The Nation's Umpire

It is Memorial Day weekend.  Let reflection and the games begin.

My late brother loved baseball and thought it a game of life.   In Germany, where I lived for several years in the early seventies, I was shocked (I tell you, SHOCKED!) to hear from my German friends that they thought it the dullest game on the face of the earth.  I sputtered and mumbled my brother’s theories but they weren’t buying any of it.

But, in Boston, Massachusetts, home of the Boston Red Sox?  It is religion.  In fact, THE religion.  There are more members of Red Sox nation than any diocese, synagogue, mosque, or white clapboard meeting house combined.

I’m surprised Red Sox Nation hasn’t followed the Pope in issuing their version of plenary indulgences.  They could sell  transponders with the Red Sox logo. Their proposition would be (and I find it just as plausible as Romes’), that fans could fix it to their visor (either hat or car) and get in the Fast Lane to heaven.

On this sun dappled day pictured above I was photographing a youth league where my grand nephew, Timmy, named after my late brother, was playing his game.

His cousin was the catcher on the field next to his and during an inning change, I went over and took his photograph.

“Yeow!”  I murmured.  “That was a close call.”

But, was it?  My angle of view really didn’t afford the perspective necessary.  The catcher looks poised, ready to do his job, so it does not appear to be a wild pitch.  But, the batter’s stance clearly communicates the pitch was close to the body of the batter and he pulled back instinctively in order not to get hit.

Was it a ball or a strike?  The umpire had to make the call.  Only he had the view that counts.  We know in baseball that the professional players are also actors.  They can pull antics at the plate worthy of the Barrymore family.  Their heads and bodies can swivel when there is real or imagined danger.

I would think that when you are young, when you are getting used to a fast ball being thrown in the general direction of the strike zone, (which actually is you)  and thrown by  another 11 year old…well, that could make the young batters a bit jumpy.

So, the umpire calls it.  He factors in the angle that counts and makes his call, “Strike Two”!

The coach complains, the kid looks embarrassed, the umpire looks confident.

The next pitch plunks the kid on the shoulder and he trots off to first base, holding his shoulder.

Now, I asked this question of myself yesterday after listening to President Obama talk about the complexities of constructing a legal policy on terror,  followed by Dick Cheney comments about their being no middle ground on this subject.

Who would I want to be my nation’s umpire?  I asked myself, “Who would I want to make these complex calls?

This was not a close call.

And, seriously, I’m begging.   (I tell you, BEGGING!)   Could  someone  make a transponder that goes in the opposite desired direction of plenary indulgences and Red Sox nation FAST LANE passes and fix it on Dick Cheney’s visor once and for all.

©Pat Coakley 2009


11 comments on “The Nation's Umpire”

  1. Great photo, and story of baseball as a metphor for life. I’ve never been a huge fan of baseball, and view it somewhat like the Germans. But perhaps I’ve been mistaken. It’s at least as interesting as a congressional debate, complete with all the head fakes, posturing and slight of hand — and I seem to find those interesting sometimes.
    I like the idea of a Cheney transponder to provide the appropriate directions… Seems there is a whole team who might be worthy of one on their visor.

    • Thanks, Don. I never truly got the whole baseball is life thing that my brother would talk about either. But, I did see that it meant a great deal to him so I began to follow it. I respect it as a game now and occasionally do see the analogue with life.

  2. I’m riled. Teeth gnashing riled. If one more ” common-tater ” ( and they are clearly common or wouldn’t be spewing without thinking) announces Vice President Chen…, er, sorry, FORMER Vice President,
    without failing to realize that they wield influence with their misspeaks, I’m going to throw a brick at my TV screen.

    That man needs to be muzzled, bagged, and silenced. He is no longer in office. What former anyone has had this much airplay?
    And why?!!!!

    I’ve not managed the eloquent verbal metaphor that you’ve delivered above with characteristic ingenuity. I’m too irate.

    But Timmy will love that photo- a testament to never being too young to employ good judgement.

    Unlike some adults who are too far gone to know what judgement is.

    A great post Pat.

    • Bon Bon…I seriously have discovered the trick to not becoming as riled up as the situation warrants: I don’t watch these yappers, whether on the right or left. Period. They could announce I’ve won a million dollars and I wouldn’t know. Besides, I’m trying to be cool, calm and occasionally humorous like you know who.

  3. As a baseball fan myself, raised that there is God, Country and Mickey Mantle – i was always confused as to which of the three had the highest priority. However as fate would have it i went to my first MLB game at Yankee stadium and the Mick struck out three times (twice with men on base) and they lost. I swore I’d never root for the Yankees again, because even I would strike out three times. I chose the Baltimore Orioles who in the mid- 60’s to mid- 70’s of my childhood ruled the AL. It is with sadness that I have to say that the Red Sox have bought into the evil nation mindset. Indeed they have become increasingly as rude at away games as their Yankee cousins.

    It was your photo however that sucked me in. As a little league coach I have to say that the child is standing way to close in the batters box to the pitcher. The catcher was set up on the outside part of the plate, its tough on the angle but it looks like a strike to me.

    • Yes, I agree that some Red Sox fans are as obnoxious as Yankee fans, In fact, I have a clip from my video camera of Fenway Park’s greeting to Alex Rodriquez last year on Mother’s Day, up on youtube that shall prove your point.

      And, I think the operative word in your look at this photograph, from the coaching persepective, is actually the wider point of the post. The angles we see things are often deceptive although we may absolutely think we see something correctly.

      Thanks for your comment!

  4. Great photo – you can feel how close and fast that ball was and who on earth could possibly think that baseball is boring? Only s/he who has never played the game, that’s who. As for the relevance to what’s going on in US politics this week, as a non-American I hope you will forgive me for not commenting in detail but I can say that the discord about certain comments from certain former VPs has certainly reached our shores and resoundingly so. Obama has a big support network over here, which is a lot more than I can say for his predecessor.

    • Epic, I watched the whole recent European trip and it truly made an impression on me. It made me proud, truly, that our nation had elected him. Sound sappy, right? Well, so be it.

  5. I like the shot. You’ve obviously still have good reflexes. Or is that a single lens reflex?
    Tish! Boom! I couldn’t resist.

    To me, baseball is your country’s version of the cricket that is so loved here in Oz. To be fair, they are both painfully boring.

    As for Cheney, he represents a real mystery to me. How is it that a guy who was the head of a company that traded with Libya when his country had an embargo against that country wasn’t prosecuted, but instead, rose to such a high level in the his country’s government?

    The arrogance of Cheney is breath taking. I’m amazed that he has the chutzpah to speak in public at all considering all the slimy self serving things he has done in his life. I guess his arrogance stems from the fact that the truth can be in plain sight but so many people choose to ignore it.

    I’m conflicted about who I hate the most, people like Cheney and Rumsfeld or the people who disregard the evidence of their deeds.

  6. Pat! what a glorious photo! I love love love it ! It certainly brings back memories of watching my big brother in little league while growing up. When a photo provokes a strong emotion, (okay even politics, which I happen to hate) it’s gold babeee, gold! Awesome.

    • Thanks, Renee! Yes, youth leagues today are far different than when i was growing up….come to think of it, did they even have them in the 50’s?? Wait, what am I asking you for?? You are thirty years younger than me!

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