Friday, August 08, 2008

"Is this heaven?" "No, it's Iowa"

Another more-or-less quick one. As has become the norm on this trip, I'm harried by motel check-out deadlines whenever journal-writing time comes around.

I'm in Madison, Wisconsin, getting ready to make my way north up to Green Bay for my pilgrimage to visit Lambeau Field. From what I gather, I might even get to watch some training camp practice (minus Brett Favre, of course, but so it goes. I'm just glad that this charade is finally over and I'll have some small chance of seeing actual football news instead of the "What will Brett Favre do" circle-jerk that's taken over sports news for the past month). So that's good.

I made my way to Lucky’s Tavern in Madison last night, in wishful anticipation of watching the Patriots-Ravens preseason game. Football season, beautiful, wonderful football season, has finally returned. Unfortunately, the NFL and its television affiliates have no love for traveling preseason football devotees such as myself – although Lucky’s has one of the more advanced sports bar TV setups known to man, they weren't able to get the Pats game. As such, I had to make do with Cardinals-Saints to satisfy my football cravings, and let Mr. Internet keep me up-to-date on the Patriots.

Or not. Mr. Internet decided that it wasn't worth his time to show up at Lucky's, so I cut my losses and turned to Mr. $1 PBR draft beers for my mental, emotional, and spiritual fulfillment. I attempted a little live blogging though, which lasted about ten minutes before my pizza arrived (tasty). A sampling:

Brett Favre looks freaking *weird* in a NY Jets cap. He’s not playing, but he’s on the sidelines. I’m not sure what to make of all this, but so long as the Jets lose a high draft pick for him, I’ll be happy.

…And the Browns have already hit the endzone against the Jets. A nice little out from Derek Anderson. Too bad Favre can’t play defense.

Update from my dad: Jerod Mayo is a BEAST. A man against boys out on the football field. I can't wait to see him play when I'm back in New England.

...And that's enough of that. No one wants to hear your dumb story about what happened while you were at the sports bar. This includes the other people at the sports bar. Let's move on... the title of this post. After a few days visiting my friend Becca in Iowa City (city motto: "It's surprisingly pleasant!"), I got on the road heading for Madison. With little else in the landscape besides cornfields and the occasional combine harvester chugging down the road (they are awesome), I found myself reading every sign I saw on the side of the road in a desperate attempt to break up the monotony. One such sign: "Field of Dreams Movie Site."

Well, I'd already gambled at Kevin Costner's casino back in South Dakota, so I figured I had to check this out. A few miles outside of Dyersville, Iowa, I found it. The red clay of the infield, the perfect green of the outfield, and an endless field of corn stretching out behind it. A father had brought his young children and was throwing them batting practice on the field. I watched the scene for a moment, and was struck by the greatest urge to play baseball I have ever felt. Finally, after crossing more than half the country, I had found a reason for lugging my baseball glove around in my car the entire trip. I waved to the dad, asked if he'd mind if I shagged fly balls in the outfield, and went out to play some baseball.

Other people arrived and left over the next few hours -- young children with gloves at bats, mothers and fathers with baseball caps for teams all over the country, even full-grown men with no gloves, no hats, and no shoes, running around in the soft outfield grass chasing down the hits. I spent the better part of the afternoon on that field, flashing the leather, running down flies, taking some swings, even pitching to a suite of children barely big enough to swing a bat. There were no teams, no score kept, no winners or losers. It was just a collection of strangers brought together by a common love of the simple pleasure of playing baseball.

I've played in championship games (ok, little league, but give me a break here), I've seen incredible professional games, and I've even gotten to see a superbowl live. And yet, I think the hours I spent on that field in Iowa will be the best sports memory I will have. There was none of the importance, none of the drama, none of the life-or-death excitement, and certainly none of the talent that I have seen in professional sports. But it had a pure, innocent joy in simply playing that I've never felt before.

And it was beautiful.


1 comment:

Becca said...

Dave, if you ever quit your day job, take up creative writing.