FanPost

"Limey’s Lament" ...How We Maintain Our Baseball Obsession

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, they say. But when we are “far from the madding crowd,” to use Thomas Hardy’s phrase, does that make us less “fond,” less fervid in our desire to partake in the things which ignite strong feelings within us, like our passion for our favorite sports teams?

In terms of baseball, it wasn’t that long ago when it used to be so difficult to really participate as a fan in a team’s activities when we were far removed from said team. Of course, now, in this post-modern instant-gratification techno-age, what with the internet, MLB.com, sports blogs, YouTube, Twitter, satelite TV, DVR’s, we can instantly enthrall ourselves in the omniscient flow and tide of everything baseball—watching the ninth inning on the insanely-tiny portal of our Iphone, for Jeebus’ sake.

As a kid growing up on the shores of Connecticut in the 60’s, I remember how I would attach myself to my little transistor radio: nestled tight to my ear, like some sacred squawking relic, I would sit, mesmerized with HOF-er Phil Rizzuto’s play-by-play from the current game at Yankee stadium. Here I was less than two hours from the Big Apple and I might as well have been 2000 miles away. There were no games on TV. [Pause] That’s right; well, virtually no games on “the tube” whatsoever. Dinosaurs roamed the planet. No, not even--B-52’s were pummeling Hanoi 10,000 miles away with million dollar ordnance, and we couldn’t get a fucking baseball game on TV!

Suburban Connecticut, and we had only 6 channels—that is if that rusted contraption on the roof could pull them all in. And as the cartoon in the New Yorker the other day put it, “We had to walk five miles just to change the channel!” Six freaking channels and they rarely showed the Yanks or ANY baseball for that matter. Every morning I would scour the Herald Tribune for the latest news, pictures, stats—such as they were. There were no “vid bites” to be seen repeatedly anywhere. I would cut out pictures from the paper and stick them to the wall—those were my vid bites. My favorite was a yellowing epic shot of Yank’s ace Mel Stottlemeyer in ’66 sliding into home as he scored on an inside-the-park grand slam. Can you imagine? A pitcher! We’re lucky if our starting catcher slaps a bouncer through the hole at second for a single, let alone a freaking grand slam home run.

But did that make us any less of a fan because we couldn’t plug into a vast 21st-century-type baseball matrix? Of course not. Nevertheless, there was—and still is—a sense of frustrating removed-ness—a distancing, if you will, when we weren’t (or aren’t) near or able to access our team visually, or speak of them with other kindred spirits, or somehow participate in all that is baseball.

 

Baseball is a sport of distances: the field itself, with its vast reaches and perfect green pastoral panoply, its gigantic towering bat-crushed home runs, its 477-foot Trumbombs and Reggie blasts. What sport carries such gravitas in its measured distances? Perhaps, most importantly, are the distant places from which the sport is still revered world-wide, despite lack of any instant contact. In these distant places, we long for news, we thrive in those moments of sudden baseball connectedness with fellow distant baseball fanatics.

 

Classic cultural artifacts like our literature often convey this sensibility: worship and veneration, and the need to know from afar. We remember the “old man” talking to “the boy” in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea:

                        “I’ll get the net and go for sardines. [Said the boy] Will you sit in the                            sun in the doorway?”

                        “Yes. I have yesterday’s paper and I will read the baseball.”

                        The boy did not know whether yesterday’s paper was a fiction too.             

                        But the old man brought it out from under the bed. . . .

                        “I’ll be back when I have the sardines. . . . When I come back you can tell  

                           me about baseball.”

                        “The Yankees cannot lose.”

                        “But I fear the Indians of Cleveland.”

                        “Have faith in the Yankees my son. Think of the great DiMaggio.”

                        “I fear both the Tigers of Detroit and the Indians of Cleveland.”

                        “Be careful or you will fear even the Reds of Cincinnati and the White 

                           Sox of Chicago.” (1952)

Can you imagine anyone fearing the White Sox of Chicago? But seriously, notice the religious sensibility here: the paper with baseball news like a religious tome stashed under the bed, the “faith” that one must have and does have in one’s team; the idolatry in the honored revered player, in this case, the legendary Joe DiMaggio; the “fear” of  the other teams, dark forces of Indians and Tigers.

 

Or of Hemingway’s Nick Adams discoursing on baseball with his friend Bill “far from the madding crowd” out in Horton’s Bay, in “The Three Day Blow”:

                        “Got anything to read?” [Nick] asked.

                        “Only the paper.”         

                        “What did the Cards do?”

                        “Dropped a doubleheader to the Giants.”

                        “That ought to cinch it for them.”

