If Beantowners have any wits about them, they’ll post my mug shot at the gates of Fenway and keep me preoccupied with other things. MIT certainly will take care of the latter.
As much as I’m wont to bemoan the pointlessness of high-level sports, I watch. And they’re one way I worm my way into a local culture. This was no problem when I moved from Oklahoma to Nebraska, having been born and bred on Husker football. By the end of college I needed a break, an effort buoyed by moving to Europe for an entire season, where college football games transpire in the dead of night.
I had to expand. In the first weeks after moving to Madison I bought myself a welcome present, a ringer Badger T-shirt, and succumbed to watching a season of the mediocre Green Bay Packers. Even college hoops, which I find as stimulating as most Americans find soccer, slid into my media diet. When you’re accustomed to the four or five channels afforded by bunny ears, you make room for sports on Saturday afternoon – the only time you’re going to get it. And there’s a long, baseball-shaped gap in your heart between December and April.
Also, I hoped that top-5 rated Wisconsin would make a play for the title and cause a city-wide riot. They lost in the second round.
It’s the end of May now, the beautiful time of year when baseball is the only game in town. To be fair, the Stanley Cup finals begin today and the NBA Playoffs will persist until the Presidential election. But hockey lost me in high school and basketball never had me.
Baseball, though, is happening today, as it will almost every day through October. Just in case you’re locked in your windowless office, baseball went to the trouble of always happening just so you’d be sure it was still summer. You can send payment to the Commissioner’s office. Your team might have a travel day off, but someone somewhere is playing. This simple feat of scheduling has caused more nostalgic romanticism than a Republican on Memorial Day could stomach, but it’s true and it’s lovely, as long as you’re not paying too close of attention.
If you’re not paying too close of attention, the Milwaukee Brewers are a lot of fun. Their mascot is a beer maker. Their stadium is named after a beer maker. The tallest buildings you can see from the parking lot are owned by said beer maker. The greatest team in their history, which lost game seven of the World Series, featured a number of incredible moustaches, and pullover jerseys. Fans stubbornly refuse to let go of the old logo, a piece of 70s camp in which the ball-in-glove, upon close inspection, forms the letters “mb.” They’re the only team to ever switch leagues. And sausages race at their games. Trouble is, the Brew Crew abounds much more minor league-style kitschy enjoyment that simply wants to go to the game on a sunny day than any kind of “Hey look, we’re winning” glee.
So it would be difficult to overstate the level of caution in Wisconsin baseball fans’ cautious optimism. Everything else in recent Brewer history has fallen apart. And that poetic rhythm of Major League Baseball only throws failure in your face. No matter how many you’ve lost in a row, there’s always another one to lose tomorrow. And the Brewers have lost plenty lately. After a 24-10 start, they’ve now lost 12 of their last 16. And yet during that period of laughable baseball, they dropped only about a game in the standings. Why? My other favorite team, the Cubs, couldn’t hit a table swinging a chair either. In the words of Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Uecker prior to yesterday’s Braves-Brewers contest, “My God, nobody in the Central can win a game right now.”
With two teams, you’d think you have a fighting chance. But the Brewers and Cubs are locked in a ballet of ineptitude. For the last two weeks they’ve traded partners – Chicago would play at Philadelphia and Milwaukee at the Mets, then switch – and tried to outdo the other’s pitiful performance. After the Crew went down in order to a no-name Braves pitcher in yesterday’s game, Uecker couldn’t even keep back the sarcasm worthy of a “Major League” losing montage. “Well, another 1-2-3 inning for Cy Young.”
At any rate, the Brewers could probably finish under .500 and still win their division. But once, just once, it’d be nice for them to be more than an eclectic but largely neglected club.
So look out Boston. I’m coming. Greg wants me to get a Red Sox hat and break it in, so when I arrive it looks like I’ve always been a fan. I may or may not. But Sox nation should sit up and take notice. I’m no black talisman, but based on my recent track record, I’d be wary of me.