“Time is a funny thing. Time is a very peculiar item. You see when you're young, you're a kid, you got time, you got nothing but time. Throw away a couple of years, a couple of years there... it doesn't matter. You know. The older you get you say, ‘Jesus, how much I got? I got 35 summers left.’ Think about it. Thirty-five summers.” —Benny (Tom Waits), in Francis Ford Coppola’s Rumble Fish (1983)
My original concept for this blog was to write, sometimes in depth and sometimes not, about every single Twins game over an entire season. (The idea was somewhat inspired by Pop Songs, the wonderfully thorough blog about every R.E.M. song ever.)
As you already know, I’m not doing that. And as you can probably guess—this post is three days late, after all—there is a not-insignificant obstacle: I don’t have enough time.
Baseball, of course, is timeless.
I mean that literally: there famously isn’t a clock, which makes it unlike every other major team sport. Games can go on for hours—indeed, before stadiums had lights, games would go on for days, interrupted only by the darkness of night.* If a team is ahead, it can’t stall its way to victory by, say, taking a knee (as in football) or idly passing around the ball (as in basketball or soccer). Because of this, no ninth-inning lead is insurmountable, no game is out of reach. Don’t head to the parking lot, don’t call it a night—it still could be anyone’s ballgame.
*- The longest pro game ever, incidentally, was a 33-inning marathon played a month after I was born. It was played between the Rochester Red Wings and the Pawtucket Red Sox, and featured two future Hall of Famers—some guys named Ripken and Boggs. It lasted two days.
To put it charitably, that lack of a clock also means baseball is … unhurried. There’s a fair amount of stalling. Pickoff plays. Pitchers wandering around the mound, collecting their thoughts. Big Papi obsessive-compulsively adjusting and readjusting his batting gloves. But to look away—to check your fantasy team, to scroll through Instagram, to stare out the window and contemplate one’s cosmic insignificance and/or what to get for dinner—is to risk missing a mind-bending curve ball, a sweetly rapped opposite-field single, an elegant defensive play (to say nothing of a home run or a highlight-reel catch).
What gives baseball its poignancy is that, like life, it’s filled with a lot of mindless repetition. But every once in awhile, it delivers on its promise to surprise and delight. Put enough of those moments together, and you have a magical season—the Royals last year, the Red Sox in ‘04, the Mets in ‘86.
Fail to put them together, and you have the 2016 Twins, who have yet to win a game in seven tries. It is the franchise’s worst start since 1904, when the team was called the Senators, was based in Washington, and a wily Boston pitcher named Cy Young was about to throw the first perfect game in modern baseball history.
Time is a funny thing.
“You have as many hours in a day as Beyonce” — popular meme
This has always struck me as a little like saying your local little league team plays as many innings in a game as the Royals do. Don’t get me wrong—I love Beyonce as much as any other Park Slope dad. But suffice it to say, Beyonce’s got a team of assistants and helpers to take care of time-suck chores like doing the laundry, washing the floors, and choreographing impromptu hotel danceathons.
Still, there’s something to the idea. I have a bad habit of saying, as I did earlier, that I don’t have enough time. But it’s not about what you have time for. It’s about what you make time for.
Especially when you start to realize that maybe you only have 35 summers left.
One thing I made time for this past week was “The Voyeur’s Motel,” Gay Talese’s excellent article in The New Yorker about a motel owner who spied on his guests for decades. He did this not only for the obvious sexual thrill, but because he considered himself a sociologist. And unlike Kinsley or Masters and Johnson, his work wasn’t corrupted by his subjects knowing they were being studied.
As I read the piece, the following lines resonated with me:
A voyeur is motivated by anticipation; he invests endless hours in the hope of seeing what he wishes to see. Yet for every erotic episode he witnesses he is also privy to hundreds of mundane moments representing the ordinary daily human routine—people channel-surfing, snoring, urinating, primping, and doing other things too tediously real for reality television.
Sounds kinda like watching baseball. For every home run you witness, you’re also privy to hundreds of mundane moments—pickoff plays, pitchers wandering around the mound, Big Papi obsessive-compulsively adjusting and readjusting his batting gloves.
So why do I do it? Why do I make time not just to watch baseball, but to obsessively read about it, follow it, study it? And why do I make time to watch a team that is off to a horrid start, a start so bad that no team in baseball history has overcome such a start to make the postseason?
I’ll dive into all that in my next post.