Vern's Verbal Vibe

Singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist and purveyor of folk 'n' roll: spirit-filled sad songs made better.

May 25, 2006

The Zen of Baseball

I listen to baseball on the radio to help me wind down. I love the quirky strategy, the sleepy pace, the legend and lore, and the fact that baseball is one of the few (only?) team sports that doesn't run on a clock. Nine innings take as long as they take.

The ultimate game for stats geeks—even the most casual fan knows what 755, .406, 73, 56, and 1908* mean—baseball evokes a certain timelessness. Players, dynasties, teams and even ballparks come and go, but the game goes on forever. Spring training, the exhilaration of that early-April .600 batting average, summer's dog days, the pennant race, and finally the Fall Classic itself—all are inextricably tied to the changing of the seasons. Here in Toronto, the first time I turn on my radio and hear Jerry Howarth's "Hello, friends, and welcome to Blue Jays Baseball," I know that white stuff on my lawn is not long for this world. I love that feeling. (Though Jerry's long-time partner, the legendary Tom Cheek, is sorely missed.)

Yet, all is not peanuts (ahem) and cracker jack. One loathsome aspect of the modern game is the ubiquity of advertising. It's impossible to escape—the in-stadium experience is especially pugnacious—but I've learned to tune it out. Taping the radio broadcasts helps; I now have an intuitive grasp of just how long I should let the cassette fast-forward between innings.

Catching an intercounty game at Christie Pits is on my summer to-do list. It's free, and it'll be interesting to compare the "game day" experience with that at the Skydome. (Sorry, I'm not calling it the You-Know-What Centre. I mean, come on: monikers like "US Cellular Field" just roll off the tongue, don't they? If I were King of the World, naming a stadium after some faceless corporation would be an offence punishable by death.)

* We now present (at no additional cost to you)
  • 755 - Most career home runs, Hank Aaron (1954-1976)
  • .406 - Ted Williams' 1941 batting average (last player to hit .400 or over)
  • 73 - Most single-season home runs, Barry Bonds (2001)
  • 56 - Longest consecutive-game hitting streak, Joe DiMaggio (1941)
  • 1908 - Last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series (longest futility streak in pro sports)

May 17, 2006

This is Nuts

Officials in Edmonton have banned peanuts from their football stadium because of a parent's complaint that her highly allergic child has to wear a mask and gloves while attending games. You can read the full article here.

Not only is this overkill; it's insanity. Sadly, no one bats an eye these days, as this sort of overreaction is completely in line with our eliminate-all-toxins agenda. The (eminently sane) compromise—creating a peanut-free section surrounding the youngster—was quickly mooted, as it was claimed that peanut shells or their aroma could waft toward the child from other parts of the stadium.

So, up to 60,000 people must avoid peanuts because one person might experience an allergic reaction. And hey, why stop there? Presumably this kid likes to go to the mall now and then. What if, God forbid, some food-court outlet cooks with nuts? Then there are schools, churches, city parks... I say we declare the entire City of Edmonton a peanut-free zone.

Having expunged the City of Champions of the vile legume, let's turn our attention to allergy sufferers in other cities. The sheer number (and severity) of allergens seems to be on the rise. We've all heard of (or known people with) sensitivities to animals, pollen, perfumes, various foods and chemicals, and everyone's favourite whipping boy, cigarette smoke. Are we going to ban everything under the sun because it might provoke a reaction in somebody, somewhere?

Lest you think me an uncaring curmudgeon, let it be noted that I have a peanut allergy myself. Here's another commentator who thinks the peanut ban is nuts, and an editorial decrying the draconian measure.

In a related development, the City of Ottawa is considering a ban on "artificial fragrances" in city buildings, sports facilities, and the transit system. This would include not only perfumes, "but scented soaps, deodorants, hairsprays, cosmetics, household and industrial cleaning products, and numerous body fragrance products."

I empathize with the environmentally sensitive and agree that, to a point, their needs ought to be accommodated; what I object to is their unilateral hijacking of our municipal bylaws.