A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Baseball and Dad

A review of a new book about the game of baseball as a road to God* sparked a childhood memory or two. I’ve seen comparisons between professional sports to professional religion as early as the 70s, which tells me this is not a new theory. At first, I resisted the notion that something conceived as entertainment could be considered bigger than a belief in God itself. Then again, the first Super Bowl I watched depicted the coin used in the coin toss, mounted in a velvet pillow, and conveyed to the field in a Cadillac as if it were a member of the royal family, or dare I say it, a visiting deity.

How naïve and foolish I was!

I may still be naïve in many respects — still working through the concept that conservatives should be rehabilitated — but I believe I may have matured. I now accept the idea that a dedication to a sport is akin to Godliness. Some might view this as heresy, but we can’t deny the passions which sports bring out in people.

The reviewer, John Timpane, made the point that men relive their childhoods through the great game of baseball. He clinched his argument with a reference to the end of Field of Dreams, in which Kevin Costner’s character asks his father for a game of catch. As Timpane describes it, the end of the film filled the theaters “with the sounds of men weeping.”

All this led me to thoughts about my dad.

I’m sure I have mentioned before how there was always a distance between my father and I. It wasn’t just an emotional distance, as in two males subscribing to the age old stereotype not to allow the other guy see you cry. There was an actual spatial distance established early on. I blame his smoking habit for that. There seemed to be a perpetual blue haze hanging in the air between us, which I’m convinced shortened both of our life spans.

I realized, of course too late, how much he did love me. He moved his family out of the city and into a rural area, which was better for us in the long run. I was skeptical at first. I was only 10, but I was already dazzled by the excitement that living in a big city could bring. Dad didn’t necessarily move out of the city for his career; the standard of living in upstate Pennsylvania was obviously lower than in Northeast Philadelphia, which meant Dad took a pay cut. He seemed to work twice as hard after we moved than when we lived in the city.

Naturally, being a teenager at the time with all of the accompanying hormonal angst, I could not see beyond my seemingly perpetual boredom and appreciate the sacrifices he made. It meant longer hours away from home for him, and longer times spent away from us. In the meantime, my brother and I grew up and found other interests to pursue. By the time Dad had settled into a comfortable financial level and had more free time to spend with his family, we were long gone. Which I believe was one of the points being raised by Field of Dreams.

Sometimes the pursuit of material success can be a bitch!

So there was a spatial and emotional distance between my father and I. We remained close, but looking back now I realize that we could’ve been closer. Now the distance is permanent, and I can only be with him in my memories.

Field of Dreams has been in heavy rotation on cable recently, and I know what Timpane means when I watch the ending. I tell myself that I won’t get misty-eyed over it as I watch the scene, but it’s a struggle I have been losing. I’ve lost count how many times I have found myself wanting to do something, anything with my Dad since his death in 2005. So now I will accept that sports can be bigger than God, that times spent together with loved ones should be cherished no matter the distances between them, and that I will weep at the end of Field of Dreams.

I love you, dad, wherever you are.

(Thank you for reading. I think I need to be alone for a moment…)

*Baseball as a Road to God, Seeing Beyond the Game; by John Sexton, with Thomas Oliphant and Peter J. Schwartz; Gotham/Penguin.


Anonymous Janey said...

What a touching and beautiful tribute to Ray, your father...

June 16, 2013 at 9:54 AM  
Blogger todd gunther said...

Thank you, Janey.

June 18, 2013 at 3:16 PM  

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