Not only have I never written a “While We’re Waiting…” before, but I haven’t much read them either. This is likely (a) something I shouldn’t be admitting because (b) I have no reasonable excuse. In the olden days, when WWW was just a collection of links, I felt fairly justified in my parsimonious clicking. After all, by the time it came out each morning I’d likely already consumed most of the links it contained—or at least the ones I ever might.
But now that people are writing real live thoughts with words and everything? Well, like I said: no excuse. I point out my negligence only to apologize in advance for what I promise to be a peripatetic tour of nonsense that only obliquely addresses sports and/or Cleveland. I am new at this, and, much like Calvinball, I’ve been told there are no rules.
Last Thursday I got to see the Cavs season opener live and in person, and I’ve been trying to decide since whether I should feel guilty about this. I am not, it should be noted, much of a Cavs fan. Before Thursday, I’d only been to two games: a playoff game against the Celtics in 2008 and a post-LeBron loss in 2010 against the team from Charlotte that I understand to be fairly awful and whose name I now choose not to look up. I did not grow up with the NBA. Its rhythms and frenetic energy are foreign to me. I prefer the leisurely complacence of a late-summer baseball game, where nothing seemingly happens, and no one much cares if you pay it any mind. Have a beer. Relax. Dose off a bit, or take a walk. Whatever. You could even pay attention, if you like. Or not…
My limited experience suggests that the NBA is the polar opposite: there seems a constant concern that every person in the arena may suffer severe ADHD and could stop paying attention at any moment. To combat this, every combination of sound, light, and skin is deployed to stimulate the bejeezus out of you for 2 hours, until you leave exhausted and exhilarated.
But I digress. I mean here only to say that I have since worried that the tickets my wife won in the online lottery may have been better enjoyed by someone who cared more than I did about the game and the team. Someone with a painted face and a foam finger who lived and died with the last four years of unwatchable tripe. That is the one side.
The other side is that I love Cleveland. I love its people and its neighborhoods and its tortured, practiced sense of self, and its humiliated pride. I love its eccentricities that emerge only after a long and sustained courtship, after prying hard against its rough edges. I love that it is where I have come to call home, and I am grateful to have found out this little secret that so few people care to understand. And Thursday was about that too. That is the other side.
Terry Francona signed a contract extension yesterday, keeping him with the Indians through at least 2018. I will only mention here that this news has been fairly unanimously received as a good thing—yet another good thing our Front Office hath wrought.
They are imperfect and they make massive mistakes and they have blind spots the size of the Grand Canyon and they are infuriatingly always on-message and yet it would be SO MUCH WORSE WITHOUT THEM. I understand that this is not the sort of argument that inspires passionate devotees. But it happens to be true, and all I can do is continue to point it out.
Here are three links that Jacob thought could be good additions to WWW. I will admit that I have not read them, but I trust Jacob: he’s written a lot more of these than I have.
- Will the LeBron James Stimulus be Good for Cleveland? (NY Times)
- Highs and Lows of the NBA’s First Week (ESPN)
- How MACtion Led to the Growth of a Conference (Forbes)
Jacob is in graduate school these days, which, if they haven’t changed it too much in the last ten years, means that he spends most of his time drinking cheap beer and reading. Which is just to say: trust Jacob on everything.
I am—like seemingly everyone else in the world—very much enjoying the Serial podcast. I’m tempted to get in your face and tell you that IT’S THE BEST THING EVER AND YOU JUST HAFTA LISTEN, but then I remember that I’m more baseball than basketball and hey, do whatever you like. Eat some nachos maybe and just sort of fall asleep in a salt coma as the nothingness washes over you…
Anyway what I find so interesting thus far is that the entire premise of the podcast—this guy who is convicted of this awful crime MIGHT NOT HAVE DONE IT—is not at all the hook for me. I totally think he did it. Maybe not exactly how the prosecution painted it. Maybe not at all like they say. But he did it. At least that’s where I’m at after six episodes.
And because I feel like he did it, what I’m most interested in is hearing him lie about it. He’s such a good liar, and this format lets him lie extravagantly and with great foresight and conviction. He’s an incredibly compelling liar, if that’s a thing, and I find myself liking him better for it—not personally, but in a sort of grudging admiration for his finely honed skill. He’s clearly thought about this for so long and ironed out every story. It’s so…workmanlike! And then I feel icky, because he did this awful thing and now he’s lying about it and his proficiency is making me like him and what does that say about me? It’s great, complicit fun. I wonder though, for those of you who listen: are you with me? He definitely did it, right?
As I thought about how I’d fill this space, I looked over Scott’s last While We’re Waiting, and noticed that he does a “beer of the week” item as a sort of recommendation. I thought maybe I’d write similarly about scotch, but that seems a little too close to Scott’s schtick, and anyway I don’t think I’d convince many of you to go out and buy a $90 bottle of single malt. (Aberlour, cask strength though. It’ll change your life. And shorten it.)
Anyway, the only thing I like more than scotch is poetry.
That is a lie. I like scotch way more than I like poetry. But I’ve decided to end this and any future WWW’s with a poem. This one is from a local poet and old friend George Bilgere. Like me, George grew up near St. Louis and has since come to call Cleveland his home. Like me, Stan Musial’s death last year hit him in places that had nothing to do with baseball.
My father once sold a Chevy
to Stan Musial, the story goes,
back in the fifties,
when the most coveted object
in the universe of third grade
was a Stan-the-Man baseball card.
No St. Louis honkytonk
or riverfront jazz club
could be more musical
than those three syllables
rising from the tongue of Jack Buck
in the dark mouths
of garages on our street,
where men like my father
stood in their shirt-sleeved exile,
cigarette in one hand, scotch
in the other, radio rising
and ebbing with the Cards.
If Jack Buck were to call
my father’s drinking that summer,
he would have said
he was swinging for the bleachers.
He was on a torrid pace.
In any case, the dealership was failing,
the marriage a heap of ash.
And knowing my father, I doubt
if the story is true,
although I love to imagine
that big, hayseed smile
flashing in the showroom, the salesmen
and mechanics looking on
from their nosebleed seats at the edge
of history, as my dark-suited dad
handed the keys to the Man,
and for an instant each man there
knew himself a part of something
in the old myths, a bored god
dresses up like one of us, and falls
through a summer thunderhead
to shock us from our daydream drabness
with heaven’s dazzle and razzmatazz.
Maybe we’ll do this again sometime.
Until then, have a good Wednesday! I hope it has some razzmatazz in it.