Baseball in a 4G World
By Ethan Bryan
This story might be about as useful as Polk points.* Consider yourself warned.
*For those of you who don’t know what Polk points are, consider yourself blessed, but if you’re curious, click here.
In this day and culture where technology makes everything possible, I’m ridiculously way behind the times. I don’t have a smart phone, which, as of this week, now places me in the minority of American citizens. I don’t have cable or satellite or Direct TV. And as of last week, I don’t even have a functional TV as my digital receiver blew up. All of these decisions—except for the receiver—are intentional. Were I to completely buy into all that technology has to offer, no one would ever see me again.
I could easily watch movie after movie, time and time again, getting caught up into the plot and character development while learning how to tell a good story. I would scroll through the listings to find which MLB teams were playing and then live tweet throughout the day about all kinds of games. My phone would be the recipient of the majority of my eye contact during Royals’ games, as I would be attached to Gameday whenever possible.
I know myself and I know what is good for myself and the story I’m trying to write with my life. What is good for me is to get away from screens and to spend time with real people who don’t know what BABIP stands for or aren’t in a funk because Royals’ starting pitchers haven’t been able to qualify for a win for the last two weeks (very slight exaggeration).
Yet I also know that baseball engages and inspires me to live a better story, to get back up one more time, to hold on to the hope of tomorrow’s game, and to talk with the stranger behind me in line and end up watching a few innings from his suite.
So, I’m trying to find the balance. I’m trying to live and share life with others. I’m trying to be a good husband and dad. And I’m trying to not miss a single inning of Royals baseball. Thankfully, my wife and social coordinator is very gracious and understanding of my obsession. Sometimes, however, life happens while the Royals are playing.
Sunday, the Royals played the Yankees. My oldest daughter’s piano recital was at the same time as the game. Once I walked away from my car, I would be clueless about the story of the game. I texted Mark first. He responded a couple of times, until the Yankees went all Yankee against us and blew up the score. After forty-five minutes of silence, I tried texting Mike Engel who always knows what’s going on. But once Luke Hochevar experienced another mental-mound-meltdown, he too lost interest and needed a break. Besides, he had bets to make with his woman about the upcoming Royals and Red Sox series.
I kinda felt guilty, like I was supposed to learn a lesson that there’s more to life than baseball. As I was trying to learn that lesson, I was listening to beautiful music that was shaping the minds of the next generation while sitting with my family in a beautiful church. It was the day we are supposed to slow down and breathe. And as I’m thinking these thoughts my oldest daughter, the one who would be at the keyboard in another few minutes, wrote me a note. “Dad, what’s the score?” Validation. I persisted in texting only to learn that the Royals were significantly behind. My daughter rolled her eyes in frustration. “I don’t like the Yankees either,” she wrote. I must be doing something right, I thought to myself.
Fast forward to Tuesday night, Royals vs. Red Sox game number two. My daughters are getting ready for bed and I’m sitting at the kitchen table watching the outcome of the game on my laptop. My oldest daughter asks me to tuck her in and say bedtime prayers. At this point, the Royals were losing 4 – 3. We talked about the highs and lows of the day, pray, and as I’m leaving she calls out, “Dad, come back in a few minutes and tell me the score.”
Sometimes, my oldest daughter has trouble falling to sleep. Such was the case Tuesday night. In the top of the seventh, I peeked in and heard her whisper, “Any change?”
“Sorry kiddo, we’re still losing.” She sighed and asked to be kept in the loop.
When Billy’s bomb landed in the fountains an inning later, I was convinced she was already asleep, until she walked down the hall to get a drink of water. She returned to bed without saying anything. Broxton worked a quick ninth and I turned off the computer to go read. I stepped into her room and quietly whispered, “Billy homered. Royals won.” She smiled in response and was gently snoring a few minutes later.
On Wednesday night, I met SungWoo Lee. Lee is better known by his handle “@Koreanfan_KC.” He tweeted that he was trying to keep up with the game while at work, a sentiment I completely understood. We messaged back and forth, and I learned that he started watching baseball on the Armed Forces Network for the express purpose of learning English. He chose the Royals because he likes to cheer for the underdog and, well, they have been the underdog for a really, really long time. Now, thanks to MLB-TV, he is able to keep updated on Royals action and learn English some 14 time zones away.
Huh. How about that? Baseball and technology working together to make the world a better place. Simply amazing.
Baseball has been a significant part of my life for the last thirty plus years. I’m trying to keep up with the times as a fan and learn the new ways to follow and support the team—tweeting during games, blogging my obsessive craziness, even writing a book about the boys in blue. However, what’s more important to me than keeping up with the latest in technology is sharing life and stories with friends along the way. And now I’ve got a new friend in South Korea, and that is better than any advance in technology.