Sunday, July 25, 2010

Christmas in July

How is it possible that in all the games we have been to, neither Rob nor I has ever come across a theme night as simple and rich as Christmas in July? Is this bad luck on our part or a case of genuine innovation by the Indians? Either way, they went to town with it on a steamy Friday night—pity those elves and snowmen in their felt, wool, and polyester outfits....

There were carols over the PA system, Santa wandering through the crowd, and elves executing double steals. Oh, no, wait, that last part was in our hotel, but the authorities asked us not to discuss the particulars.

We had sweltered through an afternoon meal at the averagely average Great Lakes Brewery on the West Side and spent some time getting oriented: Cleveland seems, well, a little too big, geographically. But it's got topography, bridges, some cool architecture, and even tolerable bus rapid transit.

We got to Progressive Field a bit earlier than usual and so had time to walk the whole way around and visit the "legends" area in centerfield, which was surprisingly well done. Dave Burba was there signing autographs for kids who had no idea who he was, but what the hell, he went 16-6 in his last full year with the Tribe.

We eventually reached our seats far up in the sky behind home plate and settled in for a delightful night of Yule-inflected baseball. Fausto Carmona and Jeff Niemann were on the mound for the Indians and Rays, respectively, and both pitched well enough to keep things at an anemic 2-1 Indians at the end of the fifth.

Temperatures had started to drop, and there had been a threat of rain all day, but at the end of the fifth, the grounds crew suddenly hustled out and tarped the infield before any rain had actually begun to fall. We made our way up to the rafters and resettled in just as thick black clouds came racing in from the lake. Rain suddenly poured from the sky, literally like someone had turned on a tap—it's a cliché to say that, but that's what it looked like. I can't help that the world is sometimes as boring as our words for it.

And then things really got weird. While the rain came sheeting down, and the sky darkened and darkened, the Indians decided to show Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer on the scoreboard, next to a live feed from the Twins / Orioles game in Baltimore.

It was, of course, impossible to tell what to pay attention to: the Twins, the rain, or that weird little dentist who wants to be an elf. Sorry, the other way around. Anyway, it was a mesmerizing and inimitable stretch of time. We spent some of it discussing the way in which this charming parable of the importance of individual differences actually reveals the protean and insatiable nature of even seemingly benevolent monopoly capitalism. See, while the misfit toys do not have any traditional exchange value, they nonetheless long to have use value, which Santa can impart to them by incorporating them into the dominant logic of his sweatshop and just-in-time distribution network. Fun times.

We had watched all of Rudolph and all of the Twins game and part of another game by the time play resumed an hour an half later. The crowd had thinned out a bit, so we moved downstairs to the third-base side. Cleveland scored again in the bottom of the sixth to make it 3–1, before the rain kicked in again around eleven o'clock, at the bottom of the seventh.

It was another hour until they actually called the game—mere minutes after a seemingly authoritative employee told Rob that the Indians would never, never, jerk the fans around by having them sit around all night for game that wasn't going to be finished—and by then there had been literally more rain delay (2:44) than game (2:06). So while it wasn't exactly a worthy ending to a long night, it was still the best Christmas since the time that guy jumped off the bridge in Bedford Falls and drowned.

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