Friday, April 13, 2007

Mind Games

I saw not a single pitch of last night’s Twins/Devil Rays game. This shouldn’t surprise me; I have a knack for missing particularly exciting moments. (I remember quite well ducking out for a quick trip to the little boy’s room that exactly coincided with Mark McGwire’s sixty-second home rum, for example.) In some ways, though, picking up the pieces of a game can be nearly as enjoyable.

The first thing that one usually learns is the score. Or, even earlier, simply who won/lost. Then, possibly someone in the room will know the score (or, at least vaguely remember that it might have been a two-run game, maybe). On the surface, this may seem to rob any and all suspense. Quite to the contrary. Knowing only the outcome, with no clue as to what led to the finish, allows for a fantastic use of the imagination.

For example, when I learned the final score of last night’s game (3-2), I instantly assumed a close, exciting game. It’s possible that the contest was indeed drab and uninteresting, but that possibility is eliminated by not having actually seen the game. I was able to make the game into anything I wanted, which happened to be a thrilling, down-to-the-wire affair. Never mind that that’s apparently what happened. I was protected against monotony.

Inferences about specific players come next. I assumed that Carlos Silva must have pitched brilliantly, only because that is the outcome that would please me the most and I was free to assume it. Sitting at this keyboard with the benefit of box scores, I can see that Silva threw six and two-thirds innings of shutout ball. Four strikeouts seem about right for Carlos, and I can imagine the ball cutting back out over the plate to freeze some unsuspecting left-handed hitter. Tasty. Again, it’s entirely possible that the Rays were smashing the ball right at outfielders all night, and that Silva was just lucky. But I don’t have to worry about that; last night, for all I know (which is generally very little) we had Vintage Silva.

Offense is tougher to mentally project; there are an infinite number of pleasing ways for the Twins to score three runs to win a game (the corollary of which is that there is an equally infinite number of excruciating ways for them to do so in a losing effort). So for the runs, I turned to the highlights on the TVs in the Big Ten. (I even got the added pleasure of seeing a nifty play by Iwamura at third; that’s something I never would have bothered to mentally create.)

The pieces start to fit together like a simile that doesn’t mention puzzle pieces, Legos, or Tinker Toys. Cuddyer’s home run is just as perfect as I could have hoped for. I personally would have left out the part where Rincon gets touched (as an aside, his decline genuinely terrifies me), but I suppose you can’t have everything. And the game got its thrilling conclusion thanks to Curly.

I couldn’t have planned it any better.

John Sharkey does actually occasionally attempt to watch games at

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