Time has come between us friends, fans, and followers. We’ve seen some things. Either firsthand, or through others, we’ve felt loss. We’ve witnessed defeat. We’ve experienced the euphoria of success, and what it takes to win. We’ve felt what it’s like to be on top, and had the end of its fleeting presence haunt us from the moment it arrived. But most of all, together, we’ve felt the warmth of friendship, shared values, and community. And throughout the infancy of this league, faces turned familiar, narratives became known, and rituals were formed from the stories we told each other, born simply from a need to communicate.
Now, don’t think for a second, that as I lie here writing this, sagging into the middle of my mattress at the Patricia Hotel, with East Vancouver just out my window, that I’m not thinking what you’re thinking — that I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. That I’ve got a fat baloney sandwich stuffed in my face! That I’ve no right throwing around such bravado and assumptions when it comes to the absurdity and unpredictability of life! Well, I might just so happen to be holding the morsel of a convenience store hero between my teeth while I type away, and hell, it might even be made of compressed and unwanted meat friends, fans, and followers, but it doesn’t matter. Any doubts about the message I bring you today can be hacked down with the power of a single word: baseball, friends, fans, and followers. Baseball.
This game. Really, it’s just a series of activities that offer a venue for all facets of life to make themselves visible. It’s a garden that waits for water and sunshine to bear fruit. An empty closet waiting to be filled after anthems are sung. But trivial as it may seem to some, it’s baseball that brought you to this crap I’m writing. It’s what took us all from strangers to brothers and sisters! Yes, friends, fans and followers, through East Van Baseball’s inaugural season and yet to be chronicled results of this current one, you’ve come to know Roy Madison.
I told you about my waning interest for writing about baseball in the big money, big business, and big egos of the big leagues in New York. Confessed my impotence at the typewriter and lack of interest for life in that easterly state while everything I cared about up and left. I shared the feelings of hopelessness that sent me to the bottom of a cold hotel pool in Hollywood. Described the delight of coming to the surface, and into the comfort of a new beginning in Vancouver. In the wet grass of spring, I broadcast with joy the purity of sport I found in East Van Baseball’s first few games. I subjected you to constant musings from my room in English Bay, at the Sylvia Hotel, until summer turned to fall and the season bore its first champions. Then I returned to Hollywood, only to face the failures of love, which forced me into exile in Japan from both baseball and my girl Tina. And after all that, I didn't say a goddamned word until the league could start again. In short, friends fans and followers I told you my story. My origin.
But now I’m done my sandwich, and I realize there’s a missing stitch to this chronology. Now that I call East Vancouver home, I’m embarrassed to admit that your official league laureate doesn’t know much about how the ten East Van Baseball teams that were birthed in the neighborhood that’s welcomed me with open arms. So friends, fans, and followers, before I sign off, in no particular order, let’s take a moment to learn about these clubs, formed from players, made of solid men, of better women.
White sox, black sox, red sox. Why the hell is baseball so obsessed with socks friends, fans, and followers? Perhaps the answers can be found in my own sock drawer where this simple garment awaits my feet each day in many shades and accents. I have striped socks, polka dot socks, socks with alligators, socks with sharks, with happy faces, with popsicles. I have pink socks, yellow socks, and grey socks. But what I don’t have friends, fans, and followers, much to my surprise, are any black socks.
I’ve never been to Clark Park, so I decided to go on down there late one afternoon to have a look. It’s like most parks in East Vancouver. A clump of trees in one corner, a playground in another. I took off my shirt in the setting sun, and said, Brawlers! Roy Madison is here. Make yourself known! All I wanted was an interview. All I heard was the sound of crickets.
Snake charming has been an interest of mine for many years, friends, fans, and followers. I’m well versed in the ways of the snake. Staring into the eyes of a venomous demise under the hypnotic influence of beauty is how I spent most of my evenings in Hollywood, poolside in the heat of a California night, my shirt open, the BBQ on, ribs basking in an open flame for my darling Tina. I came close to death almost every night.
Most of my decisions are based on the stories and mythos of what I see in the evening sky. All you need to know about anything can be answered in the cosmos. I’m not sure how these kids make decisions when it comes to the roster, who should be pitching, and whatever else burns into the minds of a young club, but the Cosmos better be looking up into the sky at night for the answers if they expect to get anything right.
