Gaylord Guenin: Letters from Woody Creek
Aspen Times Weekly
If ever we as a nation needed a diversion, it is now. We have swine flu lurking out there, continuing reports of tainted food, an economy that threatens to bring us to our knees, more negative reports about the repercussions of global warming, continued violence in the Middle East and Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the concern of a potential nuclear war involving India and Pakistan. Then, on top of all that, we have Dick Cheney careening across the country warning us we are not safe from terrorists because of President Obama and his “socialist” entourage.
This is not an easy time to relax, not if you are paying any attention at all to what is going on in the world. But there is something of a silver lining in this cloud, because we live amid a mother lode of diversions in our private Shangri La.
Think about it for a minute. We have skiing, of course, and hiking, biking, kayaking, rafting, climbing, camping, jogging, fishing, hunting, live music, endless art venues, a great library, fine restaurants, continuous nightlife and, unfortunately, an abundance of drugs. We have diversion piled upon diversion, all within a few minutes of our homes. So what in the hell am I doing sitting on my couch, watching one baseball game after another?
I developed an inner-ear condition a few years ago that makes it rather difficult to maintain my balance, which means I tend to fall down with too much regularity. Coupled with that, of course, is a strong inclination for an occasional cocktail, which seems to aggravate my instability? At any rate, activities I once enjoyed are pretty much out of the question (being face down in Woody Creek while fly-fishing is not an attractive prospect) so baseball has become a favorite diversion.
I was pretty good at baseball as a kid and I enjoy watching it. So I splurged and purchased a “baseball package” from my satellite provider, which means I receive endless games, something in the neighborhood of 30 or 40 each week. Excuse me, but I have yet to find a “reality” show or one of those CSI detective shows that are more interesting than the dullest of baseball games.
A little over a year ago, I received an HD television set as a gift and it has made the dullest of baseball games even more interesting. I exist in a technological backwater, so the clarity of HD and a flat-screen set surprised me. This happened fairly slowly, but in watching games I began to pay more attention to the crowds at those games, at least the portion of the crowd that could be seen as each batter came to the plate.
Almost immediately it became apparent those ubiquitous cell phones are quite at home at baseball games as well as everywhere else in our lives. The phones themselves are fine: You can talk on your little gadget and still watch the game. But it is obvious a few fans are not particularly interested in the game. They sit with phone to ear and when the camera is on their section of the stands, they begin waving like wild men (or women). You can only assume they have called a friend, told that friend to turn on the game and when the friend tells him that he can see him, he (or she) goes into the waving routine. I know they are not waving at me, or at least I hope not because I really don’t need to know someone so desperate for attention that they wave at TV cameras.
And waving often isn’t limited to a single act. The waver may keep it up through the better part of an inning. The cell-phone addicts may be a distraction, but the individuals who own those Blackheads, or Strawberries, or whatever they’re called, are really a mystery. Baseball seats, particularly good seats, are not cheap, so why pay for a seat and then not watch the game? You can see people in the stands sitting there, looking down at their little electronic gizmos, paying no attention to the action on the field. My non-scientific observations indicate that young girls are in the majority here, although I’ve also seen plenty of adults, male and female, texting or twittering or whatever, apparently oblivious to the ballgame they paid to see.
Another favorite distraction of mine is watching the “foodies” in the stands. Going to a ballgame and having something to eat is part of the whole game, but you get a tad uncomfortable when the eating becomes excessive.
Recently I watched a game where a family of five ” two adults and three kids ” was sitting in the front row just to the left of home plate. I wouldn’t say they were “fat” but I believe all of them might benefit from a day at the gym. They began munching on whatever they were eating from the very first inning and the kids were still stuffing food into their mouths approximately two hours later. So it goes!
I suppose my favorite image in a crowd is when I spot a couple of elderly ladies, unescorted, who are there simply to enjoy the game. They are without cell phones or any other gadgets and I have yet to see any of them stuffing food into their mouths as if starvation lurks in the shadows. They sit and they appear to understand and enjoy the game they are watching. For some reason, that makes me feel good.
If I continue to watch baseball on television in this manner, who knows, I might end up with a degree in sociology.