Now Weíre Swinginí
Featuring a score written by the performance itself, post season baseball is a symphony of athleticism
by Lee Abraham
If I seem delusional, please cut me some slack. You see, Iíve got a fever. Caught the bug about a week ago. Technically, experts refer to my particular affliction as ĎPost Seasonal LCS Excitus.í The rest of us know this exquisite little condition as -Pennant- fever. And this year Iíve got it bad. -Real- bad. After all, itís October in New York and as we go to press, both the Yankees and Mets are about to start best of seven series for their respective league championships. Holy Cow!
Face it: the big apple is big on baseball. And if its two hometown teams reach the World Series, the city will go absolutely bonkers. Totally nuttso. Priority postal. But it doesnít take the hoopla and media hype of a subway series for visions of two out, bottom of the ninth, game winning grand slam homers to dance in the dreams of true baseball fans. Purists fall under post season playís magic spell regardless of which teams are on the field. They can even get their fix on TV. Just as long as thereís a World Series for the best two teams in each league to compete for, there will be plenty-o-folks, myself included, who can sit glued to the box, totally wrapped up in the games. Heck, a few of us can even get by with a nice radio broadcast.
Hardball hardcores are a different breed. Like seasoned tourheads riding the long, strange trail of the never ending jam, baseball fans look for every contest to shine a different light on a familiar theme. They are aficionados who appreciate each game as a unique statement, a symphony of athleticism in which the score is written by the performance itself. Sort of an improvisational ballet of bats, balls, and mitts unfolding in an unscripted, nine act play. To the true baseball fan, baseball is performance art.
Listen. Each at bat is a solo. Every inning a song. Poppin' catcherís mitt leather with a snap dazzle thud, 95 mph fastballs mark time in an abstract pattern few drummers can match. The resounding crack of the wood bat is a round house power chord suddenly shifting the direction of a jam. Umpires, surly and foreboding, are lead vocalists demanding center stage, bellowing, "STEERIKE THREEEE!" at the top of their lungs. Even the peanut hawkers and hotdog hustlers are part of the production with their scampering, near comic chorus line of carnival barker one-liners.
Yes sir, the sounds of post season play are music to the ears of baseball fans. Even to the most casual observer, baseballís musical angle is obvious. Before the game starts, the crowd rises as one, and everyone has the option of singing along to the national anthem. You just donít get that with other pro sports, especially during the regular season. And then thereís the traditional, -Take Me Out To the Ballgame-, sing-a-long during the 7th inning stretch. Off key crooners who opted out of the more demanding -Star Spangled Banner- opener, will often pipe up and have some fun on this one.
And thatís exactly what it is. Fun. Usually fans who sing the national anthem arenít looking to impress anyone with their vocal chops. Far from it. Fans sing along because itís an opportunity to -participate- in the experience as opposed to simply -observing- it. Just like dancing at a concert. Be honest. Everyone knows itís more fun to get up and boogie to good music than to just sit back and appreciate it. Singing at a baseball game is a similar phenomenon.
Same with keeping score during the ballgame. Some fans arenít satisfied with just going to the game and watching. In fact, thereís a strong parallel between pencil slinging baseball geeks who diligently record each and every ball, strike, run, and out on their gameday program scorecard, and deadheads, phish phans, and any other group of music freaks, going to shows and keeping a setlist. Itís a time capsule thing.
For me, baseball and music have always shared a common ground. Even before playing little league, collecting and trading baseball cards was my introduction to major league teams and players. Later on, collecting and trading concert tapes played a similar role, serving as a way to learn about new bands and their music.
Letís take it one step further. At their most intense, both live music and going to a post season baseball game are vehicles capable of transporting the thousands of people gathered in the same place at the same time, to an altered state of collective consciousness. Donít believe it? Go to a post season game in person and then tell me what you think. Sure, music is the force that brings people together for concerts and festivals, but itís usually the kind vibes and sense of community that endear an event to the people who attend. Itís about being part of something. Of sharing something spontaneous and dynamic with like minded folks, and being able to invest individual emotions in the collective energy of the moment.
Live music casts that magic spell, and so does playoff baseball. Make no mistake, people in New York are passionate about their playoff baseball. Even the casual fans get crazy here. And if the Mets and Yankees both win their divisions to square off in the Ďfall classic,í you wonít have to be a hardball hardcore, or even in the stadium to catch the post season bug. A subway series would truly be something special. And strong medicine for pennant fever. ###