As the great American pastime, baseball events often conjure a sort of rabid jingoism that makes me squirm. Lately, as I see that America has descended into being a bombastic third rate power, I just don’t feel very patriotic. In 1976 I was proudly in London (where, yes Julia, I saw Tir Na Nog instead of the Sex Pistols) but I quietly snuck dowstairs to watch the bicentennial ceremonies on a tiny telly in the parlor of a Fulham Road flat. In London in 1976 and for a long time after, I secretly felt that even though I was often embarrassed by what transpired here, and what we made transpire abroad, America was the greatest country in the world. I don’t remember the specific moment that I stopped believing that, it occurred subtly and perniciously and not from watching a Michael Moore movie.
Spuds watches many sports avidly but baseball is the only one that captures any of my interest. Basketball is fast and football has that brutal smack smack smack. Basketball players are really tall. Football players are really big. These sports are about bodies. There is no physical type for a baseball player and players are thick and thin and short and tall. Baseball, to me, seems more than any other sport, about people. We follow our players avidly, worrying that Nomar might be tired because his new twins are keeping him awake and both tearing up when catcher Russell Martin’s street performer dad opened a game playing the national anthem on his saxophone.
We were lucky to obtain some tickets to the historic spring training exhibition game between the Red Sox and the Dodgers at the L.A. Coliseum, where the Dodgers, newly transplanted from Brooklyn, first played fifty years ago while Chavez Ravine was being completed. It took me several days to get through on the phone line to reserve a spot on the shuttle from Dodger Stadium to the Coliseum and I left our name and stated we’d be arriving at the Stadium at 5:30. There were thousands of people in line when we arrived. The Coca Cola Company was giving samples of Full Throttle, a new power drink and the parking lot was a sea of abandoned cans and girls in shorts and Full Throttle t-shirts picked up discarded cans and dumped the sweet liquid into puddles for the line waiters to trudge through. After two and half hours in line, the game had started and we were nowhere near getting on a shuttle. I thought about waiting again for the bus after the game, and Spuds and I, exhausted, and in tears, went home to watch the game on television.
Spuds, previously has been treated well by the Dodgers. He is welcomed in the main office when he goes to pick out his tickets and the Dodgers he tends to gravitate towards like Nomar and Russell, seem to be genuinely nice guys. The rah rah rah American thing, and the vulgar drunks who slobber over us in the stands, get on my nerves but my little republican is nonplused. Spuds is no fool. He knows how hard his dad and I work to earn the money for his tickets and is as sick as I am at the prices for the mediocre concessions food and parking and the tickets themselves. He tolerates this because he knows that first and foremost, the team is a for profit venture and he admires capitalism. He doesn’t begrudge them their profit as long as he is entertained but missing a game due to the stupid, insensitive mismanagement of the shuttle service broke his heart a bit, and is a notable catalyst for diminishing his belief.
Opening day is the best day of the season, and yesterday, we swept the ineffectual Giants 5-0. It was more fun creaming them when Barry Bonds was on the team but we won and hope springs eternal on opening day. For the ceremony, which marked not only the first official game of the year, but the Dodgers 50th anniversary in Los Angeles, where they have now played more games than they did in Brooklyn, they trotted out old players including Duke Snider and Maury Wills to an endless loop (those oldtimers move kind of slowly) of the insipid Field of Dreams music. Even Sandy Koufax put in an appearance. Sandy was cool, in a sport coat and shades, the only ex-Dodger to eschew his old uniform. Fernando Valenzuela actually appeared in a suit as well but it was presumed this was to fulfill his broadcaster obligations upstairs in the press box, although we noticed that announcer Rick Monday had his old uniform on over his shirt. It felt with Koufax, and perhaps a bit with Valenzuela too, perhaps some statement of being too good to be equalized by the great equalizer that is a uniform.
Spuds was disillusioned by his beloved Dodgers when he missed a game after waiting in line for hours on a chilly evening. Somewhere along the line I stopped being secretly proud of and comforted by being an American. But we shut out the Giants on opening day and at this moment, even the World Series seems like a possibility. In August, it will be determined whether the first first for this country will be a female or a Black candidate for the presidency and I love and support with all my heart whatever candidate could actually win. I wonder what the Dodgers will make of the season that began with such a propitious opening day and if Spuds sour taste from the shuttle mess will sweeten. I wonder if in November I might be restored to pride in this country that more and more has caused me sadness and shame. We have reason to doubt but I am trying to believe in the newness and fresh hope that comes in the spring.