Saturday, April 12, 2008
Cub fan redux
After a long, long hiatus -- at least a couple of decades -- I have once again become a baseball fan. To be specific, a Cub fan.
I fell away originally because the hapless Cubs broke my heart once too often, and didn't go back because I could never feel much empathy with the whining millionaires ballplayers have become. The juicing scandals of the last few years drove me further into the indifferent lands beyond Wrigley Field. "Say it ain't so, Sammy," I groaned with millions of others. Baseball had let us down.
When Opening Day rolled around this year, I couldn't have cared less.
Then, in anticipation of several months of personal downtime (more about that later in April), I bought myself a 37-inch high-definition television set. I haven't been much of a TV watcher, except for the news, for half an hour or so before bed, and for the occasional movie.
Television seems ever so much better in high definition. Yes, broadcast news is still pathetically lightweight, cable news even worse and "reality" shows abominably unreal, but watching movies -- especially good ones -- on sharp widescreen HDTV puts me almost into the theater again, but without candy-sticky floors and the scent of stale popcorn.
Basketball on HDTV doesn't do anything for me. I stand just 5 feet 6 and what do I care about life in the stratosphere with Manute Bol? But baseball on HDTV . . .
That brings to the viewer in sharp relief every drop of sweat, every furrowed brow, every wince, every mouthed curse. In this visual intimacy the players, their features once fuzzy, suddenly take on bright new personalities. Once I could tell them apart only by the numbers on their backs; now I can discern the noble cheekbones of outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, who reminds me of the Japanese actor Ken Watanabe. It's as if the players are neighbors who dropped into my back yard for a barbecue. I feel reconnected.
Last night, when Geovany Soto, the Cub catcher, foiled a steal at second base with a perfectly aimed bullet thrown so hard that his mask spun halfway around his head, I leaped out of my rocking chair and shouted in glee -- something I haven't done at a sporting event on television for many years.
It hardly mattered that the Phillies won, 5 to 3.