Driving down Twyckenham last weekend, at the corner of Angela Boulevard, outside Notre Dame’s center field fence, I saw baseballs littering the street as though they were red Solo cups at Legacy Village on Sunday morning. If that’s too esoteric, let’s just say “off-campus party” and you get the picture.
It’s strange to write a college piece twenty years after being in college.
What would a collegiate writer say about baseballs in the street? Something more esoteric?
Would my college self be concerned to know that twenty years later I’d still be unsure whether the balls were laying or lying there? Or would my future self worry him even more if he found I still did not care? That I would look it up only halfheartedly and with a sense of obligation to the long-dead masters of our craft? Would he mind that I would begrudge him for not having learned it then? (Obviously not, because he didn’t.)
Would he have picked up the baseball? Or let them all lie like sleeping frat brothers on Sunday morning? (Yes; No.)
I steered my car over, popped the door open while waiting for the red light, picked a ball up like a sea turtle eating an immortal jellyfish (not esoteric if you read my blog frequently). Brought it home, put it on my desk. Thinking about how there just isn’t much profound here. I found a baseball and brought it home because that’s what you do. It’s what I always will do.
Maybe the key difference is that my quest for profundity is changing. I used to want it so badly. The atmosphere, I mean the very sky, was laden with it. It lies heavily upon a campus. Brick buildings dated in the early 1900’s do that to you, when they’re covered in ivy and you’re still roughing out a beard. So you want to chew that profundity like a piece of bubble gum, over and over, until it’s flavorless, and spit it by the weeds grown up along the backstop. It’s still gum. Like, profundity is no worse the wear, though you’ve sucked out the flavor.
Maybe I’ve done that. Life is profound, sure. But a baseball in the road just means it’s spring. I’ve seen roughly twice as many now and they are all pretty good. You still pick up your balls and carry on, but it doesn’t really mean anything that spring has returned. At least, it doesn’t mean anything more than it used to mean.
Also, baseballs never grow beards. So they’re symbols of youth. Who cares.
I still like baseball, but it’s been years since I just went to a whole game and sat there and drank it in like … hell, never mind what it’s like drinking. I just get deep droughts, you know. Metaphors are for people who chase profundity.
I need to go watch a ballgame, and I know it, because last week my son and I stopped for a moment at my alma mater to watch the boys play. This is what I see: Our side is batting, guy Strikes out, with a man on first. Then a grounder gets through the right side. Next, a line drive scores the lead runner. I turned to some men and ask them what score, what inning. I can’t read our dinky scoreboard. We are watching from the far left field corner, the scoreboard is in right. Bottom of seven, two outs, after that last hit, we trail by one, they say. A double into left center. Tie game. A play at the plate! We win! We win!
I jumped, arms in the air. With two outs my alma mater trailed 8-6, scored one, then in a matter of another ten seconds managed to win 9-8, and I was caught up in the moment. Now their record is 17-27, but 9-9 in conference. They are not particularly good, but it was a great seventh inning. Maybe that was enough baseball to satisfy those thirsts. I don’t have to drink as much spring anymore to remind myself of its cool, cold-brewed Rocky Mountain flavor. (Not a metaphor, just a longish adjectival phrase.) I never got drunk on it, anyway.
Finding a baseball in the street reminds us we can still get caught up in the moment. It’s not so bad.
Saturday night I picked up two guys. One played for Boston College. Left field. Lost to Notre Dame, I think, or maybe they won, who cares. Drunk, he talked with his buddy about his girlfriend who wants a ring. If I had to bet, I’d say he will marry her. How well will it work out? I don’t know; do you really consider an 82-80 record a winning season? The rest of what he said I figure is reserved for the sanctity of the Uber-confessional.
Maybe someday he will find a baseball in the street and scratch his beard and say to himself or even to his wife, well shit, look at that, wouldja. It’s spring again.