Fun fact: the French don’t give a truffle’s fromage about baseball.
This tidbit comes from my personal experience over the last month in that country. You would think such an existence would be depressing and sad, but they seemed to be content enough without our wonderful game in their lives. Losing to the USA in women’s world cup soccer must be enough to keep them happy. But I digress.
In France I didn’t see a single sports bar, as we know them here. If they exist, they wouldn’t have baseball on them. Even if there were sports bars and even if they did have baseball, the games start at 1:00 in the morning there. Those issues could have been mitigated with an MLB.TV account, but to add to my woes, my rented apartment didn’t have Internet.
I started getting the jitters fairly quickly.
Ever since I became a fan of sport, I’ve been connected in every way, shape, and form available: TV, Radio, radio on my phone, tv on the Internet, etc. You know, connected.
And suddenly I found myself cold turkey without, and it was almost physically painful.
All the contact I had in the world for the vast majority of the time was through a wonderful e-reading device I purchased from Amazon called the Kindle. I splurged and purchased the version with free 3G whisper net to download books and newspapers when I was away from Wi-Fi, which I was for almost the entire trip.
The Kindle can’t play video, it can barely browse the web, no streaming audio. But as I mentioned it does have the ability to download newspapers and some blogs (including DRaysBay for $1.99 a month, well worth it). I was put in a strange position. I was using an early 21st century device to experience baseball the way it was experienced when it became our national past time. I followed the Rays through print.
The words of our local beat writers at the Saint Petersburg times and the excellent work of our friends at DRaysBay (many of whom also write for this site) became my portal into the Rays this summer. I read about the Magic of Kotch without hashtags or implied cynicism. He is hitting .339 as of this writing, but over there I read about his bat, not his numbers. The narrative is what keeps us coming back to baseball, and missing the events live helped me find a nugget of truth: the beauty of baseball is in the telling and retelling.
Is Evan Longoria’s hitting without batting gloves more pertinent than John Jaso’s going 1-5? I would argue that it is. It may not have had as big of an impact on the game, but that part of the story makes the game worth watching. It adds intrigue and mythos to a game built around legends.
And without live action, my expectations adjusted to meet the medium. I woke up and the first thing I did was download the newspaper to see what happened to my beloved team. After a while I stopped feeling like I was missing something. I started to care about the retelling as much as the events themselves.
This afternoon at 4:10 I will experience baseball live for the first time since early June. I must say, I am more than a little excited to be back, experiencing our struggle against the titans of our division in a fight for the playoffs in the middle of July. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, it seems.
Spending a month in France was the experience of a lifetime. It did, however, something I heretofore thought undoable: it made me love our game more than ever.