Monday, August 27, 2001

Givin' My Troubles to a Rat Terrier on a Rock

So there I was September 1984 living away from home for the first time, dropped off just outside the heart and soul of St. Paul, feeling not exactly homesick but certainly a little lost. The distended egoism that roamed the halls of Frank B. Kellogg Senior High the last two years wanting to be someplace (ANYPLACE) else, convinced that there was something more important than prom and whom was dating whom now took a bit of a tumble. It was a rather humbling experience seeing others from all over the country and the world wanting the same thing and actually having some semblance of ability to accomplish it. Who was I to think I could stand out? And as hard as I tried to shrink away and disappear my senior year of high school I now thought my invisibility was a permanent self inflicted condition.

I strained to look forward, quite literally hurting my eye in the process as I allowed my self two baby steps back from the past to help me remember who I was and where I came from. Every afternoon I would descend the wide marble staircase of the dormitory down from the third floor to the first where there was an expansive lobby area equipped with a piano. I would play my self comforting songs as the passing indifferent eyes of the class of '87 limped away and the upper class people looked a tad annoyed.

Just to the side of the room with the piano was another room that had a TV set where I would go and sit at night and try my best to cover my eyes as that year's version of the Twins, after years and years of absolute futility and anonymity suddenly found themselves in a pennant race. Having grown up wishing that players like Rick Sofield, Hosken Powell, and Paul Thormodsgaard would develop into the stars needed to help the Twins compete only to be perpetually disappointed (and growing quite accustomed to the feeling) I didn't know whether or not to let my heart go and actually believe that the 1984 Twins could actually succeed and get to the playoffs.

Fading fast the team was still in it when they went out to the dead baseball town of Cleveland to play one of the few teams that had always been worse than the Twins during the preceding nine years that I had become a die hard baseball fan. The Indians sucked and the Twins needed to be the better team that weekend to remain in the pennant race. On a blurry Friday evening they played a wonderful seven inning game building a 10-0 lead against the last place Eastern Division team. But the Indians began coming back.

Still the Twins led 10-8 when pinch hitter Jamie Quirk stepped up to face closer Ron Davis with two men on in the ninth inning. Quirk, a journeyman catcher best known as a close friend of Royals' star George Brett, stepped into a Davis fastball and sent it screaming high into the sky toward Lake Erie. The ball soared out of the park and the Twins walked off the field as stunned as my heart felt sunk. The season was for all intent and purpose now over.

Flash forward 17 long years and I'm in the midst of struggling to figure this year's lesson. This year's Twins raced out of the gate and played such marvelous baseball the first half of the season that had they played only .500 baseball after the All Star break they still stood a good chance to make the playoffs for the first time in ten years. The collapse has been as demoralizing as it has been complete. Last Friday as I sat and watched another lifeless defeat and a Torii Hunter home run headed dangerously close to my noggin I thought maybe if I let the thing hit me it would all magically make some kind of sense.

Alas the ball hit the guy standing diagonal in front of me and fell harmlessly into the seat next to me. Immediately the guy behind me and I grabbed for the ball. The guy's son had annoyed me all game long with such perceptive baseball questions as "Do both teams have nine guys?" "What Twin went blind?" and "Who was better, Kirby Puckett or Babe Ruth?" If it had been any other kid I would have gladly given up my hold on the baseball without any regrets. But would this kid even appreciate the treat of watching Major League Baseball and getting a batted ball? Reluctantly I let the guy have the ball. Coming from the bat of a Twin it was probably cursed anyway.

Two days later was Kirby Puckett Hall of Fame Bobblehead day. Some "fans" lined up over night to get the collectors' item. Having all the other seven lining my desk smartly giving me a nod or two at the appropriate moments wasn't enough incentive to try again and get the latest doll. Like an ole dog practicing a new trick like rolling over, but not on a linoleum floor only on carpeting, and teasing his biggest fan by spinning in circles rather than performing the requested trick, I thought I had overcome my bobblehead addiction. But the day before 15,000 fans would walk away with a porcelain likeness of Mr. Puckett I searched eBay to see if any dolls were yet being auctioned and how much they were going for. I came across a doll of another famous American, George W. Bush, and decided that if I couldn't have my Kirby that the Prez would be a nice little consolation prize. $12 later I await the arrival of the most blank look on the faces of my too large burgeoning doll collection. It seems positively the appropriate coda to this ever drifting Orwellian tale.

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