carefully groomed game. There were telephones, headsets, special gloves and gear that players wore. All angles of movement, play possibilities and batting stances, trained into their bodies for years and years, were watched by the thousands cheering and yelling. Players earn millions of dollars, receive catered extravagance at every turn, providing surprise and no surprise at all. Wild pitches were balanced by prompted cheers. Big swings of large bats were balanced by quickly edited replays of the same swings from four directions.
In spite of the appearance of luxuriously equipped players and their support crews, I imagined a few thousand people in the high seats of the stadium who have followed the ups and downs of their team perhaps for all their lives, perhaps even for generations before, who keep score cards and stats and for whom their team endures the storms of glory and ignominy.
Baseball is different up there, for those folks, the ones who only ever come as close to opulence as the nosebleed seats at large stadiums, once a season or so. Baseball players are big and fat so those guys way up there can see them. They swing big, and the guys in the cheap seats can feel the fan of the bat. Way out there in the weeds, where real life is going on, lives the game of baseball, one much more modest in scope and size but still big in the hearts of its fans.
Causes Christine Bottaro Supports
The Nature Conservancy, California State Parks, The United Way