Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Radio, radio, radio

Once upon a time, the world was not blessed cursed plagued experienced with cathode ray tubes and cabletology and digitality and plasmalogy and webology and the like. In 1921, in the midst of one of the greatest tragedies in the history of mankind, that being Prohibition, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies could be heard through a little box known as a radio. It was probably a hot day, as it was August 5th in the Steel City, which was, back then, an important city in the United States of America, not the hollow shell it is today.

From then on, the great denizens of the United States, who were passionately in love with a little game called baseball, were able to hear their beloved game through these little boxes.

Nineteen years after Pennsylvanians heard the Pirates beat the Phillies, the first baseball game could be seen by people who weren't even at the game. The day was probably a hot one like the first radio game, as it was August 26th, 1939 at Ebbets Field, and Americans were once again legally allowed to enjoy the epicurean pleasure of a cold beer at a ballgame. The teams? The Brooklyn Dodgers were hosting the Cincinnati Reds. The two teams split a doubleheader, with the Reds winning the first game 5-2 and the Hated Dodgers winning the second 6-1. Television.

Despite the technology, broadcasting nearly every game has been a relatively recent phenomenon. For me, watching nearly every game has been even more recent. I subscribed to MLB.TV for the first time in 2004 and had a subscription every year until this season, and that is only because I am in the Reds market and can watch on FSN Ohio. Besides, since the death of my laptop, I have not had regular high speed internet access. It is my dream that a new laptop - or a gently used one - will fall from the sky so that I may rejoin the twenty-first century.

But I digress. I'm talking about watching every game. Watching it. Seeing the beauty of the game with my very own eyes without even being there! It's almost as if I am drawn to the cathode ray tube (or internet) against my will, as if I am an addict of the drug of the nation whenever the Cincinnati Reds come on.

I've just returned from a Walden week. Actually two of them. My parents have a cottage at Fort Loramie State Park, replete with one of those safari boats they use to travel down the Congo or the Amazon rivers, called pontoon boats here in Ohio. I don't know if they're called pontoon boats while floating over piranhas or in between hippos, but I don't see why not - they're boats on pontoons. Though some people live on the lake year round, many of the cottages are only in use during the summer weekends, making week life very tranquil and isolated. There is no FSN Ohio in the cottage, just a few radios. Even the boat has a radio.

I fell in love with baseball on the radio again.

I retreated to the isolation to get some work done and do some writing, and boy was I rewarded with productivity. There were no distractions, only the radio and the voice of Marty Brennaman telling me what was going on down below him. My imagination woke up; I was able to envision Brandon Phillips diving to his left and flipping the ball to Joey Votto for a Gold Glove out. I pictured the flight of the little white sphere stung by Edwin's bat as it sailed into the seats. I conjured up images of the home plate umpire ringing up another victim of a Voltron changeup, the arm pump jerking his body in that manner so dreaded by luckless batters.

We know so little about the human brain, but this we can surmise: television is lethal for the imagination. Our brains aren't forced to do anything when everything is presented to our eyes.

Hey, I'm not anti-television. Anti-garbage television, yes, but I enjoy some shows like 30 Rock, House, and Ugly Betty. And The Simpsons, of course, even today's Simpsons. When the world looks back at American society one hundred years from now, you can bet they will study the Simpsons. There are already university courses about the show. Brilliant, brilliant stuff.

Like everything in life, there must be balance in television time. Everything in excess is bad for you - work, red meat, alcohol, credit cards... Everything. Moderation is balance. Moderation is key to human health. Moderation is happiness.

I had an imbalance in my life. I watched too much baseball. Baseball grew dull for me. I grew dull. And then I went to Walden, and I experienced the All Star break and then I experienced radio baseball and I feel rejuvenated and some of the love for the game has returned. There's something about the radio, maybe the retro feel of it all that takes you back to baseball in more innocent times, maybe the recollection of childhood in hearing Marty's voice, maybe just the stimulation of brain activity, the animated use of the amazing human imagination, a divine gift so underused in the mundane ritual of quotidian existence.

Boy, I'm gonna miss hearing ...and this one belongs to the Reds! The time is fast approaching. We should suck it all in now while we can and appreciate what we have before it's gone.

OMG, breathe, breathe, breathe, and this one breathe belongs breathe to the Reds! What in tarnation is Cordero's problem? And I will say it again - Todd Coffey has no business in a Major League uniform. Why didn't they bring Herrera up again?

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