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Things That Do No Harm

[3-minute read]

It’s a day for making lists. It’s June, after all.

Mind you, I could be writing about another especially brutal bomb in Kabul, or the abdication of ecological (or just plain logical) leadership by influential nations, or the special kind of impotent cowardice coupled with childish indignation that moves a hateful little human to scrawl hateful toilet-stall names on a rich black man’s apparently uppity home. But not today.

It’s a green day in June. I spent some time thinking – she made me do it, one of those gentle coaching shoves – about harmlessness, which apparently isn’t so far from cleanliness, or learning, or trees, or spirit. I’ve made a list of harmless things, which might even be worth less faint praise than that. Like:

+ Looking for new beginnings in all the untimely neighbourhoods. Such as, oh, June.

+ Walking among trees and alongside water.

+ Railway bridges, even where the trains are extinct.

+ Saying “good mornin’” to random bikers, walkers and drunks.

+ Wearing an old synthetic baseball jersey – still brightly white! – with a big ol’ 22 on the back, going way back to the last time I was a reasonable facsimile of an athlete.

+ Being one layer short on a morning-walk-that-shouldn’t-have-been-that-cool-‘cause-it’s-JUNE-fer-cryin’-out-sideways! I guess it’s chill to be chill, though.

+ Writing and saying things like “for crying out sideways” and “keep your eyes peeled for my phone” that confirm my status as a genuine relic of a bygone age. I’m a fossil.

+ Naps.

+ Roses as they fade. Untidiness. Dust on the mantle.

+ Believing in people.

+ Breezes in the treeses.

+ Twenty percent of my excess lard. (The remainder does harm my feelings.)

+ Forgetting, occasionally, that everything I might want to know is only a click away.

+ Saving money. Underrated: the frugality of small economies, even if scorned by belligerent teenaged opinionators who nevertheless would like a higher allowance.

+ Keeping my mouth shut, in cases of doubt.

+ Believing in God without piling on my neighbour, or random bikers, walkers and drunks.

+ Filling my gas tank before it’s down to the last drop.

+ Dandelions.

+ Deciding to procrastinate on visiting the candy aisle.

+ Reading with something approaching a plan, say, three or four weeks per year.

+ Caring about the lives of people I don’t know personally.

+ Refusing to allow that such a thing is inefficient or foolish.

+ A little extra time for meditation, or even just thinking about nothing. (Or humming old pop songs, but don’t overdo it.)

+ Boring stories of glory days¹. (Speaking of moderation.)

+ Opening up a notebook and writing by feel and by hand.

+ Flossing.

+ Preferences for glass jars, paper bags, iron pots and wooden-handled hoes.

+ Composting in the back yard.

+ Weeding before it’s strictly necessary.

+ Walking when no particular body that I know (i.e. mine) is willing or able to run.

+ Believing in the usefulness of belief.

+ Watching another NBA Finals game 1 instead of writing about racism, climate change or the miseries of Kabul.

+ Another blog entry.

Not such a bad list, after all.

¹ Give yourself a one-bite brownie if you recognized Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days”.

 

Triplet Homey Birthdays: Wise Guys!

[5-minute read.]
Some of my readers are family, but most of you won’t know who I’m talking about at all. You may think, Why should I read this? These people mean nothing to me. But I think they will. I suspect that you know gents kinda like these. Listen: they were good men. (One still is.)   

The end of July is reflection time – yeah hey, another one! Rumination. Ponderables. Wonderings and wandering attention, the occasional WHY and a whole posse of what-ifs. As July finishes baking, three sweet’n’sour birthdays follow one another, three days for three men that raised and sandpapered and marinated and confused and strengthened me. Do you know these guys, or men like ’em?

