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Volume 1 Issue 6

July 2002

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Original Writings 

[What's This All About?]

 

The Night Guy Series

Part 6 - Interlude concerning commentating and the Boston Red Sox 

"Is commentate a transitive verb? No! The expression is 'comment on,' It should be 'commenter' just as one who dissents is a dissenter and not a dissentator."
                                                                                                   Isaac Asminov

Although Nate read quite extensively when he was coming up, he never really considered a career in writing to be something he might want to aspire to or pursue as a means of expression even if his dreams of being a baseball player, detective, or marine biologist fell through. One thing that is true however is that when he was younger, he made practice of constantly beginning stories in his head and had always been something of a teller of tales, an exaggerator, a quiet observer of things and one who, for one reason or another, came to view the world as someone who wanted to write might. Nate's infatuation with beginnings lingers to this day and becomes a little more understandable when he considers his childhood and a time when he, like many boys before and since, begin to commentate.

Commentating, for Nate at least, evolved rather innocently out of a series of events during his seventh or eighth summer, when often, late at night when his parents expected that he was asleep, he could instead be found huddling beneath the covers with his transistor radio listening to Boston Red Sox baseball games.

Nate should explain that he spent a majority of his youngest years in a couple of different college towns in what has been called the Ivy League, or northern, rural New England and, as a result, the Bambino cursed BoSox became his team before he was even old enough to muscle a tee-ball out of the infield. He developed quickly into an avid fan but due to the fact that, on school nights, a parent's idea of bedtime tended to fall right around the seventh inning stretch or so when things were often just getting interesting, Nate was forced to tune in clandestinely if he wanted to keep abreast of what Yaz, Dewey, Chub Fisk, and the rest of the boys were up to.

He started keeping score meticulously in a scorebook given to him by a little league coach and he soon began to take pride in his own running total of unofficial statistics. Listening to partial broadcasts defeated the whole purpose and if he missed even one game or fell asleep in the middle, it could set him back for weeks as he set about trying to obtain the official stats and coordinate them with his own. Even then, he found that he really didn't trust anyone else's bookkeeping. When the Sox traveled to other time zones of course, it meant he was sometimes forced to stay awake until one or two in the morning.

This went on 162 games a year not including spring training and playoff games for several years which was ample time for Nate to become addicted to his little radio habit like the base coaches and bull pen catchers seemed to be to their bulging wads of chewing tobacco. By the time it all came to an end one spring at the hand of a sweeping parental mandate, Nate had also developed into something of an insomniac -- an affliction that has reappeared at various inopportune points during his later years.

This new radio rule, supposedly instituted for his own good, was initiated following what should have been a routine parent/teacher conference with his fourth grade instructor one Abe, or Mr. as those in his class were asked to call him, Supinelair. Abe was a rotund, bespectacled man who tried to pass himself off in front of bunch of fourth graders as a distinguished, worldly sophisticate but was a man who Nate has no trouble recognizing in retrospect as a 24 year old lout with bad sideburns and a file cabinet worth of complexes.

To hear Nate's father tell it, the conference had been progressing in a smooth, monotonous manner and would have ended that way had his mother not expressed some concern over the fact that Nate seemed to score considerably higher on the yearly aptitude tests required by the state of Vermont than he ever did on the ones old Abe gave in class and which covered the material he was supposedly teaching. According to Nate's father, it was then that Abe leaned forward and took the opportunity to voice some concerns of his own, namely that he had noted this discrepancy himself and had wondered as to whether there wasn't something amiss behind the closed doors of the home that it might benefit him to know about. This, needless to say, threw Nate's mother right off her rail and before Nate knew it she had gone undercover and was working as a volunteer in the offices of his very school!

Soon, and by using methods that Nate has no doubt violated whatever civil liberties one has claim to at that age, she had caught a scent somehow and begin sniffing around his habits both at home and at school like a dog on a hike. He sensed trouble one day as he trudged up the driveway and noticed her beaming at him from the front window as a mother might beam at a son who's principal had just called to report that her child had been elected the new class representative to junior achievement.

Though she kept the secret under her hat through the afternoon saying it could wait until they'd eaten dinner, as Nate's father got home and they were about to sit down at the supper table, she could contain herself no longer and suddenly blurted out that she had uncovered a direct correlation between Red Sox road trips and those slumps Nate seemed prone to in the classroom. She begin spreading charts and graphs out between the chili and dill pickles and suddenly wondered aloud to Nate's father, who had a spoonful of chili halfway to his mouth and appeared somewhat confused, as to whether that transistor radio he had so cavalierly handed down as a gift had been such a wise move

After some heated discussion which Nate tried to ignore, his father, always a man impressed by statistical documentation, reluctantly pushed his meal aside and studied the presentation laid out before him. While his family waited patiently watching their chili cool, he took a deep breath and said he had to admit that something of an unhealthy relationship appeared to be developing between Nate and his team. The game, as they say, was up and thereafter, Nate was required to hand over the transistor at lights out.

That night, which he remembers was the start of a key series with Brooks Robinson and the Orioles, Nate lay in bed, sad lonely and shuddering in withdrawal. He was suddenly and silently alone after spending nearly three uninterrupted seasons without missing a broadcast. Night after restless night went by as he lay in bed yearning to know what was going on at the ballpark. It was then that he first discovered commentating.

