Childhood 2.0

ImageYesterday my children allowed me to do something that I’d dreamed about for years. Simply because they exist, I was allowed to walk through the right field gate of Turner Field, out onto the turf of the Braves field, and stand in the bright afternoon sun. Suprisingly, it was everything I thought it could be. Up close, the grass was greener than on television, the dirt somehow browner, and the smells…

Well, let’s just say we’re not missing anything by NOT having smell-o-vision.

We were on the field because someone, some genius in the Braves organization, realized that it cost the organization absolutely nothing and garnered them all kinds of goodwill by allowing kids in attendance on Sunday afternoons to run the bases after the game was over. Why no one thought of this back when I was a kid baffles me; perhaps it was because Atlanta Braves baseball wasn’t quite the destination/event back then. If you remember the old Launching Pad (Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium) then you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t remember FulCo, then take the ugliest abomination of American architecture that you can think of and infest it with more ugliness. Then multiply it by five.

Congratulations! You’ve now come up with the genius design that dominated the American sports landscape in the 60s, 70s, and early 80s – the dull, lifeless, repeatable round stadium that appeared in such sports crazy cities as Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Cincinatti. Or, basically every mid-sized American city who couldn’t afford to build something better.

To be fair, this was back before people realized that aesthetics matter when it comes to sports. I don’t know why, but the idea during the latter 20th century seemed to be that space was purely functional; that how the space made you feel, or appeared, was of no consequence. In some places that idea was born out by the play of the teams – Pittsburgh, for example, destroyed people in Three River Stadium. But here in Atlanta, the connection between human consciousness and environmental effect was writ large: FulCo killed the players’ will to win.

Heck, on some nights, it killed the fans’ will to live.

But I still dreamed of patrolling the ground there. I was small, couldn’t hit a ball much beyond second base, but I was fast and quick and the best fielder in my Little League. My aunt and uncle had season tickets back in those days (so you know my family LOVED baseball), which meant that I got to go to my fair share of games. I remember vividly seeing Dale Murphy and Claudell Washington cover the outfield. Because I played second base, Glenn Hubbard became my hero; I loved him so much that I switched jersey numbers from Murph’s iconic 3 to Hubb’s 17.

Sorry, Murph.

Even after a summer on the All-Star team killed my love for playing (it was 1986; we won the Dixie League State Title that year) I still loved going to the games and dreaming of being on the field. Other kids got to walk the grounds because of their youth group, or ball team, or because their parents somehow possessed a special kind of magic that allowed them access to people and places denied us mortals, and I always felt the burn of jealousy deep within. It seemed unfair.

It wasn’t, of course, but try telling that to a young boy. And of course, the fact that I’d never walked the field in my life made yesterday that much greater. The first time I stepped onto the field of my childhood dreams, I did so with Ella and Jon and Rachel, not to mention my brother and nephew, and my dad. We all walked – simply walked – the warning track from right field to just past the Braves dugout, at which point the parents were diverted into the stands as the kids were directed towards homeplate.

Given how some of us adults were talking in the line, that was a good move Turner Field. Watching some over-exuberant adult wipeout a couple of tots with a head-first slide into homeplate would’ve been sad, and watching the security guards escort him off to jail would’ve been sadder.

Plus, I don’t think my wife would’ve bailed me out.

I watched as my nephew, Joey, rounded the bases, followed by his cousins, Aidan, Parker, Jon and Ella, plus several of his friends from church. The whole game experience (including pre-game lunch at the Varsity) was for his sixth birthday. I think I can safely say it was a magical experience for him, because it certainly was for me. It reminded me of some of the most powerful and magical things from my own childhood, and that I still connect strongly with some of those things even in my adult life.

But greater than that was re-learning that there are some things better experienced through your children. Seeing Ella and Jon run those bases was a treat for me; I recorded it on my iPhone, and it will be a video that I sneak a peak at from time to time as a subtle callback to the wonder of childhood joy. And when they came off the field and up the aisle, holding certificates and t-shirts that said “I ran the bases at Turner Field!”, there was no missing the expression on their faces.


It was one of the best days I’ve had in a very long time. I think I took around 200 pictures, of everything from the grass to the kids to the seats to the benches in the dugout, and only posted half of them to Facebook. Guess I just wanted everyone to share in how special the day truly was to me. Not only did we get to celebrate my nephew, but we got to spend time together as a family and update a vivid memory from my childhood: parents and children enjoying a ballgame, laughing and sharing and loving every minute. It was Childhood 2.0.

And it was a blessing.

Insomniac’s Internet Report

Welcome back, Dave. Hal has upgraded to wifi and is waiting to show you some new tricks...

I couldn’t sleep last night, a fact you might have guessed given the blog’s suddenly new appearance (Side Note: can I help it if WordPress finally produced a free theme almost exactly like I’ve been wanting? I saw this last night and got giddy). To pass the time, and to prevent my insomnia from infecting my beloved wife, I opted to hit the couch with the old laptop and see what the internet has to offer once the midnight oil is lit.

