Braiding Grass

I realized, last night, that I have probably never seen a baseball game. I mean, I’ve played t-ball or something of that sort in elementary school. Somebody was holding a bat, and there was a red-stitched ball and maybe some orange cones representing places you were supposed to run or throw the ball to, should anything ever actually happen.  Mostly I think we braided grass in the outfield.

But as a cheering fan–I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. Probably the closest I’ve ever come was on a commuter train in Ontario, Canada the day the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series. When the conductor announced the win, the entire train of bored urbanites erupted. It didn’t matter where your stop was, or even if the train was fully stopped–everyone poured off the train, into the streets–you didn’t even have to move your legs. You just tried to keep your head higher than your feet and rode the human wave of jubilation wherever it took you. Every citizen in the entire city must have been on those streets in that moment. I’ve never seen so many people, or so many flags.

Or enormous, red-shirted, dancing blue-jays. After the initial, mad crush began to loosen and the masses of humanity began to seep back into wherever they had erupted from, I had my picture taken with one of the dancing, tattered jays.

Which is fortunate, else this morning I wouldn’t have known to Google “1993 blue jays” in search of that curious term “World Series” so I could write this post.

I know; it’s bad. I am probably the worst person to invite to your first baseball game. Even if I am your mother. Not that anyone else really seemed to know what was going on, either. There was this moment, when the batter actually made contact with the ball and sent it soaring… over the pitcher’s head… and into the second baseman’s glove.

And everyone sort of froze.

Then our coach was yelling, “Throw it home! Throw it home!” and the other coach was yelling, “Back to base! Back to base!” and the poor kid with the ball in his glove was just staring at it and finally I think he threw it to somebody else who was just as bewildered as himself, and by some miracle, we got the third out we were waiting for.

The final score was five to zero, and not in our favor, but they got cool hats and long red socks and so everything was okay.

The thing is, I watch these kids spend all this time practicing the mysterious arts of sport, and it seems a little bit… I don’t know–I love the fact that they are out there, moving, learning new skills and ideas of discipline and respect–I just wonder if it’s not all as much of a distraction from real life as it is a preparation for it. There is a fine, and artificial line we have drawn there, living as we do in a country where we can afford to sit on the grass and watch our children chase after a bit of leather and string. We have to manufacture challenges to occupy their free time, because they do not have to get up with the sun and scavenge for food until it goes down. We have to invent elaborate rules for team play because working together is no longer essential for their physical survival.

I’m not complaining. I just find it strange.

What if all that energy on the streets of Toronto, or on the ball fields all over this nation could be harnessed into something greater? What if those kids were out hoeing beans and weeding potato fields for a food bank four and five hours a week instead of swinging bats, and instead of going door to door begging for cash selling candy bars, they were going door to door delivering food to the needy?

Where would we be?


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