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  • Mj Pettengill

Three Strikes in a Paper Doll World


Yoenis Cespedes of the New York Mets, Al Bello/ Getty Images

Once again, I ask, “What would Dad do?”

My father was an athlete. Whether coaching a team, practicing with his daughters, playing, or watching a game, he was invested. I could write all about him and never be finished.


What I saw a few days took my breath away. It is sinking in. No judgment. Acknowledgment and contemplation rule the day.


Of the many things that I am grateful for, in real-time, this has more meaning than I could have imagined. Both of my sons are athletic in their own way. My oldest son, Miles, is like my father when it comes to being a Boston sports fan. I don’t need to get into that because most of those reading this get it. It doesn’t matter which team you are rooting for, some are (almost) willing to sacrifice a limb for their team. That’s what I’m talking about.

Back in the day, I went to Boston Garden to watch professional sports and attend some pretty wild concerts, but somehow, I missed Fenway.

Don’t hold this against me, but I have never followed sports on television. It was a frequent part of the soundtrack of my childhood. I appreciate and respect games in progress, but I would rather watch paint dry, as my father used to say. However, I understood the necessity to have an idea about which teams were doing what to engage in specific conversations with friends and family members. Up until the day she died, my mother was a hardcore Boston sports fan. Face it, this was necessary to keep up with Ramsey, and she did it well. She had her rightful place in the stands.

Miles is a career military man. Over the years, I have not had as many opportunities to see him as I would have liked. Not only am I proud, but I also respect, honor, and support him. For a while, he was stationed at the USS Constitution. At the same time, my other son, Shelby, attended a music conservatory in Boston. I savor those memories because we were able to spend time together. It was my daughter who was away traveling then.

Last summer, Shelby, Miles, and I went to as Red Sox game at Fenway. To me, it’s more about the whole New England experience—capturing the essence of pure Americana. There were some immediate aspects of being there that stood out to me. Outside the stadium, homeless people and vendors were all mixed in together. We were looking at grossly over-priced baseball caps while tripping over people clad in dirty rags begging for change. 

Of course, I always notice these sharp social contrasts. We are expected to look beyond them, careful to prevent their presence from contaminating our memories in the making.

I tried to let it go, remain present with my boys. There were times when it was impossible—singing the national anthem was tricky. Inside the stadium, we were patriotic and proud, entrenched in one of America’s favorite pastimes. At the same time, homeless people stand on the other side of the walls hoping for table scraps.

Over and above the usual concerns, the reminders of the haves and the have-nots, I enjoyed the day. The stadium was smaller than what I expected. It had an old-school feel to it. There were living, breathing people in the stands, responding live to the game, and each other. Vendors wove through the crowds selling the usual concessions. It was hot and sunny, and we sat amongst strangers.

And now what comes next? In the name of the global pandemic, we will forge ahead. The baseball season will open, and the stands will be filled with flat cardboard cut-outs. In some stadiums, it may be possible to have an image of your face mounted on one of those hunks of cardboard if you feel the need to be there while not really there... uh, sort of.

“In a few parks, sections of the stands will look like there are actually folks watching. At least 11 teams are offering the chance for fans to purchase a cardboard cut-out with their image on it. Wanna see yourself at Fenway? Make a $500 donation to the team’s foundation and you’ll get a cut-out presence. Now, it will be a little weird to see dozens of smiling fans watching the visiting team score.” (Steve Almasy, cnn.com)  

“A little weird?” 

But wait; there’s more!

Who’s making that racket?
“Each of the 30 stadiums will save empty seats for a few personnel not playing, but it’s gonna sound like a sellout. The teams will be piping in crowd noise and like an electric piano with keyboard effects the sound person can choose from 75 options. Home run! Big cheer! Called out at home? Groans. No word on whether the Astros will get extra boos when on the road.” (Almasy) 

As far as I’m concerned, there is no need to explain. As unique individuals (as opposed to cardboard versions of us), it is our choice to look or look away. If one wishes to throw down $500 to have his/her likeness packed into the paper doll stands, it is a personal choice. 

I mean, how else can we support this great American tradition? Some people have lost their jobs, homes, and more. But, when cheering and shouting at the television, in the midst of the fog, is not enough, let’s pretend to be at a baseball game. Yes, with the lack of ticket sales, the industry would crumble. 

Now, it is up to us to continue to decide what/who is essential. We sift through the debris and somehow call the shots. This is our defining moment. What will it say about us? How will it be interpreted by future generations? With so much time spent in our safe cocoons, we have had and continue to have, time to ponder. With all of the back and forth about the state of our being and how to proceed, the coin toss decides our fate. Or so it seems. Do we stay, or do we go? 

So, which one are you? Do you wait to show up as a real, living, breathing being? Or is it time to step into your paper doll persona and give a big silent cheer? There is no right or wrong, there just is. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Source Cited:

Steve Almasy, Opening Day is almost here, and Major League Baseball is going to look a lot different.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/22/us/mlb-coronavirus-season-preview-spt/index.html

 12:14 PM ET, Wed July 22, 2020

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