I was on a crosstown bus, fiddling with my iPod, when I looked up and saw someone reading the Daily News and noticed the back cover. Giant text: EXIT SANDMAN. And a photo of Mariano Rivera on the ground, clutching his leg.
A few hours later, I checked twitter and saw several tweets in a row, all saying, “Did Adam Yauch really just die?” My sister gave me my first Beastie Boys’ album when I was in ninth grade. For awhile, the tagline I had on this blog was “Fifty cups of coffee and you know it’s on.”
Yesterday was rough for New York.
Since Molly’s father died, everything has felt a little bit off. Especially her mother, who has become distant and unreachable. Molly has no idea what to do — until she rediscovers her love of baseball, the game her dad taught her to play, and decides to go out for her school’s team. Not the girl’s softball team, with it’s larger, softer ball, but the real baseball team — and she has a secret weapon, the knuckleball pitch her father taught her.
This book is lovely. One of my very good friends recommended it to me, because she knows I love books about baseball and family, and, well, that’s this book exactly. And there are so many wonderful things this book gets right: Molly’s exasperation with her mom, who she loves but doesn’t know how to talk to; the weird, pressure-filled feeling of talking to a boy she maybe sort of likes but maybe just wants to be friends with.
The book’s tone is distant, more like someone’s memory than an immediate story. And one narrative quirk I didn’t love that goes along with that was semi-frequent telling-rather-than-showing; scenes summed up as, “Later, he and Molly would discuss their families, and she’d get to know him better,” or, “Later, she and her mother would make up.” It does fit with the book’s tone, but at the same time, it was frustrating because some of those scenes were important character things — it would have made Lonnie’s apprehension over seeing his father and step-mom more powerful if we’d actually seen how hurt he was by his parents’ divorce, rather than a third-hand account as the narrative summed up what he’d told Molly about how he felt.
But I loved Molly, and I especially loved Celia, her best friend, who was somewhat of a weirdo. (Always with a craft project, a font of random knowledge, outspoken on social issues… basically, the character I most identified with.) I loved a few of the messages within the book: that one minor failure, even if it’s embarrassing, is really not the end of the world; and more importantly, that it’s okay to want things, and work hard for them, and be upset when they don’t work out. They’re small lessons in the grand scheme of things, but I think important ones, and beautifully presented as Molly tries to figure out how to forgive her dad for dying.
Let us be up front about this. You know I’m going to love any book where the acknowledgement section ends with, “I’d like to close by thanking Mariano Rivera. Not because he helped with this book or anything … just for existing.” The book is a series of autobiographical essays by Span, some about her experiences as a sports writer covering the Yankees and the Mets, but most are more generally focused around being a baseball fan. (Span is a Yankees fan, who is Mets sympathetic, and the book actually spends more time on the Mets.)
I loved this book for a bunch of reasons, the first of which is that I giggled aloud almost the whole time I was reading it, and kept stopping to read sections to my sister. The anecdotes are delightful — trying to interview Pedro Martinez, but waiting for him to put on pants first, only to have him never put on pants, for example — and there were plenty that made me laugh out loud while reading on the subway (the look back at the Mets’ them “Our Team, Our Time,” if only because I remember listening to that the first time and laughing so hard I cried).
It’s also the only baseball book I’ve ever read where I actually identify with it. That’s mainly two reasons: Span focuses mostly on the teams starting around 2003, which was the year I actually started watching baseball, so I’ve got a much better idea what she’s talking about than in most baseball books I’ve read — I remember Kevin Brown breaking his own freaking hand after a bad start — but also because the way she describes watching baseball is something I identify with:
When I first got interested in baseball, and stopped treating it as background noise and actually focused on it, it was the characters that drew me in, the personalities, and the drama, more than any inherent beauty of the game. I didn’t really care what kind of pitch someone threw or whether a batter had shortened his swing; I just wanted to see if Paul O’Neill was going to beat himself up all night, cursing his perceived failures in the dugout, terrorizing innocent water coolers. I wanted to see how the rookie replacing Tony Fernandez might overcome what I assumed had to be a bad case of nerves and succeed in the big leagues. I wanted Bernie Williams to do well because I wanted a shy, awkward dude with glasses to win one for sky, awkward people with glasses everywhere.
And just, yes, that’s it exactly. People complain about the slow pace of baseball, but for me, watching my first game when I was 20, it was perfect. The fact that it’s one guy batting at a time makes it much easier to figure out who’s who, and gives plenty of time for the announcers to speculate wildly about his mental state, personal life, and whatever else seems interesting. The moments of human drama were more interesting to me than the game at first, and gave me an entrance point that got me watching and kept me interested.
