When context alters
Some people love baseball- like my husband. In fact for several of his birthdays I’ve arranged surprise trips to Fenway Park and Wrigley Field for his predilections and always he’s over the moon in anticipation of the joust that will occur among teams, knowing moves and stats and conditions of play… I attend and I observe the venders, the fanfare, munch peanuts, survey the crowd, and pay some attention to the game. Besides he likes me to accompany him.So I go.
But yesterday was different. It was Canada Day. Usually it’s a steamy afternoon, sitting sweltering amidst other sweaty fans,and the boisterous noise that makes me wish I’ve left my hearing aids on the night table.
But yesterday started off differently. The weather threatened rain so to begin with, it was cooler and the dome at The Rogers Centre was closed. So we were a contained lot, not quite as exuberant in spite of a marching band and first throw out by a military man. Marcus Stroman was on the mound and he was intense. My husband remarked that as long as Stroman kept his pitches down, he would succeed in striking them out. My husband communicated this strategy by tapping the air in a downward position. And Stroman complied.
But suddenly the umpire, ( to be identified in the papers this morning as Vic Carapazza) , a hairless strutting creature was making spurious calls, redefining strike zones. In the very first inning, Edwin Encarnacion a local favourite, took Carapazza on.
And was tossed.
Even manager John Gibbons who strode onto the field also exchanged words and he too was ejected from the game. Surprisingly the game was “not played under protest”, perhaps it was felt that the ump would settle down.
But He didn’t.
Even I began to react, chanting with the crowd at the absurd calls that were being made on players who looked rather amazed themselves. Anything might be considered a strike or an out. Clearly throws that skidded directly across the waists of players were being interpreted alternately as strikes or not. We were all together scratching our heads and wondering what was wrong with this peacock moving so confidently at home plate, boldly gesticulating line up changes to the fans as if he were conducting a symphony, and it was the tuba’s turn to play.
Finally in the 13 th inning, back catcher Russell Martin expressing what the incredulous crowd was feeling exploded, wanted to shake some sense into Carapazza’s capricious calls. Quoted later as saying, “…I just know it wasn’t the best display of umpiring that I’ve seen( The Globe and Mail,pS5, July 2, 2016),Martin’s gross understatement prompted yet another removal of a Blue Jay player.Fortunately he was bodily restrained by two of his team mates, but the fans would have applauded any shake that might have realigned Carapazza’s calls.
It was a great pitching game that culminated in Ryan Goins explaining he hadn’t pitched since high school with Bo Schultz, Darwen Barney all throwing their hearts out at the mound. Not so much the umpiring: as noted by anyone in attendance.
But being someone who professes she know little about baseball, I can offer parallels about life.The story here was a game, a game, especially on Canada Day, that had to do with national pride, a clean and fair combat . Certainly not a game of thrones but a battle between opposing teams from different places, each wanting to assert their strength, ingenuity, strategy and dominance on the over. Each wanting to be able to shake their flag victoriously at the end of a confrontation structured with rules and uniforms( ours were red and white for Canada Day) and knowledgeable persons. But into this game strode a red herring, an umpire who changed the story of what might have been, misshaping the collision.
Of course when the dome is closed and the trajectory of balls in the air changes, or a player has twinges his arm or hip, let’s say a recovery from a Tommy John surgery, well, we expect certain irregularities can occur so that the ball can not easily soar and pierce the air aiming towards the CN Tower, but this ump, this fly in the ointment was different and instead of the game, he who should have merely shaped and fairly called strikes and misses became the story that showcased him into 19 innings.
We were caught in anger, amusement, fury,and disbelief at this intruder into the purity of the sport, trying out our own calls and laughing when our calls concurred with Carapazza’s, me noting that the left handed hitters suffered even more strange indictments.
The story shifted from the players and the teams and the game towards this little person. moving towards boredom by the 16th inning, when we finally departed , our bums unwilling to endure the entire 6 hours and 13 minutes.
I desperately hoped the baseball gods would allow a win for the Jays as it was Canada Day, but the Cleveland Indians won 2-1.
Yet this game was not a baseball game, it was entertainment where the main actors played their roles well but were upstaged by a stagehand who impeded and altered the true performance of the game. Just as in life when one small aberration can sink the ship.
And it did