2017 Reds / Baseball Is Life

It’s Not Nothing

I was once tempted by a $24.99 coffee mug  which said, “I Write Because Punching People is Frowned Upon.” That’s not really why I have a stack of “MARY BETH ELLIS, FREELANCE WRITER” business cards I’m too ashamed to hand out to actual people. It’s one of the reasons, but not the encompassing one; if I wrote solely to avoid punching, I would have a trail of commas and adjectives from here to the International Space Station.

I write because I cannot add in my head, because peas make me throw up, because I would like to own a hedgehog someday, because I don’t know how to tell my nephews that I would lay down my own life for them and so I pet their heads instead, because the current state of country music makes me angry in ways I cannot yet express, because I will never ever properly fold a fitted sheet, because people are shot while attending church services, because I once saw a flame-colored mountain flower stubbornly sticking its head out of the nothingness of a forest fire’s aftermath, because I hated the way my hair turned out on my wedding day, because my students’ writing terrifies me, and because my own writing terrifies me even more.

But, mostly, because I hope.  Every time I sit down to another empty document, I hope I will fill it with something which is at least better than the nothing already there.

There is a reason why the finest sportswriting surrounds baseball and horse racing and no other:  Both hinge on hope, more than brute strength, more than luck. A postseason from which one’s team is eliminated is, technically, nothing. But it’s also not nothing; it’s an offseason, already the beginning of the next.

Sometimes I scrawl through journal pages when I can make myself get the notebook open, but my handwriting is little more than wavy lines, tangled at the bottom and nearly flat on the top.

Recently, one of my friends gave me a life-size refrigerator sticker of Han Solo frozen in carbonite. The concept is indeed hilarious. I shrieked and thanked him and we hugged and as soon as he left I mailed it to someone else, because I knew that every time I pulled the silver handle in search of some leftover meatloaf, I’d come face to face with the current state of my career.  It’s dead but not dead, the Schrodinger’s cat of writing states. Such are the 2017 Reds.

People tumbling over cliffs don’t concern themselves with whether it’s too late for the breakfast menu at Frisch’s; they’re wondering if they’ll survive the impact. They are having a midair moment, moving through nothing.

We are in midair at the moment. We have no idea of the state of the impact, come March. We may ponder, on the way down, why we fling ourselves over the cliff to begin with.

I think I know. And it has nothing to do with bobbleheads.

18 thoughts on “It’s Not Nothing

  1. Thoughts:

    1.) A book of your collected columns (with selected comments) would sell. Of course, I don’t work for a publisher, so my opinion counts about as much as it does in my house full of wife-and-daughters-who-couldn’t-care-less when I want to watch baseball whilst they chant, “Go Sports! Do the thing! Win the points!” I still hold out hope that one of them might grow up to be a baseball kinda chick.

    2.) Having grown up in Louisville, I’ve probably read more sportswriting about horse racing than most people in other parts of the country, and I can tell you that while it’s good, you don’t have to include it in your sentiment: The finest sportswriting surrounds baseball. Period.

    3.) I found this blissful little country station outside of Raleigh/Durham that played nothing but 90s country music by actual, honest-to-God country musicians. Blissful, I tell you. And then they [must have cracked under the pressure and] added Bro Country to the mix. And ruined everything. I’m as viscerally upset about the current state of the genre as you are. But there is hope: listen to Halfway to Hazard – they’re more country than anything topping the charts right now.

    4.) One does not just…fold…a fitted sheet. Wad it up as best you can, put it with the neatly-folded flat sheet, then put the two of them, plus one of the neatly-folded pillowcases, inside the other pillowcase. You then have something neat and self-contained to put in the linen closet. Problem solved.

    5.) You don’t hand out those business cards for the same reason that Joey and Scooter don’t hand out theirs: they let their work present itself, as do you. See how big of a house-of-cards you can make out of them, then…set the damn thing on fire.

    Flying in midair with the rest of us…
    Eric

    • That’s so incredibly thoughtful of you! Many thanks for the kind words 🙂

  2. Just to let you know, I appreciate your contributions here. To me they seem to catch some of the flavor of the game for a fan outside the numbers. There’s lots of OPS, WAR, Rule 5, etc. articles out there. Less about how baseball tastes to a fan.

  3. You definitely tapped into the essence of the current Reds fan. Even though many times we have no reason to, we still hope. Brilliant Mary Beth! Looking forward to March 2018…go Reds!

  4. I’m out of town at a conference and just finished some heavy duty conversations after a long and moving presentation, needed to get onto email and upon opening my laptop, decided that a couple minutes of break time to read RLN would be good for my ability to dive energeticaly into my next tasks. I read your article, and my heart and mind are a bit lighter – and smiling. Thanks, Mary Beth!

    • I needed to hear that! Thank you for letting me know I’m not just doing my job, but fulfilling a vocation. I really appreciate you sharing.

  5. I have always cherished Bart Giamatti’s words on the eternal cycle of baseball and the hope of every spring, but I’ll now add to that your image of the midair moment and the impending, unknown impact of opening day and another new season.

    This little collection of die hard, masochistic Reds fans continues to be a rewarding online home, and I truly appreciate the view points of the cybermetrics advocates and their regular insights and education. But it’s the thrill of the game (thank you Astros and Dodgers for Game 2), the elegance of the major league play, the battle between the mound and the plate, the race from first to home between runner and ball, the triumph of the home town hero, the beauty of the game played at the highest level that have always captivated me. So thank you to the RLN team for finding and adding the thoughts and words of Mary Beth Ellis to make this site and my baseball day a little richer again and again.

    • Well said, and so very kind. Thanks for being out there and contributing your own experiences and perspective.

  6. My daughter had a hedgehog for a while. Worst pet ever! It is pokie,not soft and pettable. It hisses at you. It is nocturnal. In the face, it looks like a bat. Uglier than you can imagine. Ours used to run on the wheel in its cage and make noise all night, then sleep and be antisocial all day. If you woke it, it tried to bite you. Oh and it smelled. My son’s gecko was more interesting.

    • I try to bite people when they wake me too and make noise all night while frantically doing things the grown-ups were during the daylight hours. So maybe we’ll get along.

  7. In mid air … circling … trying to guess when and where to land with whatever fuel we have and can acquire.

    I think that’s an apt description. Your columns will help carry this Reds fan through until we hear leather snap with the impact of balls and wood crack as that pill leaves the yard.

    • Leather snaps AND remembering about fuel? The Readers are always showing me up.

      • Nah … you just inspire me to think in more poetic analogies (and I tend to do that a lot anyway).

  8. It’s always nice to have female energy and opinion in sports. Your articles here add another dimension to an already great informational and discussion website for those seeking more than just the company line. Thanks! Looking fwd to next season more than I have in several years, I think the Reds might be rounding 1st base and taking the next step soon.

Comments are closed.