Sitting in front of a Mets game in the bar downstairs at the Patricia last week, some fella with mustard on his chin told me that the remnants of an old prison can still be found in Gastown. So I brought a newspaper and sandwich to some French affair of a restaurant that was supposedly where the jail used to be. I ordered a coffee, black, just so I could add to the mystique of my own origins by saying that I spent time in prison. Well, after two hours in the glass atrium of my cell at the back of this joint, stealing bites from my contraband submarine, with my newspaper spread out over the table, trying to pull some lottery numbers out of the morning’s box scores, they finally asked me to leave. I picked my personal belongings up off the table and walked out a free man. Hard time, friends, fans, and followers. Hard time!
I just called down to the front desk to ask Anja what the hell a goddamn Isotope is. She said she didn’t bloody well know what the hell an Isotope was and that I need to stop sitting in the lobby without my shirt on. The guests are complaining. Goddamn tourists.
Let me tell you friends, fans, and followers, there is nothing pleasant about a mountain when you’re trying to reach its summit wearing wool windowpane slacks and a broadcaster’s jacket. Even worse when there’s seventy-five bloody degrees of summer heat bearing down on your brow, and you left your hat sitting on the back of your hotel room’s toilet. The Murder were the team to beat during the league's inaugural season last year so I spent a recent afternoon in their natural habitat, in search of a scarlet and sable crow so that I might be infused with a better sense of their fearless and winning spirit. I made it halfway up the hill, my pants sagging half way down my buttocks, jacket drenched in sweat, calling out in desperation for the bird of victory. Caw! Caw! Caw! And in my delirious state, I didn’t find the bird friends, fans, and followers, I became the bird. Caw! Caw! Caw!
Someone once told me trains are responsible for a lot of longing because getting on one means you’re either on your way to see someone, or you’re leaving someone behind. Well, I’m here to tell you friends, fans, and followers, that sitting in my hotel room, late at night, listening to the crash and smash of trains behind the Patricia is an orchestra that can keep a fella awake with lustful thoughts of leaving the lonely existence of a sportswriter behind. One day I’ll get on that path of steel and wood, held together by spikes, and you’ll never hear from me again.
To expose the origins of the newly formed Stilettos, in-depth research was required. I observed the effects of higher elevations and curvaceous calves while prancing about my hotel room in bloody painful 6-inch patent leather power pumps. I took my notebook into the darkness of various gentleman’s clubs around my hotel. I interviewed several women, and some men, in tall heels, on salacious side streets, in malls with faux lighting, and in conservatively decorated office lobbies so I could file a report on how a shoe that represents so much sexual power, pain, and erotic innuendo found its way onto the chests of such a respectable crew of guys and gals. Finally, I arrived at the truth. These kids aren’t referring to shoes at all, their idea of a stiletto is a stabbing weapon! A knife! But really, friends, fans, and followers, is there any difference between having your throat sliced wide open by your adversaries brandishing a bayonet on the end of their arm, and a high-rise heel made from Italian leather coming down on your chest while the object of your desire puts out a cigarette butt on your forehead?
Oh christ, another convoluted, mysterious reference. Stevedores, Steves, Stevies, dock workers. I call them meat hooks! I guess you’ve probably figured out by now that Roy Madison has never done a day of real work in his life. Instead, I watch people, I sit in parks — both baseball diamonds and gardens. I listen to my colleagues on the radio, I read the newspaper, drink if I feel like it, sleep late if I want, watch cinema, dine at tables sized for one, and listen to jazz most evenings. Hell I might even take in an opera every so often. But what I don’t do is work, friends, fans, and followers. It’s probably what has left me so undesirable, alone, and unworthy of the hearts of many. But it’s only in total solitude that I can begin to sit down and explain what needs explaining in this goddamn world.
There! Now that we fully understand where these ten teams came from, I think it’s safe to say friends, fans, and followers, we’re on even terms. Now we really know one another. Hell, we’re a family now! So I think this is the right time to tell you, without shame, remorse, or regret, that I don’t give one goddamn about baseball. Well, at least when it comes to the score at the end of day. Most sportswriters won’t tell you this, but Roy Madison isn’t like most sportswriters, and I say scores can only tell one story: who won and who lost. But we all know this game is more than that, don’t we? It’s a thing that gives life to so many other things we strive to be, try not to be, and hope to obtain. It all depends on what makes us, and how you found your way here in the first place. And if you made it this far, I applaud you for your patience, you’re a true fan.
Anyway, back to me friends, fans, and followers. I sit by the sidelines, I watch the innings play in and out, and I use the field in front of me as an elaborate window into our collective existence. Under this circumstance, the diamond is not a field, it’s a table, where cards are placed upon it to reveal present, future, and past. The cards have names like shortstop, pitcher, outfielder, and so forth. Through their movements, and the people watching, they tell us a story. Oh hell, not just about me. About themselves. About us. About you. And I’m here to tell it. I’m a sportswriter, godammnit.