I’m too old to care about the outcome of a sporting event not involving a member of my family. Yet here I sit, distracted from my novel, thinking about an arrogant man wearing blue who called the infield fly rule on a 225 foot pop up that helped ruin the last game of a grown man named Chipper.
Sports has played a large role in my life. As a child, my father and I watched football, baseball, and basketball games together, living and dying with every win and loss. There were more losses than anything. Although I was the youngest and smallest boy in my class until I was 16-years-old, I played several sports, too. After realizing that 5’8″ 165 or so pounds wasn’t going to make any money in any league, I covered sports as a reporter for several years. Writing and broadcasting them filled that artificial void, for a while.
Growing up I suppressed my artistic side as much as I could. It wasn’t “cool” to talk about reading and writing in my social circle. When I got to college, the University of Alabama, I found people who not only liked sports but also liked literature and creative writing. The next time I discovered the same dynamic was the internet, a few years ago.
Last night’s loss by my hometown professional baseball team, the Atlanta Braves, as a result of 3 errors, bad situational hitting, poor base running, and that ridiculous umpire’s call not only ended the team;s season, but also the legendary career of Larry Wayne “Chipper” Jones. Born forty years ago in Northeastern Florida, Jones gave 19 years of outstanding hitting, finishing with a lifetime .303 batting average, and gutsy play that could be categorized as star-like. He played his entire time in the major leagues with my Braves, never considering leaving for more money or more fame. Now, it’s all over in one game. But that’s life isn’t it? The real world is more cruel that Hollywood. It’s more final.
It’s maudlin and intellectually dishonest to say that calling yourself for caring too much about a baseball game means you’re maturing. I wouldn’t be on the Twitter or have a blog if I was growing up (please don’t read my timeline from Friday night, thanks). But I’m hurting my arm patting myself on the back for not punching a hole in my wall or threatening to burn my Braves jersey.
Chipper’s ”walk-up song” aka the tune he has the press box play when he trots from the on-deck circle to the plate before he takes an at-bat, was Crazy Train by Ozzy Osborne. For those of us who followed Jones’ career, every time “aye aye aye” plays in any setting we think tall, good ole boy wearing grown-up pajamas with the number 10 on his back, getting ready to stroke a double to right-center field. Today, because of the circumstances of last night, and the burgeoning of middle-age reality of having to give less of a crap about certain outcomes of sporting events, Crazy Train takes on a new meaning. I’ll let each of you reading this post decide the definition. Goodbye Larry Wayne Jones. You were the greatest third baseman, switch-hitter, and Atlanta Brave I ever saw.
But my mental wounds not healing, who and what’s to blame, I’m going off the rails of the crazy train.