Today, my big brother is 6264. (Yikes! Nice math, Einstein!) We have the usual, the far-too-standard fraternal bond. We love the other guy but never mention it, unless you count the kind of merciless-but-never-toxic teasing that comes with confidence and a certain deep kind of knowing. We would do anything the other one asked, though we know he probably won’t request anything beyond a bed to sleep in or a pool table to move. We rarely call each other, and when we do there’s always a practical reason; we don’t write much, but are surprised at what a brother might say in an email and how good it feels to read it. Despite the obvious facts that we both love sport and are often more willing to explain things than some around us might prefer, I’ve always dwelt on noticing how different we are. I find myself chronically restless, incurably dissatisfied, and find Bill, my father’s namesake, eerily content. (I don’t believe in it, to be honest, but as the decades pile up, so does the evidence of his satisfaction. The guy seems to know what he likes and like what he knows! At a fundamental level, this strikes me as amazing. I can’t quite grasp it.) He’s a business man, good and smart with money, while I eagerly avoid thinking about cash and have most enjoyed work that mysteriously put monthly sums in my bank — or didn’t pay me at all. My brother signs cheques and legal documents with a painstaking, patient cursive signature where each letter is roundly formed. I practised a snazzy, jazzy penmanship designed to look good on the first page of the books I’ve never published and the autographs nobody asks for.

The longer I interact with the lying mirrors in my life, though, or actually listen to my own spoken rhythms, the more I’m forced to admit that we look and sound a lot alike. I still listen to music that he had fairly brief adolescent enthusiasms for, and well into adulthood have feverishly played (and later coached) sports that he taught me to play. I continue to dream of baseball; I presume he was my first pitcher and catch-and-throw partner, but it predates my conscious memory. (I do, however, bat from the opposite side of the plate than he did.) It was because of playing road hockey with him that I became a goaltender on ice. I had to learn not to lean to the right in shooting my first basketballs, once I’d gotten tired of being a slapshot target, because that’s the way he did it. Ask me to punt a football, and I’ll be inclined to slip off my shoe, since Bill hit his high boomers off a bare instep and I learned that way, too. Though I hit a golf ball only very rarely (and that from the goofy side of the tee), while Bill is an avid golfer, I have to admit that we’re more similar than I used to think.  I’ve spent a lot of time searching for brothers in my life. I think we all need brothers, and I’m glad, and still mighty curious, about the one that I was given. (Hello there!)

July 28, yesterday, marked the birth day of another guy who formed me.

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Boston Strong. So is Baseball. Radio Works.

I know, I know. It’s Friday. The World Series ended Wednesday night. We should forget about it as quickly as possible and get on to the next entertainment fix, just as we trash the orange and black from the malls and get the reindeer prancing and Santa selling. I beg to differ. (I stomp my feet and holler to differ.) I had an odd and possibly interesting view of the high baseball holy days from China, and here’s what some of it looked like. This is the third in my World Series Series (the first was here). 

 

“They are three outs away from winning the World Series, ” Dan Shulman suavely said into my earphones in Room 501. He’s a microphone pro, one of the best narrators in the world of sports, and though smooth  as always, a younger man’s glee at looming victory was tangible in his voice. (He’s also Canadian, I may have pointed out before, as is Jonah Keri, the author of this excellent recap of Boston’s road to victory. Mine’s a narrower, more idiosyncratic take, while Keri gets inside baseball as well as anybody I’ve read.) I was with Shulman and fellow commentator Orel Hershiser, plus tens of thousands of screaming BoSoxian crazies, and who knows how many eavesdroppers via ESPN Radio, but I couldn’t have been much more alone in my hunger for baseball.

501 is the Chinese teachers’ workroom in the small economics college of a thoroughly average university in northeastern China. There were no tacos, no high fives and no between-innings arguments. (For most of the hour or so I was there, there wasn’t even another human.) I hadn’t been able to find another foreigner with any baseball interest to share the “October Classic” with.

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A Distant World Series: What About the *Radio*?

Note: This post has been updated to reflect that I heard bits and random pieces of the radio broadcast of game 5, but mostly ESPN program notices. 

This became my plan for doing more than just reading recaps on the World Series games on a Chinese afternoon, that is, after I caught the best bits of the Cardinals’ game two World Series win on ESPN Radio. This solution never occurred to me in my ridiculous struggles to catch Game One or the first six innings of the second, more compelling game. Ortiz’s two-run shot for the Sox, followed next inning by the Cardinals running and daring themselves back into the lead. Epiphany! A return to yesteryear! Nostalgia becomes the solution to a technical problem! Mum and Dad had followed the Cleveland Indians this way in the ‘40s and ‘50s, and why not now? (Well, my bride did have to wave her hands in front of my face during that stretch of Game 2 – she wasn’t even hearing what had me day-dreaming of Fenway Park – as she tried to engage in a curious exercise she calls “planning”. That was Friday morning.) My iffy Internet connection had no trouble pulling down some good old-fashioned audio.

