OCTOBER IS ALMOST HERE, sports fans, and you know what that means: It means two-thirds of the National Football League has already been sidelined with knee injuries. But it also means that we're entering the pulse-pounding final weeks of the current baseball season, which began, according to my calculations, in 1987.
And what a season it has been! The big highlight, of course, was George Steinbrenner receiving a lifetime suspension from the game for invading Kuwait. Also there have been a number of "no-hitters," which are a very exciting brand of baseball action wherein one of the teams never even THREATENS to win. One of these was pitched by the phenomenal Nolan Ryan, who, at 67 years old, continues to rack up victories because the umpires feel sorry for him.
UMPIRE: Strike one!
BATTER: Wait a minute! He didn't even PITCH it yet!
UMPIRE: Strike three!
Yes, these are the things that make baseball a fundamental American institution, like call waiting and NutraSweet. My own fond baseball memories date back to when I was a youngster in Little League and huge mutant opposition youngsters would pitch baseballs into my left kidney at an estimated 425 miles per hour. Back then I formed a feeling for the game that persists today, especially when I make sudden movements, and as a father I've done my best to pass "baseball fever" along to my son.
"Hey, Robby!" I'll say, just as sports-loving American dads have said to their kids for generations. "Let's play the 'Bases Loaded' baseball game on the Nintendo!" Robby enjoys this because it gives him an opportunity to pick up some "pointers" from his old man: ME: What's the score?
ROBBY: I have 157 and you have 3.
ME: Shut up.
Yes, baseball brings out powerful emotions, as you know if you saw the deeply moving picture "Field of Dreams," which tells the heartwarming story of a man, played by Kevin Costner, who receives instructions from corn. One day the corn tells him to build a baseball field next to his house, so naturally he does. (It could have been worse: A really malevolent vegetable, such as zucchini, would have told him to build a nuclear reactor.)
Watching this movie, especially the emotion-packed ending, I had tears in my eyes as I thought to myself: "How come my wife never looks at me the way she looks at Kevin Costner?" I'm not saying she doesn't love me. I'm just saying that her eyes have more of a laser quality when they're zeroing in on Kevin Costner, and I say it's unfair. I mean, when she gets a close look at him, it's always from a very flattering camera angle, plus he has just had his hair done and his makeup applied and his teeth capped and his jeans shrunk; whereas when she gets a close look at me, it's in a less impressive situation, such as I'm checking to see whether I can still make comical noises with my armpit. I think we need a federal law requiring that whenever a known hunk appears in a movie, there has to be some detail designed to make him, in some subtle way, less attractive.
MOVIE ACTRESS: Let's take off most of our clothes and enact a passionate love scene.
KEVIN COSTNER: Okay, but first take a look at this nostril zit.
NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Our starting columnist has gotten himself mired in a severe digression here, so in an effort to finish this column on the original topic, we're going to bring in a relief columnist.
Baseball. It's often called "a game of inches," and for good reason: Sports fans would get angry if you came right out and called it "a game where guys getting paid millions of dollars stand around doing absolutely nothing for minutes on end except spit." The reason for this, of course, is: strategy. As you know if you listen to expert droning baseball analysts on TV, more strategic thought goes into ONE SINGLE PITCH than into the entire U.S. foreign policy:
BROADCAST ANALYST: In this situation, Garcia might throw the curve, although Edwards could be LOOKING for the curve, so Garcia might come with the slider, unless of course he thinks that Edwards THINKS he's going with the slider, in which case he might go with the FASTBALL, although for that VERY REASON he might decide to go with the original curve, although as I said earlier, Edwards might be LOOKING for the curve, so Garcia might come with . . .
PLAY-BY-PLAY MAN: Bob, the game ended 45 minutes ago.
BROADCAST ANALYST: Hey, there's drool on my microphone.