Ob­nox­ious Ivy Lea­guers strike out on road trip

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS - Re­viewed by Alan Small

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,

$30

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