The added bit of sentimental pleasantness was the rich voice and baseball clarity of Dan Shulman doing the play-by-play, and not only because he’s a Canadian.

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MLB in China: You Can’t Be (World) Serious!

Well, it’s been another day in the life of the ex-pat athletic supporter…

I’ve been to one Chinese Basketball Association game up in Shenyang, my province’s capital, and that was a frosty Friday nearly three years ago. The word is that Dalian was once a national power in Chinese professional (soccer) football, and I really ought to get out to the stadium once before I’m back in Canada for good. I’m sure it would turn my athletic crank and shuffle my observation deck if I actually got out there, but I’m not a great expedition-planner and this would require some linguistic Sherpas. A guy with mornings free, which I sometimes am, can often pick up an NBA game on CCTV 5, the ESPN of China, but he can forget about hockey and baseball.

Tools of nostalgia, weapons of youth. I miss baseball.

Except that, try as I might, I can’t forget baseball. As a sports fan in China, I’m mainly a reader, and a big proportion of that textual wading is devoted to basketball, both splashy coverage of the American college and pro games, and homely black and white reports from the Canadian university scene. (And don’t forget NiuBball.com, for all the Chinese hoops news that’s fit to print in English!) I don’t often read about baseball, though, and when I do it’s an in-depth feature on an athlete or on some trend in the sport. Game results? Heck, 162 games times 30 teams (and by the way, the Jays stunk again this year) equals no friggin’ way. Gotta draw the line somewhere.

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The Luckiest Man on Earth

If you’re North American you likely know the story, or at least parts of it, even if you’re not a sports fan. Lou Gehrig was not, once upon a time, the name of a disease. He was the Iron Horse, one of the most lethal of the famed “Murderer’s Row” batting lineups of the New York Yankees of the 1920s and

Gehrig takes batting practice. What a swing he must have had!

‘30s. One day, an early part of the Gehrig story goes, the Yanks’ first baseman Wally Pipp needed a day off, and a young Gehrig filled in admirably. 2130 games (and 14 seasons) later, he asked to be taken out of the lineup in May of a strangely ineffective ’39 season, and within weeks had had confirmed a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), still known to many as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”. On July 4, 1939, Yankees fans were given their chance to say farewell. By 1941 – on the same date that he replaced Pipp on his way to becoming baseball’s greatest-ever first baseman – he was dead, days before his 38th birthday.

Gehrig was a two-time MVP, six times a World Series champion, a Triple Crown performer, and still

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Chad Harbach (on art and beauty and sport)

I just finished The Art of Fielding, a 2011 novel by Chad Harbach that centres on baseball but ranges widely (sometimes wildly) from Herman Melville to environmental activism to collegiate sexual mores to the nature of the life well-lived. I liked best its many meditations on the meaning of sport, and the pursuit of greatness in it. Here is one passage:

“The making of a ballplayer: the production of brute efficiency out of natural genius.

“For Schwartz, this formed the paradox at the heart of baseball, or football, or any other sport. You loved it because you considered it an art: an apparently pointless affair, undertaken by people with a special aptitude, which sidestepped attempts to paraphrase its value yet somehow seemed to communicate something true or even crucial about The Human Condition…, that we’re alive and have access to beauty, can even erratically create it, but will someday be dead and will not.

“Baseball was an art, but to excel at it you had to become a machine. It didn’t matter how beautifully you performed sometimes, what you did on your best day,how many spectacular plays you made. You weren’t a painter or a writer — you didn’t work in private and discard your mistakes, and it wasn’t just your masterpieces that counted. What mattered, as for any machine, was repeatability…”

Chad Harbach is a new writer to me. He is the co-founder a literary and cultural magazine called n+1, also new to me. He writes about baseball like Henry the Shortstop, his protagonist, fields ground balls: with grace, the occasional wow, and deep understanding.

