The boys of summer | Chuck's World
I have nothing to say about the World Cup. I want to be upfront about that, in case there’s somewhere else you need to be.
I come from a generation that didn’t play soccer, except as a two-week course in gym class. We also explored gymnastics, table tennis, and I think jai-alai. They were trying to give us a taste of the wide world of sports, but in my day soccer was exotic and alien. Like curling. Or hockey.
I’m not immune at all. Force me to watch soccer and I’ll soon be screaming and claiming it’s the greatest game ever invented. It’s just one of those things I never dipped into, like “The Wire,” and now I think I have enough on my plate.
After most of a lifetime of spectator sportsmanship, in fact, I weaned myself from most of that. I’ll admit to be drawn back into the Seahawks net when Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll showed up, just because they seemed different and maybe inspiring.
And I watched most of the NBA playoffs, but that’s because one side of my family (the side my daughter married into) are San Antonio natives, and the Spurs are a special team anyway.
That was a lot of fun, watching their near-sweep of the mighty Heat.
But sports are just games, and games are just games. Whether you throw a Frisbee or a shot put, I admire your skill and appreciate your enjoyment, even if I don’t share it. I have no attitude here.
And then there’s baseball, but let’s wait a moment for that.
Summer came early this year to the Pacific Northwest, like you didn’t notice, and by that I mean it came right on time. You know what I’m talking about; summer here begins on July 5 and after a few fits and starts, takes off on July 26 and wraps it up somewhere around Oct. 13.
If you’re new to the area, take it from me. If you’ve been here for years, you’re probably already watching soccer and not reading.
So the solstice and summery weather came on the same day, nice, and coincidentally I noticed an article about the 25th anniversary of the movie “Field of Dreams.”
Kevin Costner and a few other cast members, along with a whole bunch of fans, gathered on a recent weekend in that small town of Dyersville, Iowa, where Ray Kinsella’s tenuous farmhouse and inspired baseball field still exist.
It looked like fun, everyone watching the movie on a screen in center field, then a celebrity softball game and other things. It’s not my favorite baseball movie (I have to lean toward “Bull Durham” for that), but it’s up there.
It’s sentimental and ethereal and a little goofy, and I would watch it at the drop of a Mariners cap.
My sober, serious eyes will mist up and I’ll head down to the garage, searching for a ball and a glove until I get distracted and forget, but there are just some movies. Some movies like that.
“Americana” is a hard word to describe, sliding somewhere between kitsch and idealism, but give us a cornfield, a high fly ball, and James Earl Jones to sum it up, and I think you’ve nailed it.
“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: It's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh, people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”
And, of course, it’s not really about baseball, or corn or dream seeking. It’s about fathers.
On any given year, regardless of the weather, along with the solstice comes The Trip. Every year at this time, my wife finishes teaching and heads out of town, sometimes to a conference, sometimes just to visit family.
I’ve written this story many times. How my son and I manage in a house lacking the structure of a woman. I’ve made dozens of jokes about Pop-Tarts and personal hygiene. Some of this has a little truth, but mostly they’re jokes.
Here’s what’s not a joke. My son has a disability, and at 24 he still lives with us, gradually becoming independent, but it’s a slow process. And since the woman of the house is gone a lot, and I work at home, we’ve been a team even when summer is just a dream.
And it’s that, more than corn fields and sweeping music and Burt Lancaster and all the rest, that gets me a little teary whenever I watch that film. Sure, it’s baseball. It’s history. It’s heartland, it’s mystical, it’s James Freaking Earl Jones.
But really, Ray Kinsella wants his father back. I’d like my father back, too, but every morning my son hugs and kisses me, tells me he loves me, and I know that real life isn’t the movies.
And that there’s a baseball glove in the garage, somewhere, and somehow this summer I’m going to find it.
And we’ll head out into the yard and have a catch, I swear we will, if only to celebrate that he’s here and I’m here. It’s not heaven. It’s not even Iowa. But for a few moments it’ll be both, and that’s what I’m talking about.