Nothing bad will happen at a baseball game - it's a rule
Last week, Donna and I went to our first baseball game of the year in Durham, NC. As we were driving into the parking lot, she glanced over at me and asked, "What's wrong Grumpy? You look strange - you're smiling ."
" I'm happy. Baseball season is here and I love everything about it, everything; the smells, the blades of grass bordered by the white chalk, the noise, even the food. Thursdays are $1.00 hot dog nights! Baseball means the arrival of spring, better days coming, being outside at night, and cheering on the graceful activities of others. It's Disneyworld in 9 innings."
The game is a paradox. It is a sport that has no time constraints; there's no overtime or defined periods of play - at or after 9 innings, it ends when one team wins. It is a game of numbers though. Batting averages, slugging percentages, earned run averages, pitch counts - all determine game outcomes and the continued employment of the players. The velocity of each ball thrown by the pitcher is displayed in miles per hour in large, neon, numbers on the center field wall for all to see. Durham is a minor league park but most pitchers in the majors have 5 or 6 reliable types of pitches crafted to confuse batters; and if they're really good, they will have a special pitch that is so complicated and awesome, it probably comes with its own 12 step recovery program.
A 95 mph fastball will jet across the home plate in .43 seconds. The batter must commit to a swing on that pitch in .23 seconds (that's point two three seconds!). More numbers: the diameter of a baseball is 3 inches and the most favored surface of the hitter's bat is 2 3/4 inches (how does anyone get a hit?). Most defensive players have reaction time limitations based on their field position . The pitcher, and the lst and 3rd baseman can only lurch at a line-drive coming at them (or do nothing and hope that when the ball pocks their upper body, a rib doesn't get in the way.) Outfielders, shortstops, and 2nd baseman have more time, but not much, to anticipate where the ball should go.
Watching the game, I got caught up in the numbers too. A man sitting in front had "Vieques, Puerto Rico" embroidered on the back of his t-shirt and I wondered how many people in my row could pronounce "Vieques" correctly. Not a big deal, just mind wander. I came up with 30%, looked at my row again, and upped it to 40: then noticed the man in the end seat with a sweater wrapped around his neck and a young child in his lap. If he didn't look like a professor, probably from nearby Duke, I don't know who would. I could ask him to officiate - he had kind eyes, so I jumped the probability to 60%.
There are other numbers as well. The average salary of a MLB player is $3,400,000 for the 2013 season. They are definitely members of the two comma club. Which, of course, brings me to beer.
I need look no further than my assigned row in section 208, to see that much of the goodwill and easy smiles are supplied by plastic cups filled with suds. I don't drink anymore, but any day now, when I'm waiting in the stadium's food line, I expect to hear someone step up to the counter and say, "Look, based on efficiency and concession line discipline, I'm ordering a large keg of beer. I'll need about 56 straws so that fans, several seats away, can use them to telescope into the keg. I know having a large keg in my lap will cut down on my game visibility, but this will save us all some effort."
Which brings me to the Men's Rooms. In Durham, they are actually very clean, and given the extended use, very functional. I grew up in Boston's Fenway Park with the old trough urinals. A right of passage into manhood wasn't determined by how long you could hold your breath under water, but how long you could hold your breath at Fenway Park while "doing your business."
So during last Thursday's 7th stretch, I went down the ramp to the Men's Room, walked in, and saw about ten young men lined up in front of the urinals against the wall. They were all wearing loud, printed clothes. I hadn't seen that many Madras shirts since the Kennedy Administration - it must have been new hire night at one of the nearby high tech firms in the RTP (Research Triangle Park), so I paid no mind. I took my place and all seemed well until the PA system started blaring a Blues Traveler tune. The Madras guys on each side of me started to head bob to the music. Please God, keep the range of motion limited to their heads and neck.
And he did... because nothing bad will happen at a baseball game - it's a rule.