Baseball (ft. Dr Pepper)

PRO(B)LOGUE

Music is integral to any road trip. Even a thrifty, no frills, not-worth-the-bitumen-it’s-rollin-on one like ours. So it’s with a grateful nod to the role music has played in road trips throughout motorised history that I name this post. The title is reminiscent of a song and makes special recognition of the fact that road trip playlists tend toward grand songs that embody a zeitgeist. If my time in the US so far could be summarised in song, that song would be called Baseball (ft. Dr Pepper).

———————-

I knew.

Long before I even boarded flight QF93 direct to LAX, I knew.

I knew there would be small slices of Americana that would enchant and enthral me. I made no guesses as to exactly which slices they may be, but had figured three months would be long enough to develop at least a couple of acquired tastes.

I never expected these tastes—far from being incrementally acquired—would cleave to my cultural palate so abruptly and inextricably. Indeed, they hit me like a swinging bat. A swinging bat swung by a clutch hitter batting .349 with a .962 OPS, in the bottom of the ninth, the count at 0 and 2, bases loaded and two-out, looking to break A-Rod’s career Grand Slam record. For those unacquainted with the technical details of baseball, that means hard.

Can you guess one of those slices of Americana recently added to my cultural palette?

It’s baseball.

IMG_2188

The food! Why did no one tell me the food could be so deliciously disgusting? Burgers and garlic fries. No cold pies here.

I saw my first live, full game on September 9. Emma and I bought tickets to see the Colorado Rockies square off against the San Francisco Giants in San Francisco. We arrived late to AT&T Park. By the time we climbed the stadium ramps to section VR326 (i.e. the cheap seats) the game was already in the bottom of the second inning. We sat down and—

HOLY DICKS! BUSTER POSEY HAS CLOCKED A FAT ONE OVER LEFT FIELD! A 359 FOOT HOMER!

That’s right, the very first pitch I witnessed resulted in a home run for the home team. The crowd lost its collective shit. I was hooked. That was the adrenaline kick. The one-time smack injection that points a Come Hither finger at you and whispers, “it’s you and me forever, baby”. The opioid femme fatale who consigns you to a lifetime of suckling at heroin’s barbed teat.

All right, so baseball isn’t heroin. But it’s still pretty great.

(Also, I don’t know if “clocked a fat one” is appropriate sporting jargon, but come on, I’m a novice at sports writing.)

Buster Posey: clocker of fat ones.

Buster Posey: clocker of fat ones.

Detractors criticise baseball for being too slow. It’s partially true. There are steady stretches in the game when little seems to happen. But inevitably these stretches are crescendos, marked by tactical plays and strategic reorganising. Like a spring, meticulously wound so tight it’s impossible to distinguish any space between its outer curves, the game subtly intensifies. And then that spring is released. The game turns in an instant: a blinding pitch, a blurred bat, infielders dive and outfielders scramble, the crowd roars. In a whirlwind of sand, your patience is rewarded tenfold.

To people who know me well this sudden infatuation with a sport (especially one that requires running) could seem suspicious. They may suspect that America has turned me populist, and that I’m writing about sport to generate clicks on this blog. What I would say to those people is, firstly, fuck off.

Secondly, I would forgive them and explain that although America has a way of changing people, it doesn’t necessarily change them for the worse.

Thirdly, I would remind them that about six months ago (i.e. pre-road trip) I resolved to shed certain affectations I developed as an angsty teen in the throes of an identity crisis. For ’twas as a moody—it’s important here to distinguish between moody and broody. I was the former and definitely not the latter, despite the skewed orientation of my hormone-addled self-perception. Occasionally words rhyme, but that doesn’t mean their meanings are interchangeable. Remember that, guys—teen that I decided to shun the wide world of sport. Shun it…forever! :O

As an adolescent I pictured myself (that is, the ultimate adult me) as a brooding, scholarly auteur. The corollary of this aim (or so I thought) was that I would have to eschew sport in all its forms. When it wasn’t possible to avoid it completely—my high school enforced a compulsory sporting program for all students up until year 11—I endeavoured to participate as ironically as possible. And with as little physical exertion as I could muster…or not muster, depending on how you look at it.

Enter lawn bowls.

Image

Dotty Adams: brooding scholarly, auteur. Described by her mates as “Darebin’s Orson Welles”.

Sport and art? They’re mutually exclusive, so my rationale went. And the tone of my emotional growth was set: I would be an artist. I would not, indeed could not, be an athlete. The trouble was I repeatedly forgot to actually pursue my artistic development, instead focusing on letting everybody around me know just how much contempt I had for sport—often with a touch too much spleen for someone who was supposed to be a disconnected and nonchalant Morrissey type.

I spent inordinate amounts of time defining who I was by loudly describing to people the things I did not do. This behaviour seems counter-intuitive with the benefit of 10 years hindsight. But it made sense at the time, as it does for so many churlish boys; those who masturbate frequently yet condescend to pretty girls at parties by denouncing sport as a pastime for self-obsessed wankers. It was folly. If only someone had told me that sport and music could blend so harmoniously…

Thankfully, that churlish boy is gone.

Now I am a man.

A man who kind of likes sport.

So perhaps baseball is just lucky that it came into my life at the right moment; once I’d finally vanquished the sport-hating demons of my past. It’s possible any number of sports would be capable of capturing my imagination; I simply haven’t viewed them with an open mind before. This is an exciting prospect given that Emma and I plan on seeing each of America’s favourite major sporting codes: football, ice hockey, NASCAR and basketball. Perhaps baseball is just lucky…for now.

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EPI(B)LOGUE

I included the Dr Pepper bit of this blog’s title because I’ve also come to love Dr Pepper. I once drank Dr Pepper as a child, around 12 years old, but found it horrid—the familiar “shit tastes like fuckin’ cough medicine anally decanted!” complaint. That’s an exact quote BTW. I had quite the potty mouth as a tween. It’s odd too that at 12 I would know the verb “decant”. But you get what you pay for in a private school education. Anyway, I swore off the stuff for years.

I had my first taste as an adult about 2 weeks ago outside the front of a Foods Co (FYI it’s cheaper than Aldi) in San Francisco. Upon exiting the store, Emma and I were confronted by a young man missing the lower third of his two front teeth. He asked us to sign a petition regarding a Californian ballot Proposition.    

We told him we were from Australia and didn’t have any kind of voting rights in the US. He said, “that’s round where Tasmania is, urlright?”. Emma said, “Yes”. He said, “D’y’all know about the Tasmanian Tigers?”. I said, “You mean the Tasmanian Devils? It’s pretty sad. They’re all dying from some rare form of cancer”. He said, “Naw, I mean the big ones, those Tasmanian Tigers”. Emma said, “Well yeah, but they all died out a while ago”. He said, “Ohhh, but people still see them, right? I been reading about them in magazines and stuff”. 

Realising that by “magazines and stuff” he was probably referring to the Fortean Times, Emma and I sought to exit the conversation forthwith. We stumbled around a quick response that explained the sightings as misreports by senile farmers confusing large foxes with the extinct “tiger”.     

He looked crushed. I offered a conciliatory smile. Then we walked away.

I needed something (anything!) to wash away the ugly taste of that experience. It so happened that Emma had bought a 20 ounce bottle of diet Dr Pepper in the Foods Co. I ripped off the cap, took a swig and let out one of those “just listen to how refreshed I am” sighs. Delicious.

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One Response to Baseball (ft. Dr Pepper)

  1. Paul Wood says:

    It’s just not cricket.

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