The business of baseball
With the Twins mired in last place, the urge to flip on the television this summer dwindled to nil.
This is the second straight season where hopelessness has sprung eternal in Twins Territory.
In June, while remodeling the driveway with the skid steer, I cut the coaxial cable that runs in from the dish.
Because the Twins were on a losing binge at the time, one which would never really end, it took four weeks for me to ask handyman Ken to bring his tools out to the house and splice the cable.
After Ken performed the magical splicing ceremony, the television sprung to life.
Like finding a favorite toy you'd thought you'd lost, I spent the next three nights in front of the television enjoying the novelty.
And then it wore off.
If I hit the one night out of three when the Twins showed some life, I enjoyed the game, but as soon as things threatened to get out of hand, off went the switch.
It is difficult to listen to announcer Dick Bremer search around for signs of life, signs of hope, signs of competence, on a team, which is so clearly a flop.
Baseball announcers are not journalists. They are salesmen. They have to sell stuff every time Rick Anderson makes a Quik Trip to the mound, or Willingham knocks a Coors Light "cold blast" out of Pamida Park.
Not only that, but it is the announcer's job to fill the seats at the ballpark by trumping up every possible high point, every little sign of hope.
After a wind storm in August, the television went silent again. "Searching for signal," said the screen.
I let it be. For six weeks, I paid $2 per day to not watch 162 channels of trash. Twins' losses continued to pile up.
Then the hated Yankees came in to play at Pamida Park. I decided to see if I couldn't fix the problem with the reception.
Using my remote phone as a walkie-talkie so I could monitor the TV, I ventured through the poison ivy to the dish and climbed up on a chunk of firewood left there for the purpose.
I bumped the dish one way. Nothing. So I bumped it the other way.
Bonanza! Full reception once again.
What a repairman I am.
And the Twins won!
After over a month of silence, I relished every colorful moment of the televised extravaganza.
The next night, reality set in. The Twins lost. Again. Too many Kwik Trips to the mound for Rick Anderson. Too many Coors Light "cold blasts" for the overpaid Bronx Bombers.
Baseball media coverage has changed, and not for the better.
There's just too much of it.
In the 1970s, the Minnesota Twins fan was thirsty for any tidbit of news. After a galling loss, or even after a thrilling win, the radio station returned to farm reports the minute the game was over.
No, not reports from Rochester or Toledo on the farm team, but actual reports on January corn and November wheat. The important stuff.
Today, the poor announcers carry on for a good half hour of post-game baloney where the most useless journalistic enterprise in existence, the sports interview, is conducted over and over until you want to retch.
"We didn't get it done tonight, that's all there is to it," says the manager, clearly longing for a "cold blast" of the non-home run variety.
"No excuses, I didn't have my fastball tonight and I just left too many pitches up," says the pitcher, by way of an excuse. Or two.
The pitcher, unlike the manager, can afford a pitcher of something better than a cold blast even after he gives up a six-pack of cold blasts to the Bombed Bronxers.
Even a win has to be followed by an interview with the hero, who looked so grand rounding the bases but now looks like a bumbling fool as he drops thirty "you know's" to fulfill the reporter's demand that he "take us through that last at bat."
That last at bat is never improved by an explanation from the participant.
If anything interesting did happen on the field that we didn't see the first time, such as the time Rod Carew swallowed his plug of tobacco rounding third and barely made it home, today's players are so trained to say nothing of interest that it would never get reported anyway.
Although baseball remains a beautiful game, coverage of it is not journalism. It isn't even entertainment.
It is about selling.
And sometimes it doesn't hurt to cut the cable.