Post #2: Time Is a Funny Thing

“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.




Post #1: My Favorite Day of the Year

It’s finally here. My favorite day of the year. The day when, at least in theory, people around the country cast off their winter coats and boots, join hands and sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in unison, and head to the ballpark to celebrate Opening Day.

It’s not quite working out that way, at least not in New York. It’s cold and rainy, and the only local team on the schedule has already called off their game.

No worries here. As I’ve done every year since 2012, I am playing hooky and heading to Standings—aka the best sports bar in the city, if not the world—for Opening Day.

It’s a bit of a homecoming. The bar was closed last year because, a few weeks before the 2015 season was to begin, a gas leak caused an explosion in several neighboring buildings, which collapsed and killed two people in the process. (Many more were displaced; donate to the relief fund here.) The loss of a sports bar is, of course, nothing next to the loss of two lives, but it was still a shocking turn of events. Opening Day was out of the question, but would the place known as “sports nirvana” come back? And would it be the same?

Because the thing about Standings is that it’s not just a bar—it’s a community.

Though it is quite a bar. As a friend of mine once put it, it’s probably the smallest bar in NYC. But what it lacks in size it makes up for in character. Eight TVs. A pair of seats from Shea Stadium. An awesome poster of ‘80s-era Keith Hernandez smoking in the Mets dugout.

Like the city itself, it’s a refuge for immigrants, so it’s not a Knicks bar or a Rangers bar or, thank god, a Yankees bar. (Or even, really, a Mets bar, even if the owner is a huge fan.) Whatever team you root for, there’s probably a piece of memorabilia there for you. You’ll find, say, Mizzou posters next to KU memorabilia. Or a Starting Lineup figure from a long-forgotten Cincinnati Red. Standings is a place where a Midwesterner-in-exile can wander in on a random summer Sunday and have them put on a meaningless Twins game—with sound—on a main TV. Most sports bars treat sports like a means to an end—a way to get people in the door and spending money. Standings gets that sports is the end, and that makes all the difference.

But back to the community thing. Last year, the city forbade local businesses from opening in the wake of the building collapse, so Standings was unable to host Opening Day. No worries—the community, including the owner, took over the nearby bar Finnerty’s. It felt different. The beer wasn’t as good, the layout wasn’t as ideal, the vibes were off. But some things remained the same: the regulars cheered on their teams. The owner rang his signature cowbell every time the Mets scored. And my Twins looked wildly overmatched, getting shutout 4-0 by David Price and the Tigers.

Put it in the books. Here we go again.


I remember that first year at Standings because my Twins were playing the Orioles, and I joked to a friend and Baltimore fan that it was an ALCS preview. Both teams were coming off 90-loss seasons, and neither team looked very promising. Turned out I was (almost) half right. Those O’s went on to win 90+ games, made the playoffs, and have done a pretty good job exceeding expectations ever since.

My Twins lost 90 games for the second year in a row. Then they did it again in 2013. And in 2014.

Which brings us to last season.

The Twins were actually, like, good. Not making-the-playoffs-good, but still: the team had a winning record for the first time since Obama’s first term, and was actually pretty watchable. So now, coming into this year, there are expectations. You’ve got Miguel Sano, who debuted last year and can absolutely tattoo a baseball. You’ve got Byron Buxton, a rookie this year, and the guy who made this catch. You’ve got Byung Ho Park from Korea, also a rookie, and also a guy who can tattoo a ball. You’ve got a few decent pitchers, a few intriguing prospects, an All-Star second baseman, and an American League where literally every team thinks it has a shot. It’s a long season, and anything can happen.

So like I said, there are expectations.


There are expectations for me beyond baseball this year, too. That’s part of why I’m starting this blog, which I expect to update about once a week. (Future post ideas include Why Baseball?, and Why Does an Omaha-Born NYC Transplant Root for the Twins? Have an idea? Hit me up on Twitter.)

My expectations center around change—2016 just feels like a year of change. There’s the election, of course. There are some personal things I will touch on later. It’s shaping up to be a big year.

And then there’s baseball itself, ever-changing, yet always the same. Like anything with such a long history, everything in baseball has happened before, but never quite like this.

So here we are again. Another Opening Day. Standings is open again. I’m playing hooky again. And my Twins face off against the Orioles again.

It’s all happened before. But never quite like this.


Recommended Reading:

My friend Drew Avery on StandingsAaron Gleeman previews the 2016 Twins | "It is designed to break your heart" -- the late Bart Giamatti’s iconic ode to baseball