Finally, the book is also basically a love letter to New York. My hands-down favorite essay is “Frankie Furter, Chorizo, and Guido,” in which Span travels to Milwaukee to see a Mets-Brewers game. The thrust is that it’s lovely: the stadium is nice, and cheap, and the people working there are helpful and friendly. The Brewers fans were also nice, and totally welcoming to out-of-town fans, happy to give directions, and cheerfully inviting Mets fans out for drinks after the game. And, as she enjoyed herself there, Span realized that she wouldn’t trade in the hurried, rude, dirty, crowded New York experience for anything:
Let me just say here that I understand why people from other parts of the country get annoyed with New Yorkers’ refusal to see their city as anything other than the center of the world. It’s obnoxious and dismissive, this attitude towards the rest of America, grudging respect for L.A. and (maybe, sometimes) Chicago aside. There are lots of great cities in the United States and plenty of sophisticated people between the coasts.
That said … come on. If New York isn’t the center of the world, what is?
And you know I’ve been a New Yorker for awhile, because of my nodding agreement. (Sorry, entire rest of the country.)
Span touches on lots of other subjects, ranging from the near-and-dear-to-my-heart topic of being a female fan (and female sportswriter), to watching broadcasts of American baseball games while staying in Taiwan, to stats and why people are still arguing over how accurate they are, and so on. It’s a short, quick read, extremely smart, and extremely funny. It’s going right on to my reread list, as soon as I’m done loaning it to everyone I know.
If I was the sort of blogger who wrote things on a timely basis, this post would have been up during the ALCS when I first thought about it, or at least during the World Series, when it was topical, or shortly thereafter, when people were still buzzing. But I’ve been busy with work, that novel I’m perpetually working on, and meeting some of my favorite authors. And I’m not that sort of blogger. Alas.
So. Baseball. And feminism!
The school where my sister teaches had a Yankees-themed dress-down day when the Yankees won the World series.1 She stopped at a Modell’s store to pick up a jersey to wear, and found only men’s larges and extra larges — and a very few women’s shirts, all in pastel pink.
I don’t actually know any women who want pink Yankees gear. The blue pinstripes? Pretty iconic, is all I’m saying. Rachel asked a salesman if there was anything else for women, and he said no. They never bother to order jerseys for women. Imagine that.2
I went to see a game with my friend B this summer. B is a much harder-core fan than I am, actually, and when we were talking about how we got into watching, she said I was one of the only women she knows who watches baseball like she does — or, in other words, who watches baseball like a dude.
But, she said, it was nice to see a game with another woman because she didn’t have to avoid talking about how Derek Jeter is wicked hot.
Yup. That’s my experience, too. Because that’s the thing about talking baseball with dudes. There’s an awesome feeling of being in-group, and what’s more fun than talking about something you love with people who are similarly passionate? But for me and B both — and, I suspect, a lot of other female sports fans — there’s an unspoken knowledge that commenting on a player’s attractiveness means you will be out-grouped instantly. Your opinions will be taken less seriously, and instead of a real fan, you’ll be seen as one of those women, who only watches the game for eye candy or because your boyfriend makes you.3
The thing is, this is not something that happens in reverse. For some reason, a sports-centric magazine with a primarily male audience puts out a yearly edition that’s devoted to women in swimsuits, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a magazine about sports. 4 Movie reviews nearly always comment on the female lead’s attractiveness, but even when written by men, the reviews aren’t discounted out of hand, on the grounds that people assume men only watch movies to stare at the women. And often, female athletes are uber-sexualized, and their looks are considered at least as important as their skills.5
So maybe I do watch baseball like a dude, because apparently even sitting on my couch watching the YES Network is a gendered activity. (Sigh.) But I also watch baseball like a chick. Because, whether you believe in Derek Jeter’s intangibles or Derek Jeter’s actual defensive statistics?
Dude is wicked hot.
- Still not tired of typing that. ↩
- She scowled at him, bought a men’s large, and demanded I blog about it. ↩
- FYI: this is not something than any of the men I know do on purpose. It’s just a part of the same culture that, you know, devalues things girls like. Stupid culture. ↩
- Or at least that’s what’s on the cover, I have no idea what the actual content is. ↩
- I googled to find examples of this, and there are plenty out there, but I was so grossed out and annoyed that I decided not to link to any of them after all. ↩
So I took the day off to go to the Yankees tickertape parade1. Now I’m home, I’ve napped, cuddled my cat, and I’m watching Roseanne on lifetime because I love this show.2 And a commercial just aired for some kind of pre-made pancake batter.