The quick summation: Jack Squat.

In a world of supposedly 24-hour information, I just so happened to pick the world’s most boring 24-hours in which to be wide awake. Baseball is on a break until the All-Star sham starts, the NFL and NBA are both locked out and moving at pace that makes glaciers seem impatient, and Facebook offers no one with whom to banter once the clock strikes one in the morning. CNN’s lead story was about Prince William and Duchess Kate wearing cowboy gear to commemorate their historic opening of the Calgary Stampeded (Brits in boots and bolos – there’s some stunning reading!), and the folks at Fox weren’t much better (I think it was all about nine ways to bring Casey Anthony to justice, “Old West” style).

Even TMZ was DOA, and I couldn’t even bring myself to Google the words “Perez Hilton”, just out of fear that my computer would catch a digital STD. I tried reading some online books, but without the tactile sensation of a page to turn, Wuthering Heights is even more dreadful than previously imagined. I tried to keep up with Twitter, but even their feed was pathetically slow – two tweets in twenty minutes…it’s like all of the smart alecks in the world fell into a coma at the exact same time.

Hulu was hopeless (I just can’t bring myself to watch anything other than Law & Order from NBC) and YouTube gets boring after the 254,302 video of some poor father being “accidentally” hit in the groin. I tried reading some of the classier content aggregators but all I got was aggravation.

So in the end I turned on a small lamp, grabbed a Raymond Chandler story collection, and read some tales about my favorite fictional detective of all time, Philip Marlowe. My brain slowed down, I got to read some great writing, and eventually I was able to close my eyes and drift off to sleep…for ten minutes. I woke up to the sounds of my wife making coffee and my daughter flitting around the house, upset because daddy was taking up the whole couch and she wanted her seat.

Now, I’m too tired to really post anything insightful or truly hilarious, my head kind of hurts, and I have the vague sensation of needing to keel over at any moment. I can already hear my bed calling my name.

Unless aliens land or Casey Anthony suddenly elopes with OJ, I doubt there’ll be anything happening online tonight that I’ll really want to be part of. And even if aliens land, that can wait til morning.

OJ and Casey…well, who cares?

Giants Step Up All the Better Without Bonds

I love this photo, even though I’m not a San Fransisco Giants fan. Yeah, I know that there will be plenty said about the Giants winning the World Series after 56 years since their last title (won while still playing in New York), about the pitching, the timely hitting, about the managerial guts of Bruce Bochy (who got to the Series before while coaching the other San team, from Deigo), and other interesting and insightful anaylsis from well-qualified writers, pundits and plain old laymen like me. So one more blog post on the Giants victory will be just a burp in cyberspace most likely, and really, who cares why I love this photo (courtesy of Sports Illustrated, by the way)?

Well, I love this photo because I am a baseball fan, and to me this photo sums up everything that is good with the game. Teamwork. Perseverance. Timeliness. Strategy. Guts. No Barry Bonds.

That’s right. No Barry Bonds. I hate to bring poop to the party by merely mentioning his name, but the sweetest thing about watching these Giants rise to the title has been the utter absence of Barry Lamar Bonds. His cancerous approach to the game, from steroids to the me-first mentality that made him a hated teammate, was obviously not missed by this scrappy collection of pitchers and role-players who found chemistry in the clubhouse more important than chemistry in one’s buttocks (or knee, or wherever Bonds smeared “The Clear and the Cream” – and no, I don’t care that he seems to have recently been exonerated by court testimony that the Clear wasn’t considered illegal by MLB or the Feds when Bonds used it).

I know that Bonds still faces perjury charges from the Feds, and celebrating the rise of his former teammates while he faces his own potential demise is a bit cruel, and definitely some “get the speck out of your own eye first” schadenfreude of the highest degree. But when a person intentionally sets his mind to becoming bigger than the game (and in the case of Bonds’ head, that’s a literal statement) and achieves that distinction through cheating, then falls out of grace while remaining unrepentant, I don’t have a problem with being amused at the drop. And regardless of what the legalities may be, Bonds put things into his body to give himself a competetive edge, things that were on the periphery of acceptible, things that were at least to him questionable, given his lack of openness when asked about his training methods. There may be a lot of people unwiling to call that cheating, but it is in my book, at least when it comes to baseball.

So when the final out was recorded, and the Giants collectively bumrushed the field and celebrated something that really was worth celebrating – a team victory in a selfish age – it was a beautiful thing to imagine that somewhere Barry Bonds sat staring at the screen, then at his empty fingers. While his teammates get to slid on a gaudy, over-the-top World Champions ring that Bonds said was always his main goal, Bonds will get no such opportunity. Not now, not ever.

On Monday night, all of the Giants and their fans collectively shared in the joy of a title won the right way. And the one person to whom a title might have meant most of all sat at home, empty.

And that is as it should be. The team won. The me didn’t.