There’s this saying they have in North Dakota: “Thirty below keeps the riff-raff out.”  I’m sure you may have your own variations out where you are.

For the record, I did my North Dakota time. You may now consider me proof that 30-below temperatures will cause some – call me riff-raff, whatever – to flee.

So, I’m reading the new Rolling Stone (and I highly recommend the interview with Bob Dylan which is delightful and reminds you what happens when a crazy genius like Bob Dylan becomes a crazy, irascible, crabby, unfiltered old man … and I mean that in most reverent way possible).

Anyway, there is also an article about how football became America’s number one sport … and how it has completely dominated television with its constant adrenaline-rush, mad-action, carefully scripted production.

And, in a throwaway to make their point, they call televised baseball “lugubrious and soporific.”  Lugubrious and soporific? Oh my! How erudite and loquacious of you, Rolling Stone.

Sure, if you don’t know how to fill the space within the game, then you won’t enjoy the easeful, sweetly slow pace of baseball. And, with so much noise in the world today, if you don’t know what in the world to do with the blank, quiet, waiting moments, then you’ll probably be, at best, bored … at worst, sound asleep.

But, those spaces of inaction are very much part of baseball. Having the time to watch things unfold – to get into the pitcher’s eyes and his careful windup, to get into the batter’s head – can make baseball riveting.

I’m pretty sure it was the Seattle Mariners who many years ago experimented with editing games for television. Snipping out all the quiet, slow spots. They were left with an hour or so of the “action.” I don’t know how many games this lasted, but needless to say … it didn’t last long.

On the other hand, my Yankee-fan Editor/Husband (hi honey!) reminds me of this:

There were some spring-training games that were telecast with a minimal broadcaster presence. I think they had several players and coaches miked up, but no one really in the broadcast booth. And, it was spring training, so it was a game of not much importance, but there was SO MUCH going on. There was the outfielder singing to himself.  And, the first-base coach talking to the base-runner and the first baseman. And, the catcher talking to the umpire and the batter.  And the manager … and the coach. There were ALL of these little centers of activity and interest and tension, while it might seem like “nothing” was happening!

Watching baseball on television isn’t easy, because it asks you to fall into a simple, slow rhythm yourself. Sometimes, you have to sing to yourself. And, for a world that’s super-charged with energy, for a television that offers continuous wall-to-wall action, that isn’t easy.

But, maybe that’s just baseball’s way of keeping the riff-raff out.

(I’ll sing the praises of the best baseball broadcasters – and there are some great ones out there – another time.)

And, by the way, I really do love Bob Dylan. I even have his brand new one, Tempest. It’s crazy sweet.  (And, as I write this, just a $5 download from Amazon … just click here).

Oh, I suppose some would say that the title track – a 14-minute, 45-verse recounting of the sinking of the Titanic, that weirdly entwines both historical fact and fictional characters from the movie – is, well, lugubrious and soporific. But, maybe Bob just wants to keep the riff-raff out, too.

3 thoughts on “Riff-Raff

    • Thank you so much for the nice feedback! I really do love Bob Dylan (his book Chronicles, Vol. 1 is in my top 5 rock-and-roll books of all time). The Rolling Stone article is very odd and crazy and well worth the read (I wish they would post it online). Mikal Gilmore always seems to get artists to open up … even when you think they have nothing new to say after all these years! Thank you again for reading!

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