image of "ice baseball" from brooklynballparks.com
Finally. They've stopped playing hockey for the season. I grew up with hockey all around me...was living at the right latitude, spent the majority of my youth in a town with the league attitude, could get broadcasts of CBC Hockey Night in Canada--which fans enjoyed with gratitude. The chops and sheuusshs of skates on ice, the clacks of the wood sticks, the drone of the announcer in the background that was always shaped around the words "blue line," the odd way the game came into your ears. (What IS it about the acoustics of an arena where the center portion is frozen water and the fans are quiet/loud in a way not equalled in other sports...when they are quiet, you can hear everything moving down there except for the puck. When they are loud, it comes at you from every angle, including your gut, and each point of entry is also somehow a sounding board.)
I went to a couple of pro games at a place known as The Barn. Where if you were up in the third tier nosebleeds, the rake was so steep I was convinced that one wrong step would put you in the seats just behind the ice, if not on the glass. There were some seats, in fact, where I'm pretty sure you'd end up on the ice, as floppy and lifeless as the octopi that occasionally dotted it.
Seasons are so long these days. I know, that's an old whine. Regardless, when you grow up not being able to overlap ice hockey with baseball because if you are playing them outdoors, the required conditions for one negate the ability to play the other, the idea of co-mingling them is preposterous. Hockey in Phoenix? Seriously??? That's laughable. Okay, L.A. is laughable, too...maybe more so under the old franchise name ("The Mighty Ducks," one of the worst cross-marketing ploys known to sports fans--though recent college bowl names are pretty awful, too). I lean toward Phoenix, the hottest city in America, surrounded by desert, being the more ridiculous. Maybe it should be L.A., also a desert, but even though they import their water from another state, there's something about it being next to an ocean that makes needing ice to play a little less heinous.
I breathe, though. The Cup has been placed in the hands of this year's winners, the streets of a certain downtown became arteries for approximately 2 million platelets fans, appropriately dressed in red jerseys. We're back to being bruised black and blue (black on the south side, blue on the north), with green grass dominating the area under the players' feet.
Hey, riddle me this, Batman: What is up with terminology in these two sports? I mean, you play hockey on ICE, right? But cross those blue lines the wrong way, and the zebras start tweeting their whistles and you get called for icing. But take some baseball players, put them on the FIELD, and they get praised for their good fielding.
Sports can be messed up.
Anyway, I pay a little attention to baseball. Once upon a time, I paid a lot more. But I still know that if you hear the sound of wood in a baseball game, it will be when it cracks against the ball, and that if that happens, even if you weren't looking, it's eyes up to see what's going on. (In hockey, the sticks are always clacking about. Plus, now that "old time hockey" is pretty much the norm for all modern teams, there's plenty of sounds of bodies crashing against the boards, if you want to include that sound of wood.) There's all kinds of down time, not much in the way of sound coming from the field, but a kind of hum from the crowd.
The announcers talk to each other a lot more in baseball. That's part of the rhythm of the game in the background, too. They have to, given the spaces in time to fill in terms of playable "action." Fans at the game know to look around at all sorts of things that are going on, even when "nothing is happening"--check to see if there's action in the bullpen, watch how the baserunner is behaving, observe the interaction between pitcher and catcher. Heck, one fabulous summer, you could watch the pitcher groom the mound. A lot. And talk to the ball, too.
Baseball and hockey have never been in the center of my attention. But they have at times been an important part of my peripheral landscape, whether conscious or not. I usually think I arrange a calendar by academic year, and break it down into meteorological seasons, punctuated by holidays. But, truth be told, I retain an awareness of the movement of the sports season. Baseball, hockey, basketball.
I refuse to name the sport that lends the irony to the day on which I have chosen to post this musing.
If you do, I'm going to go all wide-eyed, and say my team is Cote d'Ivoire.
Contained in the embedded video within a recent post on Katie Puckrick's blog, Katie mentions that her frequent correspondent in perfume Dan Rollieri likes to wear Chinatown to the ballpark. Uff-da. That's a swing and a miss if I'm up to bat in that one. (I wrote about my experience with Chinatown here.) I've been to more minor league games than majors in the past ten years, but I spent the last third of one personally notable game at Wrigley under the grandstand, trying to recover from a bit of heatstroke. Yeah, I know, heatstroke is serious. Pale, clammy, woozy, nearly fainted in the stands...I know what it's about. Seeing as Chinatown nearly put me there in the temperature-controlled quiet of my own home, I can't imagine what it would do mid-summer at the ballgame. And I don't want to.
However...I can imagine vendors walking up and down the stands, hawking colognes and floral waters and such: "4711!! Getcher refresh here!!" "Sage and lemongrass essence in neroli! Straight from the 'fridge!" Or, how about just "Ice cold water, with lemon slices, in a glass and on a cold compress, just for you!!!"
It don't ring like "red hots," do it, now?