It looks like every other pancake commercial ever. Happy family, messy kids, smiling mom, and end with a close up of the final product: a stack of delicious pancakes with a small square pad of butter on top, and plenty of syrup coating the whole shebang. It’s kind of the iconic image of pancakes.
But my question is: whaaaa?
Who eats them like that? With the pad of butter on top and then syrup. I mean, yes, butter on pancakes is delicious, and as far as I’m concerned, the more syrup, the better.3 But you don’t just want a mouthful of butter. You want it spread across the pancake, right? And if you’ve put the syrup on before you spread that butter pad out, you won’t really be able to.
Basically, that iconic pancake stack looks lovely, but it is not an accurate depiction of real pancake-eating life. I object!
Fire, Kristin Cashore’s second novel, is a sort of prequel/companion to Graceling, her debut. I loved Graceling so much that I gave a copy to my Dad, since we have similar tastes and all. But, while not a bad read, Fire doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor. Though it was good enough for me to assume it’s a sophomore slump, and thus I shall look forward to more from Cashore anyway. Review over at Active Voice.
- Things did not work out as planned, but I should know better than to attend any event with an estimate of “three million-person crowd,” or where I will be smooshed against a barricade listening to people complain for two hours, or where it’s cold. I got to hear some people shouting in the distance, though! Upside: The Yankees won the World Series!!!! ↩
- If it were not on Lifetime and Nick at Nite and TVLand for about 17 hours a day, I would seriously consider buying it on DVD. ↩
- As long as it’s real syrup. You know how I’m a farmer’s daughter? We made our own syrup through my whole childhood; nothing else compares. ↩
I keep meaning to write actual entries here, but then can’t be bothered until they are no longer relevant. So instead, have a list of random bits and pieces that have been on my mind of late.
Random thing #1: I got antsy about this blog, which meant it was time to change the theme. The last one was whimsical but way too narrow, and also, I wanted something bright and cheerful. So: pink! Hooray! I also upgraded to the newest version of WordPress. (Man, the more I use WP, the more I love it. Like, in a grade school, if-you-love-it-so-much-why-don’t-you-marry-it? kind of way.)
Random thing #2: I dropped the “Nerd at Peace” tagline because I never liked it anyway. *shrug*
Random thing #3: Following up on my last post, way after it’s still a thing being discussed, Justine Larbalestier’s Liar did indeed get a new cover, this time with a person of color on it. It still doesn’t match the description in the book, but is a step. A small step, though. Avalon’s Willow explained the remaining issues very well.
Random thing #4: Once upon a time, when I was seven years old, apparently I was featured in a “word on the street” type thing in my hometown’s itty bitty newspaper. I don’t know which was better, my answer or my mom’s rockin’ sunglasses:
Random thing #5: It is a good season to be a Yankees fan. That’s all I’m sayin’ about that.
Random thing #6: I may change the format around here a bit, and link to stuff I’ve written on various other blogs and elsewhere. Mostly because I would then actually have things to post, as this is my least-frequently-updated blog. (Possibly, I have too many blogs…) Over at Tweenage, I have recently written about The Wizards of Waverly Place movie and joined Jess to review Bandslam and Aliens in the Attic, and if you’re bored and like pop music, might I recommend our Official Tweenage Wasteland Official Boy Band Watch? And at Active Voice, I significantly less recently reviewed Cindy Pon’s Silver Phoenix.
Random thing #6.5: Speaking of things I’ve written, some small pieces at work: Innovative Video Game Helps Teach HIV-Positive Teens About Safer Sex and Annie Lennox: Singing Out Against HIV, so there are those.
Random thing #7: If I do not feed my cat soon, she will likely claw my eyes out. So this is the end of the list.
Dear Adam Carolla,
Let me just thank you for informing me that I deserve a meal fit for a man! I shall run out to Taco Bell — I think that was it — immediately. I think it’s awesome the way you reach out to female (dare I say feminist?) viewers of ESPN who really just want to enjoy a final goodbye to Yankee Stadium by embracing us and reminding us that it’s true: along with things like the right to vote, and equal pay for equal work, we’ve too often forgotten the right to eat the same meal as a man — wow! I can’t believe the importance. Tragically, that’s one that is overlooked all too often!
Thanks, Adam. And thank you, Taco Bell.
PS: I do have your motives and message correct, don’t I?
