Thursday, August 6, 2009

Did You See That?

Have you ever had one of those double take, "what the heck?!" moments while driving? I was on my way, for the third time, to work in the stifling heat for the World Series Tournament when a large, white work van cut in front of me. I hate it when people don't signal, fully believing their mere size means they can go wherever they want, whenever they want. As I looked up to see if the van had one of those 1-800-How's-My-Driving? bumper stickers, I realized a number wasn't necessary. I'll probably not forget this van for a while. In almost two foot high letters the back of it read, "S&M Entertainment".

Yeah, I'm sure. I read it twice.

When they turned the corner, the side of the van had a satellite dish painted on it, with the words "Dish Installation" added below. I wondered which got them more attention: their horrible driving skills or that "S&M Entertainment" logo? Considering how they were driving, I'd be willing to bet it stood for Sam and Mike, but that's hardly noteworthy, huh?

After that I arrived safely to work the tournament's conclusion. One of our four local teams won their Division, defeating a previously undefeated team. I'm glad it was the older girls, who next year will be going off to college. This was their only chance to play in the brand new $3.5 million dollar ballpark complex. They'll certainly have unique bragging rights.

With the T-shirt Tent, as I came to think of my little space, right next to the gate we were able to watch a vast parade of humanity every day. Players from ages 8-18, their coaches, parents, some cases I think half one state walked past us daily. [Yes Tennessee, I mean you, but you're such a polite lot!] Town folks showed up in droves to cheer on the 57 teams from 11 states. I don't think the President could pull in the numbers we saw this past week.

Our Hometown Baseball Hero, Bobby Richardson, was the featured speaker. For those of you who know professional baseball, Richardson played 2nd Base for the New York Yankees in the late 50s-60s. He was in more World Series than I can properly recall, won a couple of awards and was the very straight laced family man to Mickey Mantle's man about town. To me, he was Robby and Ronnie's Dad...them being two of the five Richardson kids I grew up with at church. The thing is, Richardson didn't just speak at the Opening Ceremony, he signed autographs for kids until there weren't any he attended many of the games. He represented that part of America illustrated in the advertising slogan, "Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie [and Chevrolet....the auto dealer to whom the slogan belonged]. As I grew up, Richardson was my living Norman Rockwell poster boy for All in America at her best. When I was in college, he ran for Senate and I campaigned for him. I was torn because deep down, I didn't want him to win...because I feared Washington, D.C. would ruin him. I guess I should've known that if hanging with Mantle couldn't do that, politicians would've been easy. He lost to a rather slimy lawyer/businessman type. My disappointment at Good not making it to D.C. was made up by the fact that during one of those campaign dinners, I got to meet Joe DiMaggio.

Yeah, he was a nice guy too.

As a kid who grew up in a place that Rockwell could've used for his paintings, there are things I took for granted. I believed adults told the truth. Always. That good triumphed over evil. That men held doors open for ladies and women, in turn, graciously thanked them. T.V. series slogans filtered into my subconscious. If I say "Space" and your mind echoes "the final frontier", you know what I mean. And although I was raised to respect both the American flag and the National Anthem, to this day, when those last few notes drift away, I hear the deep male voice who did Play-by-play for Richardson's games, yelling out, "Play ball!" Only being an adult keeps me from yelling it out loud. My heart, however, still sings it out, loud and proud.

Every series of games in this tournament has begun the same way: with an individual or group singing the National Anthem. Live. No canned musical version. One guy even sang it a capella. That's normal around here, although some of you have told me that stopping to place your hand over your heart during a national anthem is somewhere between snickered at and perhaps, deep down, envied. It's tradition. I simply never thought about it.

Until this week.

Literally thousands of people milled about the park prior to the games. Some helped players get ready, giggling little kids chased each other, coaches shared stats and parents swapped best-place-to-eat stories while everyone bought souvenirs to take home or freshly cooked donuts from the booth next to mine. And yet as soon as the first notes of the National Anthem filled the air, everyone stopped what they were doing and turned to the field. Men doffed their caps, hands were placed over hearts...and you could've heard a pin drop on the sidewalk.

I'll never forget how amazing it was to see the world literally come to a silent standstill to pay respect. You could feel a sense of pride in the air that is rarely witnessed in our busy world.

