We have an action in our family, but not necessarily a specific title for it. It is the act of abruptly shutting off a sporting event after the home team gives up a grand slam, throws an interception, enters the penalty box or otherwise behaves in a manner unbecoming our fandom.
It is especially satisfying when performed while driving. “Here’s Bailey, with the bases loaded, and nowhere to put him,” if followed by, “Annnnnnnnd he walked him,” earns a sharp jab to radio presets, classic country taking the place of Marty’s disgust.
It is what happens when we cannot bear the descriptors and images of defeat. It is the reason no one listens to the post game show after losses are posted. It is here when Jim Day and his fellow sportscasters earn the paycheck: You can turn it all off and find a bar. They have to relive this crap, frame by frame, discuss each fist-forming moment in detail, and ask the athletes how they feel about doing their jobs poorly in front of hundreds of thousands of people.
The descriptive verb form of this refusal to participate is “being Clete,” in honor of my late grandfather, the 90something year old Reds fan who perfected the practice. “Okay, Clete,” one family member might say to another in the sudden silence and gathering darkness of extinguished television set.
As a child I was terrified I might have to perform the unthinkable act of grandchild disobedience and protest should he hit the dial in Game 4 of the 1990 World Series: “Well, they’re going to lose it now,” he said, watching A’s run the bases in the early going. (He hung in there. So did the Reds.) Admitting that “I was Clete” is the general term for turning off the game in disgust, of bailing, of trading the potential payoff of an exciting win against the anxiety of getting there. It is an act of caring too much, a preemptive strike against disappointment and pain.
You can be Clete due to sudden or extended negligence, as in characteristically loading the bases in a close match or watching three infielders circle a pop fly that drops between them. You can be Clete because of a thorough beatdown and execute the game as a preemptive guard of your time. Or you can be Clete because the entire enterprise is just too neverwracking: My mother was Clete for the entire second quarter of the 1989 Super Bowl. While the rest of us lay down and died in the family room, she was shut up with the 1945 version of State Fair on the other side of the wall.
Last night, I was Clete. Lingering exhaustion from early-week exertions meant that the following adventure totaled me for any further activity, physical, mental, or emotional:
And so, in the sixth inning of a close game with men on, as third base coach JR House windmilled Jesse Winker into a throw to home that beat him by so much the Cubs catcher had time to make the grab, stand on the basepath, taunt the fans, refinance his mortgage, mow the outfield, and marinate an entire cow, I punished them all. I was Clete. I demonstrated my furor at this hapless, helpless bundle of wasted potential by pointedly pressing SYSTEM OFF, rolled up in a ball to radiate disappointment and disapproval into the gathering twilight, and fell asleep for two hours.
I awoke in a different world, one in which the Reds had not collapsed further, had in fact come back more than once, and rather than stranding one another took the trouble to push teammates across home plate. They mobbed gamewinner Puig before he made it much past first. They congratulated him, each other, and themselves. They turned to lift their arms to the faithful few who remained, those who sat amongst pockets of blue in the ball park and did not become Clete for the partial purpose of making it home in time for a pre-10th inning snack.
Nice as it was to watch all this take place after it happened, it was a pale impression of seeing it slowly unfold, pitch by pitch. Those who did were rewarded with gushes of firsthand dopamine. I am happy for them and grateful for their service. Most nights, I am among them. But sometimes, the heavy lifting falls to the college students and the diehards, the insomniacs and the pressboxers.
The rest of us, every now and then, to sustain the voracious needs of the long season, need to be Clete.
|L Castillo (R) P||1.76||0.99||56.1||70||4||1|
|J Quintana (R) P||3.50||1.25||46.1||46||4||2|
Look at those stats. LOOK AT THEM.
Luis Castillo is terrifying because I’m starting to depend on him, and when he self-detonates, as he did in the infamous 8 run blown lead against the Giants, David Bell all of sudden becomes Dusty Baker and is content leave him in until the end of time, chewing things while the mound burns. It’s like he’s making me believe in love again or something, and I need to run before I’m hurt again.
I used to kind of root for the Cubs because I felt sorry for them and had a lot of respect for maintaining their ball park whilst the rest of the humanity was bulldozing theirs, and really didn’t expend much energy directing little waves of hate at them from the stands.
And then? Bartman.
You did it to yourselves, Cubs fans.
- Nick Senzel (R) CF
- Joey Votto (L) 1B
- Eugenio Suárez (R) 3B
- Yasiel Puig (R) RF
- Jose Iglesias (R) SS
- Jesse Winker (L) LF
- Curt Casali (R) C
- Jose Peraza (R) 2B
- Luis Castillo (R) P
- Kyle Schwarber (L) LF
- Kris Bryant (R) 3B
- Daniel Descalso (L) 2B
- Javier Báez (R) SS
- Willson Contreras (R) C
- Victor Caratini (S) 1B
- Jason Heyward (L) RF
- Albert Almora Jr (R) CF
- Jose Quintana (R) P
News and Notes
–This Votto quote was all the passed-around talk on Twitter today.
-The lingerie and nightgown line at Walmart is called “Secret Treasures.”