Question Seventeen

Crash Davis: So relax! Let’s have some fun out here! This game’s fun, OK? Fun goddamnit. And don’t hold the ball so hard, OK? It’s an egg. Hold it like an egg.

Crash: [Mechanized bull noises in background] Well, he really hit the shit outta that one, didn’t he?

[laughs]

Nuke LaLoosh: [softly, infuriated] I held it like an egg.

Crash: Yeah, and he scrambled the son of a bitch. Look at that, he hit the fucking bull! Guy gets a free steak!

[laughs]

Crash: You having fun yet?

Nuke: Oh, yeah. Havin’ a blast.

Crash Davis: Good.

Nuke: [pause] God, that sucker teed off on that like he knew I was gonna throw a fastball!

Crash: He did know.

Nuke: How?

Crash: I told him.

 

“17. How would history be different if written by the losers?”

I didn’t know what to expect from Hiroshima. Downtown is, obviously, entirely shaped by The Bomb, its aftermath and reconstruction. Right at the centre is the miraculously still standing ruin of an old domed exhibition hall, sited directly under the blast and preserved in memory of the catastrophe. From there a mall leads to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, filled with symbols of war and peace.

The museum is a sombre affair, a walk through the effects and aftermath of the blast.We the winners spare ourselves the images and stories that make us too uncomfortable about The Bomb. While the most common perception in the West is that it was a necessary evil to shorten the war and prevent even more casualties, the Japanese view is that it was the most politically convenient way for the US to end the war on their own terms without giving too much geopolitical advantage to the Russians. A survey of US foreign policy since then would suggest there’s something to that view.

Modern Hiroshima, though, is a decidedly cheerful place. Clean, modern, and the Okonomi-yaki is to die for. Although the Yomiuri Giants seem to sell out every home game at the Tokyo Dome, there is not even a hint there of the sort of mania Hiroshima have for their Carp. The city is festooned with red and white. Every second coffee shop girl is serving in a Carp uniform jersey. Carp-branded snacks and sweets, plum wine and sake in every store. Trains and buses covered in Carp.

I’ve been to Fenway Park to see the Sox beat the Yankees. I’ve been to Dodger Stadium at the height of Nomo-mania. Seen adoring Toronto crowds cheer on Delgado and Bautista belting the living suitcase out of the ball, and more skeptical ones laugh incredulously at Dickey fluttering knucklers past big-league hitters. Been part of an ABL crowd packed into their allotted wedge of Waverley Park thanks to an RACV promotion, the diehards unable to quite believe that this sort of atmosphere was possible in Australia. Hell, I’ve played in a grand final decided by a last-inning, 2-out, 2-strike Grand Slam Home Run.

I have never seen a baseball crowd enjoying themselves quite like Japanese baseball crowds.

Perched in the upper deck of the Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium down the left field line, The Boy and I have through our complete inability to speak Japanese ended up in the visiting team’s official cheering section. So we’re surrounded by Chunichi Dragon blue, a few rows back from the squad of trumpeters, drummers and flag wavers. Sitting with a couple of Belgian tourists, buying beers from the adorable beer girls with the kegs on their backs.

Hiroshima turn this one into a laugher early, batting around the order and scoring 6 in the first inning. It doesn’t deter the Dragons’ section, which keeps up their regimented cheerfulness; a different song for every hitter, respectfully going quiet when the other team is at bat. The Carp fans have a choreographed sitting/standing thing that looks great from across the field. It’s a 3-hour long festival.

Which leads me to Bull Durham as so many philosophical topics tend to do. Crash Davis reminding Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh to have fun out there. Sport is supposed to be fun, goddammit. The Bulldogs are having a blast at the moment and it shows. The Saints are out of the running but enjoying the triumphs that come their way. Even the Crows, you suspect, manage to remind themselves what it is they love about playing the game.

Essendon does not look like they’re having fun out there. They can’t have been having much fun for a couple of years now. And this, ultimately, is what irks me most about the whole drugs business. Assuming, as it seems safe to, that the players were given stuff they shouldn’t have been, it’s in the name of some very cockeyed priorities. It’s a complete cop-out to say that elite sport is more business than sport. You know what kind of business it is? An entertainment business. These kids were doped, and their future health disregarded, in the name of our entertainment. It’s appalling, and the fact that it took this long for James Hird to be pushed out equally so.

How will this bit of history be written within the walls of Essendon? Will they have a different story from the one the rest of the league tells? Will it be more true in any interesting way? Will we understand their perspective or scorn their bias?

Comments

  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Baseball is a very underrated sport, but for anyone that has played it (or softball), it can certainly provide that “fun” and “play” aspect that you have put forward so well Rob.

  2. Almanac Article of the Year for mine. Says so many things eloquently, simply and with good cheer.
    Essendon – nuff said; beautifully put.
    Fun – my Eagles season has been a hoot from start to finish; precisely because I expended so little. Even if we lose our next 2 games and miss a double chance (not likely but) I was thinking it has still been a blast and double what I expected to get.
    Bull Durham – my fave sports movie and one of the best movies about life. Susan Sarandon’s eyes, legs and laconic wisdom. Sigh. What was Tim Robbins thinking?
    Baseball – 1988 in Dodger Stadium with a World Series win to top it. My fave sport outside of footy, once you can immerse yourself in a season or a team. What cricket used to be; but compacted and packaged for the modern world without losing its essence.
    When are you off to Cooperstown next Rob? I may have to speak to the Avenging Eagle (and the accountant). Nawleans and Austin for music; with a few ball games thrown in? The 10 year plan (god willing)?

  3. You’re too kind Peter. I’m just happy to be here, hope I can help the ball club.

    I went to Cooperstown in the mid-1990s and it’s a charming little country town aside from the HoF. Wouldn’t mind finding an excuse to go back there, though I’d need to come up with a reason to be in that part of the US again.

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