When the Anthem ended, the crowd burst into applause and suddenly the world was in motion again. Teams to cheer on, t-shirts to buy, girls to be proud of and yes, sometimes girls to console. But the spirit of camaraderie was undeniable. And it felt good.

And although no one said it at the Anthem's conclusion, my heart jumped up and down and screamed, "Play ball!"

And they did. With all their hearts.


Eryl Shields said...

You make it sound so wonderful, I wish I could come and see, and I am not even remotely sporty.

mapstew said...

One is drunk.
And will be back on the morrow.

Susan at Stony River said...

What a wonderful summer day! I'm glad the 'right' team won LOL, and that you had a soaring sort of moment to go along with all the *ahem* you've been facing before.

Thanks for posting about the whole thing--now I feel like I went out and had a good time today, instead of digging dirt and planting flowers. Which was fun too in its way, but you know, *yawn*. LOL

the broken down barman said...

i am very anti american, as you might have noticed. one thing i cannot argue with, though, is the pride everyday Americans have for their country. this i cannot argue with. i love it!! i just hate the politics and businesses behind the America i see.

lovely story, as always. x x

shug said...

I like the idea of mobile S and M units touring the countryside.

You describe things so vividly it's usually like being present.

I think in cynical old Europe overt displays of hand over heart patriotism such as routinely happen in the USA send a shudder down the spine. I think you have more of a 'my country right or wrong' attitude than we have. Would I be right or am I talking crap as usual?

Bill ~ {The Old Fart} said...

Gee, I only thought Ignorant Drivers tried to take on Buses. Glad you had a wonderful outing, you described in wonderful detail of your day. I wonder where manners have got to, and it surprises some when I thank them when they get on my bus. Hmmm, maybe there is hope for us yet.

Great Post.

NitWit1 said...

What a wonderful post, especially the anthem part. I am an old fogie I guess as I have always placed hand over heart. Besides I am married to a retired military veteran. I am not allowed to discard a miniature flag. All flags go to VFW for proper "laid to rest" ceremonies.

hope said...

Thanks Eryl. I wasn't overjoyed about being "volunteered" originally, but the girls' enthusiasm was contagious!

Map...I await your return. With a grin.

Susan, planting flowers is more like my idea of fun, but just seeing kids enthused about something as traditional as softball was a joy to behold. And there wasn't a hand held computer game to be found!

Barman, I think there are probably lots of folks who declare themselves "anti-American" who, in reality, aren't. You see it's the politicians and their decisions which created that term. The "average" American is quite likable...and most of us detest the same thing about America which you do: politicians using our good name to further their own agendas. That's okay, they keep running, and I'll keep voting them out of office until that term disappears. :)

Shug, sort of the same as I told the Barman: our politicians are lousy P.R. agents for our country. They like to get us into things we have no business in, then act as if they're all knowing. Guess the Emperors don't realize they're naked. :) I do wonder sometimes though, if America being such a "young" country when compared to yours is why our patriotism is still worn on our sleeves...or over our hearts?

Bill, I once told someone I use "please, thank you" and good manners because I was taught to do so. Sometimes I wonder if, to be honest, I don't get a somewhat perverse thrill in watching someone's reaction to the fact I know what manners are...and I'm not afraid to use them. ;)

NitWit1, I look at it this way. If no one cares enough to be patriotic at least occasionally, our country is doomed. America was founded on great principles, even if our politicians have done their damnedest to undo that sometimes. Oh who am I kidding? I'll always believe Good wins over Evil....even when I'm 112 and know better. :)

Peggy said...


You wrote a perfect slice of Americana...I loved your discription of the masses when the National Antham started...brings a patriotic tear to my eye.
I remember my kids playing baseball and at the end of the season there were tournaments at a huge field with all the famfair that you discribe. It was always the hottest days of the year.(maybe it just seemed that way to me) and we spent DAYS there. My boys loved it and my daughter spent her time riding on my husbands shoulders singing "we want a hit" over and over. Thanks for bringing back beautiful tender memories!!!!

hope said...

Peggy...I think baseball/softball is such an ingrained sport with American childhood that it tugs at more than just patriotic heartstrings. :)

Dr.John said...

There are still lots of us left that respect the Flag. It was good to read of the respect shown there. This was a wonderful post.