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The Utility of Boredom by Andrew Forbes Book Review

“Whatever their form—tiny or massive, domed or open, concrete or wood or brick, or bleachers made from aluminum—ballparks are host to something so spiritually, aesthetically, emotionally, and intellectually stimulating as to elevate them, whatever their architectural shortcomings.”Andrew Forbes

Amen.

It’s a lazy summer day and ball is done for the Jays and me.  I only played one game this year and got hurt, and the Jays are nowhere near to contending this year. It’s rebuilding time for The Jays, and it’s another trip for me to the doctor, x-ray, physio, then an MRI and specialist. It’s okay; I’m nowhere close to making any rep team or being scouted by the women’s national team.

I kept track of the more notable injuries:

  1. fractured thumb (my brother Tommy and I were playing against each other playing all the positions)
  2. bruised heel (first Co-Ed team after at least a decade)
  3. black eye (my second baseman ran out to catch the ball while I was playing rover and the ball hit me in the eye)
  4. rotator cuff (office work and years of throwing with all my might)
  5. MCL, LCL tear (running, running, running, running some more)
  6. Knee something or other (audible pop, pain, nada)

The first time I held a bat and swung at a ball, it flew out of my hands. The gym teacher told me it was an automatic out, that someone could get hurt. I don’t remember when I stopped tossing the bat, but I eventually hung onto it.

I grew up playing ball with the guys in my neighbourhood any time we could get a group of us together. Sometimes we’d use a tennis ball and play in the tennis courts if there were only a few of us around. Boy did that ball go.

I tried out for a boy’s team in the 70’s but didn’t make the team. I had a long way to go to be ball player. I was so nervous, I couldn’t do anything right. I couldn’t catch or hit that day even if the ball had been as big as a beach ball. Everyone was laughing at me. My brother Tommy made the team so I borrowed his jersey. Sort of a win.

When I started reading The Utility of Boredom by Andrew Forbes, a scrapbook of memories just came out for me. I grew up in Laval, Quebec and was a big Montreal Expos fan. I went to games at the Big O with tickets that were sold at Dominion and got an autograph via mail from Gary Carter and ate steamies and Crobars.

Forbes captured childhood nostalgia here with unique stories I hadn’t read before, and his love of ball comes off the pages. From the colorful personalities and heroes of ball (and sometimes not) to the Jay’s magical 2015 playoff run and the Bautista bat flip, it was a real page flipper. I loved all the details and facts. Why we hang around during rain or fog delays. He writes, “As a concept, the delay is a strange thing. I’ve been thinking about this. It serves as a handy encapsulation of our relationship to this game. Because what other sport treats us to this? Why do we submit to it?” It’s a game of patience, and he made me wonder how we can love a sport that takes its time, and still see the beauty in that. Forbes writes about blown calls, pitchers compared to lay priests, the rise of fall of Ricky Romero, why we love to hear “Pitchers and catchers report.”

I used to say if I lived in downtown Toronto, I would buy season tickets in the nosebleeds and go to all the games. Haven’t been to a game in person yet this year but reading The Utility of Boredom made me homesick for baseball and reminded me that win or lose, the Jays are my team. So, even if we’re both down for the count, there’s always next year.

 


Tamara Jong is a Montreal-born mixed-race writer of Chinese and European ancestry. Her work has appeared in Ricepaper, Room, and The New Quarterly. She recently completed The Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University.

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