“Quit thinking about baseball,” whispered the Voice of Reason while I was sleeping.
I hate this voice in my head. But I’ve been trying to listen to it.
I awake early. Around sixish. I make coffee. And I promise the Voice I won’t think about the big Braves game tonight. I actually say these words aloud.
“I will not think about the big Braves game tonight.”
I don’t have time to get stressed about whether Atlanta Braves make it to the World Series. I have a life. I have things to do. True, America’s Team is only innings away from Ultimate Glory. But you can’t let this sort of thing make you a nervous wreck.
You have to move on with life. You have to keep living. Keep feeding yourself. Keep bathing once per week.
The coffee perks and my dogs, Thelma and Otis, are begging for a pig ear. They love pig ears. They get one each morning. They are very forceful about their morning pig ears.
They herd me into the laundry room where we keep them. One dog pushes me, the other pulls. This is all they care about. All they think about. If one morning, God forbid, I were found dead in my bed, my dogs would find a way to drag my limp corpse to the laundry room so they could have a pig ear.
So I give them a pig ear, pour the coffee, then I crawl into my truck to visit the gas station.
True to my word, I’m not thinking about baseball. Neither am I thinking about how some members of Atlanta’s pitching staff choke harder under pressure than a kid trying to swallow a brick. I’m not thinking about any of it.
I push open the filling station door. A bell dings. The girl behind the counter calls me “sweetie” even though she’s 15 years my junior. I’ve known her for years and she knows that I am here to buy (1) a newspaper, and (2) a scratch-off lotto ticket.
I don’t know why I keep buying stupid scratch-and-win tickets, I never win. Maybe on some deep level I just like losing.
I suppose it’s just as well. I don’t know what I’d buy if I ever won anyway. Probably more pig ears.
The cashier rings me up. I notice that the front page of the newspaper reads: “Dodgers Force Game Seven.” So I turn the paper face down. The back page reads: “Baseball Is Hot!”
“Look away,” says the Voice of Reason.
So I ask the cashier about her daughter to get my mind off things. I always ask about her daughter. Her daughter had heart problems last year and was hospitalized. I remember when this cashier missed months of work.
The young woman tells me her daughter is doing great. Then she shows cellphone pictures to prove it. The pictures show a little girl in softball attire, swinging an aluminum bat. “My daughter plays right field.”
I smile. “How nice.”
I take my newspaper and leave the store. A truck drives through the parking lot with an Atlanta Braves sticker on his bumper. But I do not see it. There is also a Tomahawk decal on the windshield. Didn’t see that either.
I start my vehicle and let the engine idle. I shake open the paper. I refuse to check scores or read the sports page. I refuse to think about how the Braves could make it to the World Series. And what this would mean to millions of us adult children.
But then I realize something about this newspaper. Without the sports section, I have no desire to read the paper. Every page is full of depressing headlines except for ads about buying a new car.
I don’t know how modern journalists pull it off. You’d think at least ONE good story might have occurred within the last 24 hours.
I refold the newspaper like a mutant taco. I toss it into the passenger seat. I drive home.
I go on to lead an uneventful day. I do a few things around the house. I piddle in my garage. I go for a walk. It’s a weekend. I am aimless.
Then 7 p.m. rolls around. The game begins.
I turn on the tube. The living room lights up with electric joy. I am wearing a ball cap and also a good-luck shirt. Also, my Little League glove sits on the bookshelf beside the television.
This glove has a lot of memories. My father gave me it to me when I was a boy. He found it at a garage sale. He bought it because it was the exact model of glove he had in the 1960s. It’s a Rawlings GJ99 Mickey Mantle model. “Finest in the field.”
The glove was in bad shape when my father bought it. So he retooled the leather, resewed it, retied it, and oiled it with automotive grease. He gave it to me, in nearly new condition, wrapped in a white ribbon. He spent a week rebuilding that glove. I’ve never felt so proud.
Now it’s the sixth inning. My heart beats 40 miles per hour. This is a close game. The Voice of Reason offers its wisdom.
“TURN UP THE DANG VOLUME!” says the Voice.
“Relax, it’s just a game,” I say.
I wish I had an ending to this column, but the game is in progress while I write. The Voice of Reason is a bundle of nerves and is likely about to puke all over itself. I will write more when this game is over, I promise.
The good news is, I’m not nervous. Not as long as I’m chewing this pig ear.