Rituals OR A Little Silver Beacon of News

Stinky and I have been having a tough time watching the Twins play of late (bad signals, crossed wires, recalcitrant bartenders, etc.), so we can't quite give a break down on the merits of Plouffe V. Casilla or Rivera V. Revere, but we can tell a little story about why we love the game. Last night, as the Minnesota 9 concluded their series in Boston, we were out to eat with Nick, a friend of mine from Bowling Green, and through it all Stinky used her blackberry, to scratch that baseball itch.

To be sure, the blackberry does not exactly give you the same feeling that attending a game or watching it on TV does. It looks about like the symbol at the right. Green blobs for balls, red ones for strikes and always the same little man in his spotless, white uniform waiting for the pitch he wants. We huddle around this little screen and sigh, and shake our heads and hope against hope that when the Twins bat there will be little blue dots labeled: "In play run(s)".

It wasn't until Nick was there that I realized we might look a little silly to the outside observer. To the uninitiated (like Nick) we seem almost mad, pleading for a little silver beacon of news to justify our faith and reward our patience. If you aren't a baseball fan, it seems odd: "why let something like that consume your life?"

Well (I reasoned to Nick), it probably has something to do with the rituals of baseball in general and being a fan in particular. More than any other sport, baseball players feel the need to establish a specific series of motions or gestures before they swing or pitch or catch the ball. I know that Joe Nathan's going to do at least two horse flutters with his lips before he throws a pitch. I know that Delmon Young's going to wag his tongue when he starts his swing. When you play the game you have to have repeatable mechanics to have consistent success.

When you're a fan you often feel the same way. I hold my breath during double plays. Other people I know wear lucky shirts well past the point of sanitation, or have their own rally postures (one of my relatives puts a purse on top of their head). Going to the ballpark itself is even more of a ritual. You sing specific songs to mark the progress of the game: "The Star Spangled Banner" pre-game; "We're Gonna Win Twins" when they take the field; "Take me Out to the Ballgame" in the 7th; "It's a Beautiful Day/We're Gonna Win Twins" after a victory. You take your meal at the time that feels right (I always try to wait for the 3rd inning for peanuts and a dog/pulled-pork sandwich, and a frozen lemonade for dessert in the 8th). You clap, you jump, you cheer as the situation arises. And the next time you go to a game, you'll do it again.

But what I find most impressive of all is how we share the rituals of the ball game. A banker and a bricklayer cheer at the same time, a schoolteacher and a supermarket cashier sing simultaneously. I love how we share these rituals, how we connect through the act of watching a game and being fans. So, huddling over the top of Stinky's phone (even as the Red Sox ruined a perfectly good comeback attempt) was something I loved to do and something I guarantee that I will do again. To some it might seem like baseball consumes my life, but I think that it keeps me connected to the rituals of a larger community. And it let's me do something I love every single day. Even when we lose, sharing that with all of y'all makes it a pleasure to watch the game.

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