Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Mabel Report- June

For your enjoyment, our favorite contributing nerd checks in with the June 'Mabel Report' (access others HERE, YO). And permit my saying this, but we can all use a little positive sentimentality at the moment, so it's rather apropos.

I'm not usually a very optimistic person. It's just not in my nature. With Utley out for the next 8 weeks, Polanco out 3 to 4, and Ruiz, Madson, Durbin and Happ all in various stages of rehabbing and disabled listing-ing, it would seem to be time to be pessimistic, but I'm not really and there are basically two reasons for this. 

First, the Phillies have been dealing with injuries and slumps all season and were still just a few games out of the division race and the wild card race. No one really knows whether Atlanta is the real deal or how the Mets will fare through the rest of the season so all this means is that like in 2007 and 2008, the division is more or less wide open. If the Phils can stay within a few games of the races for those two playoff spots (and assuming the wild card does come out of the NL east) there doesn’t seem to be any reason they can’t or won’t be right there come the end of summer when hopefully everyone is back, healthy and ready to tear it the f--- up.  Remember also we’ve still got our two MVPs in Rollins and Howard and what can MVPs do? They can carry their clubs when they need it. Plus we’ve got Roy. So despite the fact that this team seems to be spiraling rapidly toward rock bottom leaving an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach and the back of my throat, I also think maybe we’ll be okay. 

Second, and somewhat more metaphysically or philosophically or perhaps even sentimentally, there is the fact of the seasons. The baseball mythology goes that part of the beauty of the game is that it follows the seasons. Just as we come out of winter and beginning feeling the sunshine on bare arms that have finally shed their sweaters in favor of t-shirts (and shirseys), the ballplayers come out to. And with the rebirth of the land, comes the rebirth of our teams. Everyone (even a Cubs fan) has hope in the Spring. Then, supposedly, as school ends in June our favorite players are hitting their strides and we can spend our summers imitating their swings on the playground during the day and watching wide-eyed as they smash home runs and stretch singles into doubles at night.  Finally, however, school starts back up, the days may stay warm with sunlight but the nights get colder and the winds get icier. Most of us are left wondering where the last 6 months went as we stare out windows in classrooms and unpack scarves and gloves and hats. Of course a lucky few get to watch their teams through October and November, saved a little longer from facing the harsh light of late fall and early winter, but even they are left abruptly when after the parade has been packed up and the pennant re-furled. This is the mythology, but if you’ve read much of anything I’ve ever written on the game (especially this season), you know I’m skeptical of baseball traditions like nostalgia and innocence and this I want to offer an alternative analysis of what the baseball season means and why maybe the Phillies will be ok, why maybe we’ll be ok. 

Though I am rapidly approaching 26 years old (DM me @m_abel for information on where to send birthday presents-- 7/20 is the big day, me and Strasburg, yo, cancer-leo cusp say what!), I, unlike most people my age with real jobs, still more or less follow the traditional school schedule of the under 18 (or under 22) crowd. As a graduate student, I have classes running from September to June and though I wouldn’t call my summers a vacation, they are in some sense a break. Yet for me, the baseball season looks more like this (and keep in mind though I’m moving to Chicago next week I lived in Texas for the last two years so the whole weather thing didn’t really hold true for me either). In March or April, my semester begins to drag. There is usually a conference I have to prepare for and I have to focus in not only on my usual coursework but also the final papers I will be writing, how they fit in my thesis and/or dissertation and/or professional image and career path, and also how I’m going to publish those papers once I’ve handed them in for course credit. This is when while the sun is coming out, I’m stuck indoors at my laptop or in front of a stack of library books. Yet it’s not all so bad, because this is when baseball season starts. On the one hand, this is bittersweet. It makes me miss Philadelphia and Phillies fans, makes me miss Citizen’s Bank Park and the Phillies. Yet it’s also something of a rescue line, saving me from the overwhelming pressure of where I am and where I want to be. 

This year, 9 inning breaks and bolg posts carried me through my Master’s Thesis and my last few months in a place that never felt like much more than a weigh station. Coming back to Philadelphia at the end of May, coming back to Citizen’s Bank Park at the beginning of June was almost anti-climactic because once I finished my semester I actually didn’t need that release and that community (both real and imagined) so badly. July and August are not so much freedom for me, as time to return-- though this time perhaps more willingly or even eagerly-- to that work which I put aside when I drove for three days with my boyfriend our dog and our cat. July and August are when I-- and perhaps we-- return to our other lives, to our families and vacations down the shore or getting work done so we can go on those vacations down the shore or to the ballpark.* September, however, September is when we need them again most desperately, when we need a good pennant race, a chance to win or even just a chance to feel our hearts stop (goosebumps anyone?). September is when I will be starting the next phase of the rest of my life, exciting and overwhelming all at the same time. 

** I’m also noticing, watching the game right now, how relaxing watching baseball is when you’re convinced it doesn’t matter. With all the Phillies’ winning, I’d kinda forgotten what that was like and I’m reminded that this how most people watch most baseball, most of the time... indeed how most Phillies fans have watched most Phillies baseball, most of the time. (Of course now, having written that it’s relaxing, I’m struggling to stay calm when Valdez drops an easy out. Serenity now?) **

In July and August I will need the highlights, the towering shots from Ryan Howard, the monster doubles from Jayson Werth and the dramatic dives from Jimmy Rollins. In September I will need the consistent motivation of Chase Utley. And I think he will be there for me when I need him the most. When I’m wondering what I’m doing in Chicago, what I’m doing trying to get a PhD, the Phillies will keep me grounded with a reminder that Philadelphia is still here, that baseball is still here, and that where else I go and wherever else Utley or Werth or anyone goes, this team and I have been here for each other. 

Also, my temporary apartment in Chicago is across the street from a baseball field. If the Phillies don’t work out, I can always watch Little League.

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