He came into my line of sight rather pathetically: a student in my writing class in a Chinese university, hectored by me to find something fun/interesting/pleasurable to read in English rather than the stiff, classical and too damnedly difficult texts they typically have chosen for them, showed up with The Art of Fielding. She’d paid 77 yuan for the paperback, about 13 bucks, which was in a Chinese bookstore solely because it was a New York Times notable book. Her choice was a sad, bitter and completely unintentional joke on me and my sometimes absurd hopes for students, and nobody got the joke but me: not only is it a fine and rather literary novel, it’s about baseball. Ms. An hadn’t the faintest clue what the book was about, and hadn’t even bothered trying to begin it. I released her from this painful (or patently fake) fantasy of fiction reading, then borrowed the book, and have so far been unsuccessful in convincing her to allow me to pay her for it. (It’s great. It’s so laughably/pitiably far beyond the grasp of nearly any Chinese student, though not apparently a financial stretch for this one.)

 

E.L. Thayer (“Casey” Turns 125, Still no Joy in Mudville)

On June 3, 1888, the iconic American hymn to baseball, “Casey at the Bat”, was first published. Baseball is so old, and no sport has been written about so much or so well, at least not in North America. Basketball was still only a gleam in Mr. Naismith’s imagination when “Casey” came out, and obviously the game was already a major part of American consciousness, as this poem has also become. It’s a lovely thing to read (or to hear, if you follow the link above to one of its destinations), and is really well made and made to be memorized and recited — oh, for those seemingly long-gone days! Some of these phrases sing: “Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright / The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light…”

So here’s to the mighty Thayer, who apparently wrote little poetry besides this little piece of eternity, spun out when he was 25:

Casey at the Bat

by Ernest Lawrence Thayer

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to the hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, "If only Casey could but get a whack at that—
We'd put up even money now, with Casey at the bat."

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despisèd, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey's manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey's bearing and a smile lit Casey's face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt 'twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Casey's eye, a sneer curled Casey's lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped—
"That ain't my style," said Casey. "Strike one!" the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted someone on the stand;
And it's likely they'd have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey's visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;
But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, "Strike two!"

"Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered "Fraud!"
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn't let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey's lip, his teeth are clenched in hate,
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.

– See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15500#sthash.EIvjHJNK.dpuf

The World Serious: Game One

Just for fun, I’m going to not only watch Game One of the World Series tonight — it’s the Colorado Rockies against the Boston Red Sox, and it’s BASEBALL, a curious game played mainly in the U.S. and Latin America — but also write my urbane and knowing commentary on the whole she-bang. My site isn’t really well-equipped for this up-to-the-minute reporting, but my basic article will swell in volume, if not in perspicacity and wit, as the evening goes on.

You’ll find this in the It’s All About SPORTS!  section, though I’ll no doubt be ranting about the broadcast and the commercials and the fact that most of the alleged Red Sox won’t even have a red sock showing…

World Series Baseball: Game ON

8:16 p.m.

What a great television! Thanks, Wendy and Bernie!

It’s the 103rd “World Series” of baseball, named not for its global reach — though the game is getting more international — but because it was initially sponsored by a long-defunct newspaper called the New York Globe. (You could look it up, and I hope you will. Going Google-free tonight.)

The participating teams are proving that baseball is a sport that is the least reliable of all the North American major sports in having its “best team” win. After all, baseball is a marathon 162-game schedule, and the playoff series can end in a shorter period than an individual engagement with another team in-season. So here we are, with the Red Sox having come from behind in the American League championship series to win. No surprise here, really. Boston is a big-money team and dominated their division most of this season. However, Colorado had to win 14 out of their last 15 games just to qualify for a tie-breaker, and they have now won eight straight post-season games to take the National League title. Whoever is hottest at the end seems to be the team to watch…

8:24 p.m.

Who gets the National Anthem for Game One of the World Series? “The Pride of Boston, and the epitome of our culture, Maestro John Williams…” At the time when he first won an Oscar for the score to Indiana Jones, he was the conductor of the Boston Pops orchestra. So we had brass in the outfield instead of some brassy blonde. I approve.

Pre-game introductions highlighted by one of baseball’s specialties, a close-up shot of Boston manager Terry Francona launching a brown spurt of tobacco juice for the edification of all. Spitting is the thing. Country ball.

Actually, no. The true highlight, and no sarcasm here, is having Boston Red Sox icon Carl Yastrzemski throw out the ceremonial first pitch. (He bounced it to the plate. But he’s still a hero from my youth. I changed my batting stance as a 10-year-old in homage to his high-held bat. The last winner of the Triple Crown, in 1967.) Quite splendiferously cool to see the visiting Rockies lined up along their dugout’s top step to watch the great Hall of Famer demonstrate his old-man arm. And he’s so central to the Red Sox team’s painful mystique, as all his greatness and all those seasons never brought him to the Series championship. They didn’t break the so-called “Curse of the Babe” — they traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1492 or so and had never won the big one since until the 2004 exorcism.

