Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"The Call"

We had two trips planned.

One to Northern California, the other to Hawaii. Another trip was unlikely, and, if travel were food, perhaps gluttonous.

I worry about stuff like that – overdoing a good thing. The idea of treats is important to me. To retain their ability to delight, treats need to be wonderful, and, most especially, rare. You surrender to every desire, and the “treat” concept is out the window. Plus – maybe – you’re a pig.

But how do you resist “The Call”?

Can migrating birds say, “I think I’ll stay put”? I believe they can not. “The Call” calls, and you go. There is nothing you can do about it. A birddog “gets bird” and he’s off. The bird is a goner, their last thought, perhaps, “I probably should have migrated.”

Bad things happen when you don’t heed “The Call.” It is just not natural.

I am currently listening to The Odyssey on “Books on Tape.” In one of the stories, Odysseus tells his shipmates – I will paraphrase freely here – “Listen, you guys. I am going to get ‘The Call.’ And when I do, do not let me go. Tie me to the mast with big ropes. And if I beg you to let me go, and I say something like, ‘You remember when I said, “Don’t let me go”? I was just messin' with ya. You can let me go.’ – Do not let me go!!! Just tie more ropes around me. What I’m telling you here – if I had not been abundantly clear already – I must not be allowed to go!”

And what happened?

He went.

The lesson here being:

It is really hard to resist “The Call.”

But that was my challenge.

And then, the tests began.

It’s mid-February. “Pitchers and catchers” are reporting to Spring Training, an announcement to Easterners – which at heart, I still am – that their seasonal Ice Age will eventually recede, and to Californians, that it will shortly be getting a little bit warmer.

More than any major sport – or maybe I don’t care about them as much, so I don’t notice – baseball is steeped to the bill of its cap in tradition. Not hollow tradition. The traditions have meaning.

“Spring Training” is the tradition of “rebirth.” And simultaneously – which I find really cool – nature is doing exactly the same thing. The “rebirth” of trees and plants, and things sprouting out of the ground, like, I don’t know, barley. Baseball is in sync with nature. Football training camp starts, and nature goes,


Nature doesn’t resonate with football. Or basketball. It resonates with hockey, but the nature accompanying hockey, if there were a department store that sold seasons, you would go over there, and give it back.

“What’s wrong with it?”

“Are you kidding me?”

“Spring Training” says “rebirth” in all directions. In Spring Training, teams’ chances are reborn – like newborn babies, even the objectively weak ones shine with unblemished possibility. Perennial also-rans talk about a rebirth of spirit, fostered by a winning attitude. Managers, brimming with hope, crow about their untested youngsters, “They’re green. But I like what I see.”

Spring Training means everyone’s starting over; everyone has a chance. No longer is it “Wait till next year.” “Next year” has arrived. It’s “Wait till right now!”

For the teams, and for the players.

With an eye-catching performance, Minor League caterpillars hope to morph into Major League butterflies. Veterans, emerging from subpar seasons, speak of regaining their “touch”, while superstars hope to surpass their spectacular pasts.

Pitchers, following surgery, talk of “new beginnings.” “Non-roster invitees”, castoffs from other teams, cling to dreams of rediscovering their grooves, staving off, at least momentarily, the more than metaphorical death that accompanies retirement.

“Pitchers and catchers” is “The Call” in a whisper. The volume amps up with daily newspaper dispatches from the training camps. Who’s in midseason form, who’s adjusting comfortably to their new position, who has an outside chance of cracking the rotation, who’s being kept out of practice “for precautionary reasons”, and who’s contract negotiation will in no way interfere their performance on the field.

With each new report, “The Call” gets louder. Having no available shipmates, I wrap ropes around myself.

The first game is scheduled. My cable package includes an MLB (the Major League Baseball) channel. Against all sensible reason, I switch it on.

And there it is.

The cloudless sky. The shamrock-green grass. The cocoa-colored dirt. The air so balmy, you can feel it through the screen.

The spotless white uniforms. The crack of the bat. They’re rounding the bases. They’re chasing fly balls.

“More ropes!” I cry desperately. “More ropes!”

It’s a terrible mismatch. I do no have a prayer.

We had two trips planned.

And now we have three.


Blaze said...

A lyrical ode indeed. You and Ken Levine are two parts of a harmonious barbershop quartet.

However, you're singing in an weird foreign language. "It sounds pretty, but it's just gibberish. What they're saying makes no sense. So, back to my day."

Alan said...

"Minor League caterpillars hope to morph into Major League butterflies."

cjdahl60 said...

So jealous. Snow today in Seattle....