Take Me Out With The Crowd
“What’s your favorite part of Opening Day?” she asks me.
She’s fingering her Marantz audio recorder, my wife is, but I’m not the interview subject. We’re at Safeco Field, she working, me relaxing. In a few moments, she’ll return to recording players’ comments on this topic for an audio slideshow over at SeattleTimes.com.
Now, she’s asking me, and it’s one of those rare occasions where my cup of words isn’t running over.
Here’s why. The standard answers — baseball’s return after long absence, the stirrings of hope and renewal — are all true, but hackneyed. Can I really come with the old sauce, hot dogs and apple pie? Surely there’s a way to slash this Gordian knot, quick-like.
The song, I say. Take Me Out To The Ballgame.
She’s already got the quizzical look going. My escape plan’s foiled. “Why?” comes the dreaded follow-up question.
Because instinct rather than reason guided my answer, I should have known the journalist I married would require an explanation. Dogged reporting instincts are valuable in many fields, reflective of critical thinking skills, and necessary for democracy itself, but relationship-wise, they can be a real hassle.
Stalling for time, I first amend. It’s not the song itself, see. It’s the song in a situation where the home team is ahead, or at the very least still has a chance to win.
Every team starts undefeated. Part of a new season is the gossamer prospect that this will somehow, magically continue, through today at least. If you’ve been forcibly disabused of this notion by the seventh inning — say, you’re an A’s fan watching Barry Zito get ruined — the song will probably be less than inspiring.
If the hometown nine still have a chance, though, it’s different. This still might be the year when we surprise everybody! This is what is in the back of my mind, at least, when the M’s tie the game later on in the evening. And I think all fans, hopeful ones at least, think a bit like this.
But until the stretch, you’re in isolated pockets. Maybe you’re there with your significant other, or a pocket of friends. Which is great, and a key part of the whole experience.
Until you rise, though, with your team still in the game, you don’t get the chance to voice to what’s in the back of your mind in concert with everyone else. This is what I think.
This is what I tell her:
Every fan in the stands knows about the possibility, however farfetched, of a dream season starting with an Opening Day win. For a short while in the seventh inning, everyone is sharing that possibility. The song, with tens of thousands of strangers in full throat at once, is a collective expression of it, the fullest such expression we’ll get.
The look I receive is contemplative. She’s either musing about my thoughts or trying to be polite by not pointing out that this sounds like a rationalization from the fan of a losing baseball team. Either way, she gathers up the Marantz and heads off to record more sounds of the game.
Me, I’m getting ready to sing.