8:44 p.m.

Wow, this Josh Beckett is all I’ve heard. The starting pitcher for the BoSox just threw bullets, nothing but fastballs in the high 90s to strike out three straight Rockies. Yikes. (That was 90 as in miles per hour. This may be the World Series, but we are in the Excited States of Anti-Metric Measurement.) But here comes the pride of Canada, the first Canuck to start as the pitcher of a Series game since Reggie Cleveland did in the mid-70s. Jeff Francis, a big left-hander with stuff and style.

8:50 p.m.

Wow. Runty little second baseman hits it out. Dustin Pedroia hit a big home run in the ALCS, too. Second batter Kevin Youkilis lines a double. David “Big Papi” (this reference to him is already getting annoying) Ortiz moves the runner over, and Manny Ramirez drills the first runner home. Not a good start for the Canadian.

8:58 p.m.

The black and purple/blue of the Rockies’ uniforms remind me of the cover to Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality album. Those little armless vests don’t work for me at all, especially with the guys showing off their guns with polyester long-sleeved undershirts. 3-0 at the end of one inning, and the Rockies would love for the rain to turn into a monsoon. One of the many things that make baseball a distinct game: it’s outdoors, and you can’t play it properly in anything more than the lightest of rains.

9:07 p.m.

The Rockies are going to need a second time through the order, after their eight days off, to catch up with Beckett. Four straight Ks now. Whoa! Why bother throwing the curveball? It results in a double that nearly went over the massive Green Monster, the left-field wall in Boston’s Fenway Park. Nice to see a park like Fenway in the World Series, not just a boutique field designed to evoke nostalgia for the days when baseball truly was the National Pastime.

Hey, and there’s my new shortstop hero, Troy Tulowitzki, ripping a double to get the Rockies on the board. (I was a fan, still am, of Khalil Greene of the San Diego Padres, though I haven’t seen him much; but hey, he belongs to the Baha’i Faith, and the minority religionists have to stick together.) Some of his teammates have been waving fairly helplessly, but two doubles in the bottom of the first may have broken the Beckett mystique, just a little. Baseball is, perhaps more than any other team sport, such a mental exercise. You most often can’t overcome poor play with hustle, effort, all that “old college try”. In true baseball-speak, you gotta try EASIER.  

9:37 p.m.

Lots of car commercials, of course. Boy toy night at the television. There was one that had, though, more than just jolting music and chaotic camera angles. There was actually an appeal to ideals and ethics, a frontal attack on our tendency to materialist impatience. But I can’t remember what the product was. Ah. I’m sure I’ll have another chance at it. It played, after all, twice in the first half-hour of the broadcast. And it’s raining hard now in Boston. Oh, oh…

9:51 p.m.

It’s the top of the fourth inning, less than halfway through the regulation ballgame, and all the young baseball fans in North America, at least in the Eastern Time Zone, should be long gone to dreamland. And this is one of many reasons that baseball is dying out in large parts of the continent. I used to race home from school to catch the end of Series games that started in the afternoon. Money, money, money. Seven Ks for Beckett in four innings. Nice. (“K” is the baseball scorebook symbol for a strikeout. Boston fans have been provided with “K” placards by a local radio station. This being the Series, they may not require JumboTron appeals to “Make noise” and “Clap your hands!” I am ever an optimist.)

10:12 p.m.

Canada’s Pitcher just escaped the fourth inning, but there’s another crooked number on the Red Sox scoreboard. (The occasional one run doesn’t always hurt, but those bent numerals…) Francis may be done for the night, in which case he will continue one of the odd little facts that litter, even more than they always have in baseball, this number-crazy game: no Canadian has ever been the winning pitcher in a Series game. A nice little piece of conversation about Francis a couple of innings ago: born in Vancouver, named for a legendary Montreal Canadiens star (Jeff for Geoffrion, nicknamed “Boom Boom” as the hard-shooting Hab also was). And never learned to skate. So the American broadcast duo has a little fun with that, but I’m thinking What? You name AND nickname your kid after a hockey star and never let a good little athlete play the game? Not that every Canadian boy has to be a hockey head — none of my four have, although the youngest gets outdoor hockey in Canada’s cold capital’s outdoor rinks — but there’s a parental oddity there that I’d like to know more about.  

