Sports and Time

4 Nov

I usually post on Wednesdays, but didn’t this past week because I forgot. I forgot a lot of things this week. I was out of work due to Hurricane Sandy, and as the days went by I felt increasingly lost. As I remarked a few times during my time off, I felt like I had become untethered in time and space. While I am not the biggest fan of going to work, I do recognize an occupation as one of the cornerstones of a happy routine. Most people need some semblance of structure and normalcy to function properly.

At two o’clock this morning we switched the clocks back. Days will get shorter, people will leave their jobs when it is already dark, soon it will be Thanksgiving and soon thereafter Christmas. That’s what turning the clocks back means to me: winter is coming.

Since 2007, Daylight Savings Time has ended on the first Sunday in November, which is also the date of the New York City Marathon. This year there will be no marathon, and rightfully so, as the city is nowhere near capable of holding it. I was originally a proponent of holding the race. I thought it would be good for the city’s morale, finances, and show that New York can recover from any type of disaster. But, like the mayor, I soon came around and realized that it was foolhardy.

I actually don’t care for the marathon. I will never ever, in a million years run it, and generally can’t stand watching other people in prime physical shape performing actions that to me would be suicidal. But for the past decade I’ve lived half a block away from the route, and every year I go out with my coffee and stand and cheer on the runners.

It is, like going to work, a routine. And, like other events, is symbolic of the changing of the seasons. Just like the Boston Marathon is run on the third Monday in April and is a midpoint between the end of winter and the beginning of summer, the New York City Marathon, run on the first day of November, is a midpoint between the end of summer and the beginning of winter.

When I stand and hold my cup of coffee, I am probably wearing my heavy coat, maybe even a scarf. I can see my breath. As I walk back into my apartment to begin a few months of hibernation, I experience a sense of loss at the passage of time.

One of my favorite days of the year is a point in mid-February when pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training. It is the unofficial start of pre-season baseball. I love baseball, but one reason may be that in the middle of cold dark February there is a light seen, a warm, toasty, Ballpark Frank light. Baseball, after all, is the summer sport. As the great A. Bartlett Giamatti wrote in what I consider the best piece of baseball writing ever, “The Green Fields of the Mind”:

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.

I highly recommend this essay to everyone out there, baseball fan or not. Not only is it one of the greatest pieces of sports writing ever, but one of the greatest pieces of American non-fiction writing ever.


Trivia questions:

  1. When is the Indianapolis 500 run?
  2. When is the Rose Bowl?
  3. What day of the week is new music generally released?
  4. What two football teams always play on Thanksgiving (though not against each other)?
  5. What night of the week is high school football usually played?
  6. When are most of the Oscar-worthy films released during the year?
  7. What are the only two days of the year when there are no pre-season, regular season, post-season or exhibition games played in any of the big four American sports? (Note: these two days are floating, not fixed.)

The last one you actually have to think about. The others you either know or you don’t. But most people know at least one or two of those. Answers at the end.

Time needs to be marked. We need stability in our lives. We set our alarms for a specific time Monday through Friday, and if we don’t do it on the weekends, our bodies invariably will still wake up at 7:22 (at least mine will). I take lunch every day between 1:45 and 2:00. I know the schedules of many of my coworkers, and know to avoid the 12:45-1:45 lunch hour. Smokers light up at the same times of day, just because their habit has grown of its own habit. We do laundry on the same day each week. Some of us go to church on Sundays, others go to a bar to watch football.

The Super Bowl means we are at the nadir of winter’s breath. The MLB All Star game is the zenith of summer’s embrace. The end of the World Series coincides with end of the red and yellow leaves and the birth of their brown progeny. Baseball’s opening day foreshadows the greening of trees, and symbolizes the endless possibilities of the upcoming summer. (Except the Cubs winning it all, natch.)

And the New York City Marathon means that we got an extra hour of sleep, but will also get one less of daylight for the next five months. It means that Thanksgiving  and turkey and sauce is right around the corner, and that Christmas and Chinese food soon to follow. Like all other days and dates, events, anniversaries, birthdays, the marathon, is both a day on the calendar, as well as a way our minds use to tell us that time is flowing properly, that Tuesday follows Monday, and that the world is working like it should.

Sports, like art, doesn’t mean anything. No Oscar winning film or World Series champion will ever stop a war or cure a disease. But they represent something that is as complex as a Bach fugue or a baseball scorecard – connectivity to others. Art is all about connection via empathy, while sports connects us through shared experience.

And it keeps us tethered to time and space.

And now your answers.

  1. Memorial Day weekend
  2. New Year’s Day (except if it’s a Sunday)
  3. Tuesdays
  4. The Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys
  5. Friday night (Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose!)
  6. December
  7. A tricky one, I know. Think about it this way: there is only one time of the year that only one of the big four sports plays – summer, baseball. There are only two days when no games (including exhibition games) are played: the day prior to and the day after the MLB All Star Game.

I will be back this upcoming Wednesday, unless Romney wins, and then I’ll be crying in my organic Pinot Noir.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply