Over the weekend, I was out running errands after a long day of working in the yard, and I decided it would be a good day for us to have a takeout dinner. So once that plan was approved by headquarters, I called La Fogata and placed the order. I was told it would take 20 minutes.
I was easily within five minutes of the restaurant, so I drove in the other direction, looking for a way to kill time. I decided to visit the park behind North Side Middle School, and see what was going on there — I figured that this time of year, there’d be some action on one or more of the ballfields.
I was right. I drove through the parking lot, and had to pick my way slowly and carefully because of all the boys, who were generally within a couple of years of 12 I’d guess, and parents who were apparently returning to their cars after a game that had just ended.
And then I noticed something: Their progress back to their cars, and my progress through them, were both impeded by the gear they were hauling. And by the elaborate gear for hauling that gear.
The most cumbersome were the wheeled contraptions that held bags, coolers, bats and such. They looked like people preparing to sell things from a barrow. Those were the most noticeable, but everyone had an unusual amount of gear. The lightest were elaborate, specialized backpacks many of the players were wearing. The packs seemed full, and each had two bats sticking up from the pack, one on each side.
Back in the day, when I played ball, you brought yourself and your mitt to the game, and that was it. (Unless, of course, you were the catcher.) The coach would have a duffel bag full of bats and balls, and sometimes conscientious players (who were perhaps eager for more playing time) would help the coach by carrying that bag from coach’s car to the dugout.
But now, every player or player’s parent I saw was hauling at least as much as the coach would once have, and often more. I don’t even know what some of that stuff they were carrying and pulling was. But there was a very great deal of it.
Of course, all this brought to mind one of the books I’ve been rereading lately instead of the books I was supposed to read this year: Huxley’s Brave New World. If you’ll recall, in this super hyped-up extrapolation of Western consumer culture, all the games — like centrifugal bumple-puppy, and electromagnetic golf — require elaborate, expensive, easily-broken equipment to play. Everyone is conditioned from birth to want to play these games at every opportunity. Not to keep themselves in shape or exercise sportsmanship, but to keep them buying the stuff.
And I got to thinking about the various social influences that must have been at work over recent decades to convince these kids, and parents, that they had to have all this stuff to play baseball. Huxley had sleep-conditioning to bring about this effect. I don’t know what happened with these folks.
We used to have this wonderful, simple, pastoral game called baseball. Originally, there weren’t even gloves. Just a ball and a stick for everyone to share. And even after the gloves came along, for a long time players would leave them out in the field while batting rather than carry them back and forth to the dugout.
No more. Now there’s all this junk, and all this hauling back and forth. And don’t even get me started on the designated hitter…