The rain has eased, and now the necessary five innings to make the game official are in the book. All Red Sox. More of those little ballcaps with the old-fashioned ‘B’ on them will be adorning male heads all over the continent.

10:40 p.m.

And my attention is wandering. Past my bedtime. But I can watch Manny Ramirez, one of the oddest-looking great athletes ever, hit. Three hits tonight. Everybody knows a hitter has to keep his head down on the ball, but he’s perfect. Wow. A flaky dude, a chaotic and sometimes even incompetent outfielder, but what a hitter. (Okay, perfect? Sorry. My error. Had he been a left-hand hitter, now then he’d be perfect.) Just detected another Howden error: Red Sox captain Jason Varitek does indeed wear the traditional knee-high knickers and tall red stockings. (I lost it in the sun.)

10:56 p.m.

12-1. Fifth inning. Another Colorado relief pitcher. I need a relief bloggist.

11:02 p.m.

The Red Sox are still up, now 13-1, and they’ve finally gotten the 3rd out of a 5th inning that seemed to have started yesterday. Cameras just caught a shot of writer Stephen King in a rain poncho, reading a magazine. You may have heard of his novel The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. Okay, I haven’t read it either, but Gordon was a Red Sox pitcher with a fine curveball, as I recall. Naturally, he was called “Flash”. And here’s another one of those things about baseball: no sport has been written about better. There are lots of short stories, a few fine novels and tonnes of creative documentary writing about the game. It’s the only game, I used to joke — and I love baseball — that’s more interesting to talk about than to play. Almost true.

Macho guitars and turbo-charged video about a minivan from Toyota; at the end is slipped in the printed fact that it has the best fuel efficiency among grocery-getters. Not hard to see that peak oil hasn’t entirely penetrated North American consciousness. And then comes the ad for recreational gas-guzzling, the Polaris ATV.

11:26 p.m.

Wendy and Bernie just got home. They’re the guys with the three televisions, any one of which is at my disposal when my lust for sport cannot be sated by radio or on-line reports the next morning.

Just when I thought there was nothing more to say, here comes Ashanti singing “God Bless America” as the since-9-11 7th inning stretch song of choice. No more taking anybody out to the ballgame. Patriotism. Bowed heads. (An echo, of course, of the U.S. Air Force fly-by to punctuate “The Star-Spangled Banner”. Bowed heads and blood lust. Ooh. Did I just say that?) The extreme patriotism of Americans has always been an irritant to me, Canada having traditionally been a little quieter about our national pride (except certain hockey blowhards). We’re getting a little more vociferous, in our reserved Scottish way, and I wince about it sometimes. Our pride is not mainly based on military might, so I feel less compromised about our occasional chest-thumping. But the attachment of national glory to every single athletic contest? I mean the solemnity of l’hymne nationale before each game beyond high school. Surely this is a tradition that, if it weren’t so deep and patriotism such an American article of faith, would have long outlived its usefulness. And to add the alternative national anthem for a mid-game bit of national self-importance is sickly sweet icing upon a cake that’s past its best-before date. I wanted to paste my favourite little bumper sticker over Wendy and Bernie’s TV: God Bless ALL The Nations.

And on in relief for the Red Sox is Mike Timlin. Mike Timlin? He’s still living? He was relieving for the Blue Jays last millennium, for goodness’ sake. And speaking of great relievers, the other Canadian chucker won’t likely get off the bench for the Red Sox. Whither the Eric Gagné of old, he of the unhittable Dodgers closeouts? Hard not to be a bit suspicious about how he fuelled his earlier exploits, but maybe he’s just old. I know that feeling.

12:02 a.m.

Sheesh. Error number three for the typist. Gagné is in, but this IS, after all, a twelve-run ballgame. We’re finally in the ninth inning. We’ll soon be home. And my current favourite name just made the catch for the Sox in centre field: yes, friends, Coco Crisp is in the game as a defensive replacement.

12:07 a.m.

Big Eric closes the game with a strikeout. Yawn. Zoom, zoom, zoom. More car sales. Time to jump into my car.