So. I have ranted before about my experience as a female geek trying to have a conversation with male geeks, and the prove-your-credentials bullshit that goes on. The more I pay attention, the more I see this bullshit is everywhere; it’s a fucked up game that, when I see it going on, I refuse to play. It pisses me off.
I have also written that I think that, generally speaking, I think that happens less in sports fandom because women have been “allowed” to like sports for longer. Actually, what I wrote specifically was:
That said, I’ve still been, um…initiated by male sports fans, by which I mean skeptically asked to prove that I’m part of a group. Let’s just say I’ve never heard anyone ask a dude if he’s really a fan or if he’s just wearing the hat. But (while I wouldn’t be surprised if it had happened to others) I’ve never run into anything as malicious or defensive as I did in the comic book situation.
Spoke too soon, it turns out. Now, I still suspect that’s generally true, but all I’m working with is personal anecdotes, so I shall refrain from drawing any specific conclusions. But I did run into a pretty parallel, this-isn’t-how-you-treat-male-fans situation on Friday, that I need to rant about because it’s still pissing me off.
Traditional, old-fashioned, House-that-Ruth-Built Yankee Stadium is closing after this season, to be replaced by a shinier, more expensive House that Steinbrenner Built. So Jess and I decided to go see one last game together (err… one last game at the stadium, the first one we’d seen together) and snagged a couple of bleacher seats. The bleachers definitely used to be known as the home of the drunken assholes in the stadium, but in recent years alcohol has been forbidden in that area, so they’ve become more family friendly. But that didn’t stop a couple of drunken douchebags from congregating outside the stadium to yell at people as they walked by. Specifically, a drunk dude screamed at us, “HEY LADIES, you like baseball?”
Tee-hee, no! We just thought the hats were totally cute and felt like dropping $80 so we could admire the players in tight pants!
Wait, no, the other thing. The game. Yes, we enjoy that. I froze up because I had no idea how to answer, and probably shouldn’t have answered at all. Then again, I’m someone who smiles at everyone and stops to chat when random strangers talk to me — still trying to shake my small-town upbringing. So I said, “Yeah…?”
To which he answered, “So then, like… Do you know how many outs are there in an inning?”
At which point I exploded with, “OH MY GOD, DO YOU THINK WE ARE STUPID, YOU JACKASSES!” and stormed in to the bag-check line while Jess stared at me in surprise. I rarely scream at strangers. I rarely scream at all, actually. But like I said, I won’t play that game anymore, and it seriously enrages me.
Here’s the thing: six outs per inning is kind of the most basic, standard thing you know about baseball. Three strikes, you’re out; three outs per half-inning. I don’t know when I learned that, but it was ages before I actually became a baseball fan. It may not be universal knowledge, but it’s pretty standard; it’s especially standard among people who are attending a baseball game, whether they’re big fans or not. To ask someone attending a baseball game if he or she knows that is insulting and yes: in this situation, it was a sexist thing. It wasn’t a good faith question. It may have been a severely misguided attempt at flirting, or it may just have been some douchebags being douchebags because they could, but they weren’t yelling insults at men. They were targeting women, questioning our intelligence, and questioning our reasons for attending.
It didn’t ruin the night: the Yankees pulled off a 2-1 win, and I got to see Mariano Rivera (my very favorite player) get a 5-out save. We had a great time. It just sucks that in order to get in to have a great time, we were slapped with yet another reminder that, as women, there are still people who are at best surprised (and sometimes hostile) when we venture outside of our specifically-designated woman-places (the kitchen, I guess?) and enjoy life as if we were actually just people.
…But pretty close.
The scene is my living room. After text messaging the Gentleman Caller to update him on the Yankees’ score, only to see them blow it in the fourteenth, my phone rings…
GC: Fucking Joe Torre! I defended him the whole fucking season when things went wrong, but now he pulls THIS kind of shit in the fourteenth inning of one of the last games of the season on a night when the Sox won? Fuck that guy!
Me: It’s his bad habit. Torre always feels like when there’s pressure, he has to DO something, he can’t just let things play out, so he over manages and screws himself–
GC: He fucking took out Melky! Melky is clutch! For Wilson fucking Betemit! Who the fuck is that guy?
Me: You know how I feel about Melky. I love Melky. And Brian Bruney? Really?
GC: Damn it! Okay. I’m going back into the bar now.
Me: Allrighty. Drink away the pain.
GC: I will… You know everyone who walked past me on the sidewalk assumes I’m ranting to a guy, right?
Me: …There’s absolutely nothing I can think of to say to that.