                        “It’s a gift,” Bill said. As long as McGraw can buy every good ballplayer          

                            in the league there’s nothing to it.” [Ah, a Steinbrenner prototype]

                        “He can’t buy them all,” Nick said.

                        “He buys all the ones he wants,” Bill said. “Or he makes them discontented so they

                            have to trade them to him.”

                        “Like Heinie Zim,” Nick agreed. [Heinie Zim?]

                        “That bonehead will do him a lot of good.” [50’s version of Vernon Wells?]

                        [ . . . ] “He can hit,” Nick offered. The heat from the fire was baking                   

                            his legs. [Ok, NOT an early version of Vernon Wells…]

                        “He’s a sweet fielder too,” Bill said. “But he loses ball games.”

                        “Maybe that’s what McGraw wants him for,” Nick suggested.

                        “Maybe,” Bill agreed.

                        “There’s always more to it than we know about,’ Nick said.

                        “Of course. But we’ve got pretty good dope for being so far away.” (1933)

 

That’s the trouble with distance fanship—we DON’T usually get “pretty good dope” on our teams when we are “so far away.” And that is what’s so great about the internet for us now—“Halo’s Heaven,” 24/7. But in the days of yore (the first 100 years of baseball?), it was old newspapers hidden under the bed, gossip, hearsay, legendary tales. Were there baseball fans in Shakespeare’s day, it might have gone something like this:  

                        {Messenger} “Doubless [they] stood, as two spent swimmers that do cling together and choke their art. The merciless Pierzynski (worthy to be our hated foe, for the multiplying villainies of nature do swarm upon him) from the White Stockings of Chicago . . . showed like a rebel’s whore. But all’s too weak; for brave Weave (well he deserves the name) disdaining fortune, with his brandished slider, which smoked with bloody execution, (like’s valor’s minion) carved out his passage when he faced the slave; which never shook hands, nor bade farewell to him, till he unseam’d him from the nave to the chops, with a wicked two- seamed fastball, and struck him out with the bases loaded.”

                        {Duncan} “O valiant Weave, worthy Halo!” (from Macbeth I.II. 7-24)

 

These days, many of us—like the Old Man, like Nick Adams—live far from the madding Halo crowd, scattered about like so much red-tinged Halo flotsam. We are indeed fortune’s minions in having HH to enhance our Halofan obsession: to join in celebration, to argue the merits of trades and TrAdition, to lament our current abysmal suckery, to clown with, debate with, share life moments; to share being fans of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

 

In closing I’d like to offer a poll (similar to one posted last season); but first, just one more bit of Raaddad nonsense, if you can bear with me a moment longer: a sort of festive revisioning of a pop rock classic which may capture to some extent the angst of being a distant Halo fan.

 

“Limey’s Lament’ [Sung to “Englishman in New York,” and with apologies to “Limey”)

                        {for original composition, go Here}

 

            Hang out in pubs here, and all they chat about

            Is Chelsea and Man U;

            The Royal Wedding and the shit the Princess flouts,

            What’s a Halo fan to do?

 

            On the telly they’ve got rugby and the news;

            No bloody baseball to be found.

            Doesn’t matter if the Halos always lose

            Tell me is Voodoo on the mound?

 

            [Chorus]  O, I’m a Halo fan

                        And I’m a bloody Englishman.

                        I’m a Halo fan in ‘Ol’ York’

                        Yes, I’m an Angel fan,

                        but I’m stuck in England, man.

                        I’m a Halo fan in ‘Ol’ York’

 

            When will Vernon hit above the Mendoza line?

            When will Bobby go on a tear?

            And if Mathis starts, I’m going to lose my mind.

            Doesn’t any bloke here care?

 

            Thank God for Halo Heaven and the internet—

            Wihalo’s sweet cartoonery

            Rev is blasting newbs who’ve been inappropriate

            And DOV’s sick buffoonery

 

            [Bridge] Go to Piccadilly, everyone thinks I’m silly

                        When I talk about my team in Los An-gel-es

                        “The bloke is off his rocker,” they say, “Now getting back to soccer…”

                        Doesn’t anyone care about Kendry Mor-al-es?

 

            Why does Torii always hit into double plays?

            Will they call up Trout in the fall?

            Lets’ share a pint, mate, and toast to Reagins gone away…

            But I’m just toasting to the wall.

 

            [Chorus]  O, I’m a Halo fan

                        And I’m a bloody Englishman.

                        I’m a Halo fan in ‘Ol’ York’

                        Yes, I’m an Angel fan,

                        but I’m stuck in England, man.

                        I’m a Halo fan in ‘Ol’ York’

 

This Fan-Post is authored by an independent fan. Tell us what you think and how you feel.

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