Les rêveries du retraité solitaire

Les rêveries du retraité solitaire

Baseball, Cross-country skiing and Life

I wasn't a baseball fan but I really tried to become one. I watched a couple of games on TV. I tried to convince myself that I was really into it but it wasn't my cup of tea. Why would I do that? Why would I bother making an effort to like something that I didn't really care about? Because there are a lot of things that I like about baseball, apart from the game itself. There are interesting people like my friend André and my brother-in-law Pierre who  have been baseball fans for years. There is also a long tradition, stories, heroes and songs all related to baseball. Last summer, I went to a few games with my friend André. I was hooked. When the crowd stood and  started to sing "Take me out to the ball game" and "Sweet Caroline", I felt that I was part of something great.

 

Listen to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra playing the song Take Me Out to the Ballgame :

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUFaed8x_5I

 

André talks about the Yankee or the Wrigley stadiums, with the same enthusiasm as a Catholic nun would talk about her visit to the Vatican. There is a poetic and almost mystic dimension to baseball. You don’t have to be a baseball aficionado to appreciate the 18.5 hour long documentary that Ken Burns made about it. It’s a beautiful human experience full of wonderful stories and memories.

 

I remember one of my students, a sensitive and intelligent lawyer from New Brunswick with a great sense of humour, who made a presentation in French to show how baseball is connected to life. He started by pointing out the fact that in a baseball game a long period of time can go by without anything important happening. All of a sudden, there’s cheers from the crowd. Everybody is standing. The batter hits the ball and runs to first base. The one that was on first base doesn’t make it to second base while the one that was on second base makes it home. It lasted only a few seconds. After that, everything becomes quiet again.

 

He went on to say that it’s often the same in life. You have the same job and live in the same city for years. You have the same life partner and friends, and your kids attend the same schools. Then, within a couple of years of even months, you switch job, move to a new city, make new friends, maybe go through a divorce, your parents die or go to a nursing home, and your kids leave home to go to university or college. After that, just like in baseball, everything becomes quiet again…for a while.

 

Talking about the connection between baseball and life, it’s interesting to note that baseball enriched the English language with interesting words and expressions. For example, it’s important to touch base once in a while with your friends and business partners. When you throw a curve ball at people, you really surprise them. When a young stud tells you that he almost made it to second base with his girlfriend, you have a pretty good idea of what that means.

 

A few months ago, on PBS, I saw an interview with Michael Lewis. In 2003, Michael Lewis published a book called “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” about how the Oakland Athletics were able to put together a winning team despite a disadvantaged revenue situation by using an evidence-based, saber-metric approach [1]. A movie was made from that book. A few years after, Lewis met two Israeli psychologists who told him, “Why don’t you apply the theories that were used for baseball to the decision making process in general.” He did, and wrote another book called “The Undoing Project.” In the interview, he explained how he could use what he had learned about the decision making process to explain Trump’s victory. That was very interesting. It goes without saying that Michael Lewis is a baseball fan.

 

I don't know a lot about baseball. I never really played the game and I only attended a couple of games. I was only able to tell you what other people said or wrote about it. Cross-country skiing is different. I've been skiing for over forty years and it's a real passion for me. So I asked myself the question, “What parallels could I make between cross-country skiing and life?” I came up with two things.

 

Cross-country skiing involves making a lot of decisions.

First, I have to decide whether I’m going to use the classic technique or skate. After that, I have to decide where I’m going to go. There are over 200 km of trails in the Gatineau Park. Then, I ask myself what wax I am going to put on my skis: if the wax is too hard for the temperature, I’m going to backslip; if it’s too soft, the snow is going to stick under my skis. You have to be able to read the snow. Just like everything else in life, to make those decisions, I rely on my past experiences and my instinct.

 

You can ski alone or with other people.

Skiing with a lot of people in a race versus skiing alone is a completely different experience. When I was younger, I was a member of a club. We would start training in the fall by running on the trails with our ski poles to build our endurance, do intervals to increase our speed, and watch videos to improve our techniques and learn how to prepare our skis. During a race, we were surrounded by other skiers. We had to be careful and focused, always be aware of our surrounding. After a race, we would sit together and talk about the race and the next one. This lasted only a few years but it was fun.

 

While I enjoyed the experience, I realized that I was more happy skiing alone than with a bunch of people. Besides, I've never been very competitive. Training with a club taught me how to ski well and prepare my skis properly. I also like the fact that cross-country skiing is an activity that can be done alone or with other people. It's the same in my life. My career as a language teacher allowed me to spend time alone creating material and preparing my classes; it also forced me to be in contact with other people and communicate. Now that I am retired, not only do I ski always ski alone, but I don't have a lot of opportunities to communicate and share my thoughts and experiences. That's one of the reasons I started this blog.

 

I have a dream

When I was skiing and thinking about what I would write in this article, it crossed my mind that, unlike the Scandinavian countries where it was born, in this part of the world, cross-country skiing doesn't have that long tradition with that aura of nostalgia and poetry that we can find in hockey or baseball. I started to dream that if I had the talent and the means, I would make a movie about cross-country skiing. That movie would also be a movie about friendship, It would tell the story of four friends from different walks of life who share their love of cross-country skiing and a fascination for the northern lights. It would be a poetic movie. I would show snow falling slowly on the trees, a winter night full of stars, and of course, the northern lights. I would dedicate that movie to my uncle Hervé who skied until he was over eighty years old.

 

 

IMG_2760.JPG

 

 

 

 

[1] Whatever that means.



09/03/2017
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