Since lights out often fell mercilessly during an exciting rally or rhubarb, Nate began to commentate by picking up the action where the announcers left off At least then, the particular inning he'd been listening to could be set to rest. This quickly grew unsatisfying and for the sake of some finality in his score keeping, he took to whispering the game to himself until the Red Sox had batted down to the bottom of their order. In no time, he was resolutely commenting the remainder of games straight through to their fictitious outcomes and would even stop periodically for commercial breaks and station identification throwing in a quick blurb or two such as 'Canadian, that's the life. Molson Canadian that's the beer" or "Say Mabel, another Black Label"  or "Shaeffer....is the...one beer to have when your having more than one." honoring some of the sponsors with catchier tunes and perhaps foreshadowing his later penchant for imbibement and a goliardly future.

By the time of an extended road trip which put the Sox on the West Coast for two weeks where, due to the mysteries of time zones, the games started well after transistor confiscation, Nate was ready to do the entire show complete with pre and post game interviews and would even take the games into extra innings or handle an occasional double header. He soon grew more addled by lack of sleep than before, became confused at school, and could no longer hold his own among his peers in any discussion involving pennant races and where the real Sox actually stood. He also found that before too long, his commentating had spilled out of the bedroom and began to interfere with his daily dealings. He had come to view all that happened around him as being part of a large ball game and had someone walked up behind him as he chugged down the sidewalks of the town, they might have overheard him mumbling to himself something along the lines of:

"Oh and he misses the school bus for the third day in a row. He'd better get his head together or the next bus he catches might be headed to the triple A club in Pawtucket. One things for sure folks, the skipper ain't gonna like this one at all. Not when she sees that he snuck out the door without his turtleneck. Yep, this might be the last you see of him for awhile. You can go ahead and kiss him good bye."

As the habit continued on and off past what might be considered an acceptable age and he began to sense that more was expected of him in certain social situations than a running description of life as if it were nothing but one play at the plate after another, Nate simply ceased to vocalize and kept the commentary going in his head. As the years passed and puberty loomed on the horizon like a prison sentence, social intercourse became so disconcerting at times and demanded so much energy that his inter-cranial dialogues rarely got a chance to progress further than a few introductory lines before some call to manners or nonplussing hormonal attack would plummet him into confusion. It was around this time that he gave up commentating so much and focused his attention on catchy openers.

Reading had slowly begun to fill that nocturnal void left at each confiscation of the transistor and Nate started to catalogue his daily experiences by mentally composing potential first sentences for as yet nonexistent stories. He became fascinated by beginnings and as the trials of becoming a teenager made living inside his head seem more and more appealing, the transitory years of pubescence went by with Nate beginning hundreds of promising tales a day, all equipped to take off on their own to vast and unknown places but that he would lose interest for and truncate at the first call for a period.

Nate set the hook for potential novels, short stories, memoirs, speeches, leaflets, commercials, blurbs and blasphemies, all composed and forgotten, for he considered every event representative of a new beginning and thus worthy of notice. He became the commencement expert, the master of the opening line, and would meticulously nurture a seed until it sprouted, broke ground and reached for the sun only to clip it off at it's base and throw it back on the mulch bin. Nate never considered plot twists or possible conflicts for he began only with beginnings. Having had limited experience with endings, Nate simply chose to ignore them.

Nate has been considering these patterns lately as he struggles to begin the project of chronicling the life of a modern goliard and, in one instance, realized that in the days effort, he had written himself right off the continent and over to Hawaii before giving even a moments thought to the circumstances that had provoked him to move there. It has crossed his mind many times since that this task might be considerably less arduous and more likely to succeed to fruition if he were to simply charge forward from his final night at the Club and write himself back and forth across the country and Pacific Ocean in a gut spilling narrative as if Neal Cassady himself were at the wheel of his diaper van. Nate finally decided however that such a disgorgement could only, finally, come at the considerable sacrifice of pertinent detail which would then diminish the personal discovery that, in the end, is the sole thing that makes such a painful writing endeavor worthwhile.

So while those aforementioned morning hours in which Nate, and not Quinbert G. anybody, was found passed out, dangerously dehydrated, and stark naked on a bench just outside the sauna door, confronted by Ms. Crabbe and asked to discuss ethics, human decency, club pride, and the minimum wage, all while trying, none to successfully, to cover his vitals with artfully arranged beer jugs and depaginated Ferlinghetti, while those hours do represent a definite new beginning for Nate, the scene will not serve as the only springboard into the pool of his tale.

Sorority can be frustratingly convincing sometimes.

"If you've really got a story to tell," she has said, "A truly interesting account that stands on it's own without contrivances, gratuitous violence, smut, and nudity, then it is accessible in any number of places. As many beginnings exist for a given yarn as yarns there are to be spun. It's almost perfectly analogous to the water cycle, complete with the mighty rivers we once pledged to always dip our nappy heads in, the drenching desert monsoons, the tsunamis, arid regions, glacial runoff, erosion and evapotransportation. It's what keeps Ecclesiastes one dash seven ringing true."

"Ecclesiastes? You mean religion?" Nate asked.

"The water cycle." she corrected, "Which is about as religious as you'll see me get. Ecclesiastes one dash seven says;

"All rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full: Unto the place from which rivers come, tither they return again."

"It sounds like religion to me. Besides, I'm not sure my book has anything to do with rivers?"

"Everything has something to do with rivers! And don't confuse religious wisdom with the religions you're aware of." had been her only and slightly condescending answer.

So Nate is convinced and has decided to come clean. Besides he probably couldn't have continued referring to his fictional self as Quinbert G. Covington III, with the G. to stand for Guiseppe for much longer anyway. He didn't know how to pronounce Guiseppe for one thing, and being the third in a succession of Quinberts seems, at best, unlikely. So he will no longer insist on being called Quinn, Bert, Cov, The Third, or Junior but will simply try to get by using his real name which is Nate, short for Fortunate.

Names in the Sixties.
Nate swears.
He doesn't know what his parents were thinking.

 

Copyright 2002. All Rights Reserved.