What you see here is a fork in the road. These are two articles I wrote for the Concord Monitor of Concord, New Hampshire. I was three weeks out of college and on a job interview. What better place for a political science major just before a Presidential election year? How better to launch a career of columning?
They sent me out to cover to local stories. I watched local politicians eat eggs and sat very quietly for a police press conference. I asked a question about NATO at the politics thing. Then I went back to the press room, typed up the stories, tanked the interview, and drove very slowly through my own report on the sobriety checkpoint after watching The Phantom Menace in a theater for the fourth time, Schnapps in hand.
For, you see, after eight years of singlemidnedly devouring the career path of a journalist because in those days that was the only way to become a columnist, I was pinned against the wall of reality and I was bleeding out. No. No way. I could not handle this, six days a week of the eggs and the press conferences and the NATO. Thus the Schnapps.
I flew back to Cincinnati and attended grad school instead. It was to be correcting commas on student essays and a decade’s worth of every imaginable part time job instead.
Uncovering these articles twenty years after the fact was something of a glimpse down the road not taken. I stared down at an ad for a 1999 music festival, the alternate timeline staring back: What if I had grooved to the scrambled eggs and the press room? Where would I be now?
This is one of these dramatic moments that build upon the tiny seconds of decision that constitute a baseball game. Which pitch to which batter? How to play the shift? Is there a rainout displacing the game two months down the line and into a different universe? On such moments games, seasons, and championships are won or lost. Ask Cubs fans about this sometime. They’ll tell you all about it.
Decisions of which pitchers to place on the mound, with what catcher, can direct a game for several innings; meanwhile, in the opposite dugout, a sprained finger from a wildly bouncing grounder can alter a lineup for a day, distend the lineup for a single game, and change tracks for the rest of the season.
I suppose this is one of the aspects of baseball that draw us to this game; while a single play can lean the direction of the game in a completely different direction, there are enough innings in the game, enough games in the season, enough players on the roster and buzzing below in the minors to slowly redirect the course of the river of the summer. And sometimes we don’t know it until the leaves start to fall- or even until we assemble again in the spring.
What decisions in your life led you down a certain timeline, whether you knew it or not? I think we baseball fans are more in tune to synchronicity than other folks. Let me know in the comments.
“Yeah, you wouldn’t want your tactical kilt to be weird or look unusual at all.”