Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Make Time to Waste Time

I can think of no bigger waste of time then going to see a live baseball game. To me it’s just grown men sweating in public. Yes, I know this is blasphemy especially when one lives in one of the greatest baseball cities on earth. We’ve got the Mets, the Yankees, and some (and by some I mean anyone over the age of 70) will argue that New York is still the spiritual home of the Dodgers. I know this. And I’m sorry. I’m just not that into it. So what was I doing sitting behind home plate at a minor league, Brooklyn Cyclones game? Chalk it up to the things we do for love.

I went to the game with my Dad. And while I don’t love baseball, I do love him. If you talk to my Dad about anything – and I do mean anything – I guarantee you the conversation will magically circle around to baseball, Jackie Robinson, Branch Rickey, and The Dodgers. My Dad remembers details of the team’s move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles like it was yesterday. If you press him, he’ll even be able to tell you what the weather was that day. I’m sure it was overcast.

In case you missed it, my Dad was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. His father, of course, was a New York Yankees fan. In some homes this is grounds to be disowned, but first born males in a West Indian household get certain privileges. My Dad, in this case, was allowed to live despite rooting for the wrong team.

Rivalries aside, what they could agree on was a love of the game. My Dad, like most men, still recalls and cherishes the memory of going to Yankee Stadium at the age of five to see his first baseball game with his father; the immensity of the stadium, the feel of his father’s large hand around his small one.

On our drive to MCU Park, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, we talked baseball. Well,  my Dad talked. I listened and learned things about baseball that I didn’t know like the fact that Satchel Paige started in the majors as a “rookie” at the age of 48. So much for a youth-worshiping culture that claims you’re washed-up two seconds after you turn 21. 

My Dad said, “If all things had been equal the Cy Young Award would be the Satchel Paige Award.”  <- TWEET THIS  There was no hint of bitterness when he said this, only the knowing resignation of man whose formative years were not spent in post-racial America.

In all the games my Dad has been to in his life, he’s never had the pleasure of sitting behind home plate. This was the first time. I did not realize the significance of this until we began the descent to our seats. As we passed tier, after tier, the backs of the batter and catcher growing closer and larger, I began to feel the excitement. When we sat down, the only thing between us and the players was a protective fence and a few feet of dirt.  We weren’t close enough to touch them but we had the TV camera, close-up view. It was awesome. No. It was freaking awesome!

As we sat there in the heat eating sausage sandwiches and swilling sodas we struck up a conversation with the only other folks in our section. As luck would have it, it was another father and daughter pair: Marty & Stacey. They were life-long Brooklynites, season ticket holders, and extremely cool people. Stacey and I talked baseball. Well, she talked. I listened. I’ve never met anyone – male or female – with a deeper knowledge or love of the game. I was impressed.

But we also talked about education (she’s a former NYC school teacher) and dogs. She currently works at a veterinary clinic. Score! If my Dad always brings up baseball, then I always bring up dogs. When I showed Stacey a picture of my cocker spaniel, Rolie, she had him pegged from nose to nub with all his ailments and even knew his personality traits. 

Marty gave up the pretense that we were strangers and came over to sit by my Dad. To hear two old timers swap stories about players, teams, trades, and stats was like a scene out of a movie.

“Young lady,” Marty said to me. “Do you know the original name of the Dodgers?”

He turned to my Dad, thumped him on the shoulder and said, “Don’t help her!”

I looked at my Dad, but the sly smile on his face told me that he was in cahoots with his new friend, Marty. I looked at Stacey and she shook her head. I’m sure she knew the answer, but this trivia question was meant for me. 

I had no idea the Dodgers had any name other then … well… the Dodgers. When I gave up, Marty smiled and said, “The Trolley Dodgers.” My Dad’s matching conspiratorial smirk confirmed that this was true and I filed the information away in my mental Jeopardy answer treasure chest. “I’ll take ‘Baseball’ for a thousand, Alex.”

And this is how we whiled away an afternoon. Marty telling us (and by us I mean me because I had no idea) that the Cyclones were playing the Boston Red Sox’s minor league team, The Lowell Spinners. This, of course, was a reference to the town’s textile manufacturing heritage. (Basically, Marty’s the guy you want to have as your lifeline if you’re playing Who Wants to be a Millionaire.) <- TWEET THIS!

We didn’t talk the whole time. While they watched the game, I started out very busy on my phone: texting, tweeting, answering email. And then I found myself just enjoying the breeze. I got caught up watching the clouds float by in a blue sky that I’m ashamed to say I don’t notice nearly as much as I should. I was feeling incredibly relaxed and even wondering how much season tickets might cost.

I’m sorry I can’t tell you much about the game. I think the Cyclones lost. But somehow, the afternoon still feels like a win. It’s the best time I’ve had with my Dad in a while. Apparently, wasting time for love is time well spent. <- TWEET THIS I’d like to do that more often. 

The Urban Erma, the longest running column on StageTimeMagazine.com, was created and written by Leighann LordListen to the podcast on iTunes and Stitcher RadioWatch the video edition on YouTube.comIf you enjoy The Urban Erma please leave a comment, like it on Facebook, follow on Twitter, and share it with your friends. (Share it with people who are not your friends and maybe they will be.) TheUrbanErma@gmail.com