Obnoxious Ivy Leaguers strike out on road trip
BASEBALL fans across the continent sometimes mix their love of the game with another pastime — the road trip — for a home run of a vacation. A week or two to watch a few ball games and check out some parts of the world you’ve never seen can be a blast. But to see a ggame in every Major League Baseball park over a 30-day period — 30 up and 30 down?
Say it ain’t so, JJoe.
It is so, or aat least it was in June 2013, when Harvardeducated authors Ben Blatt, a sports analytics expert and writer for Slate and Eric Brewster, president of the Harvard Lampoon, hopped in a Toyota Rav4 armed with a not-so-accurate GPS device, a useless radar detector and their perfect algorithm to pull off the feat. They started at the new Yankee Stadium and set off across America — and into Canada. The result is I Don’t Care If We Never Get Back, which often mocks a sport that deserves its fair share of mockery. It’s a high-speed, slightly gonzo travelogue of America’s Interstate highway network, a gut-wrenching diet of hotdogs and beer and a healthy disregard for an Ivy League education. Actual baseball games are well down the list of importance for Blatt and Brewster. They don’t have the patience to enjoy the contests, instead looking for excitement away from the action on the diamond. “Ballparks are judged by how much fun you can have by not watching the game,” Brewster says early on. There must not be a lot of life-skills learning at Harvard, because the pair were unable to spell “Capitol” when looking for the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., finding the Capital Laundromat instead. And their quest is almost sidelined for good when they display their ignorance of time zones. They also play into the ugly American tourist stereotype by not realizing that July 1 is Canada Day when visiting Toronto’s Rogers Centre. They are befuddled by a sellout crowd for a Monday afternoon game against the Detroit Tigers and are forced to pay through the nose for tickets from a scalper. The odyssey would be a daunting challenge for any lover of baseball, driving, navigation and cheap motel rooms. Their real obsession is with themselves, and it far exceeds their love of the game or of the open road — just two obstacles in their way to a potential 15 minutes of fame. Early in their journey, they realize they start cheering for the games to finish, because part of their pact is that they must attend the game from first pitch to the final out. They also learn that baseball can be a long, drawn-out affair — the average length of a game is close to three hours these days. Finally, they get an appreciation of how big North America is. They whiz through the Great Plains at breakneck speed to see the Houston Astros, one of the worst teams in baseball in 2013, only to get back in the SUV after the game for an all-night howl to Chicago to see a forgettable White Sox club. There’s some anti-climactic relief at the end of the journey — no more endless pitching changes, no more endless ribbons of blacktop. But there is some joy in Mudville. The book has finally run out. Alan Small is the Arts and Life editor
of the Winnipeg Free Press.
I Don’t Care If We Never Get Back: 30 Games in 30 Days on the Best Worst Baseball Road Trip Ever By Ben Blatt and Eric Brewster Grove, 368 pages,