Reading & Remembering the Home Team

Sports and me don’t mix. Blame my DNA.

For evidence, I enter my most recent road trip.

Free tickets and curiousity lured DH and me to watch the Houston Astros play Tampa Bay.

We saw our last Astros game in 1993. As in back in the previous century. Our Astrodome was still the 8th Wonder of the World. Nolan Ryan came back to the old home field to pitch one last time. He blew out his elbow and we never attended another Astros game.

Playing ‘gotcha!” with the past — as in three times in one night.

Imagine our surprise last week when, upon arriving at the new‐to‐us ballfield — Minute Maid Park — we spied this. Our first Astros jersey of the night. Ryan? Good old #34 — emphasis on old.

What are the odds that my return to sports would involve the same team and the same player on the same night — 26 years later?

Meaning comes where you find it. Especially when you’re not looking.

Playing with food: a ballpark game for adults only.

By the time we f.i.n.a.l.l.y. maneuvered to our seats, total exhaustion overwhelmed me.

So many people. So much color. So much noise.

Struck out by all the incomings, I returned to my standard healing response: gentle play.

What else to do with a cold pretzel on a hot night?

Look around. Make something new.

Voila! Pretzel + Diamond = Ballpark Playtime. Can you spot the two diamonds?

Reading books: the best game in the universe (all of them).

Afterwards, I turned to my first love: reading.

Yes, I brought books to a professional baseball game. Two of them, because options and variety matter. Like playtime.

My mother taught me well: bring a book because it will always feed you. Life won’t.

Her life‐long mantra echoed in my ear the following morning when I spotted my cousin’s words.

Lila had spotted my reading picture on Facebook. In response, she offered the Compliment of the Year: 

Seventy five years later — Austin to Houston — like mother, like daughter — I’ll gladly be the chip off that old block.

Everyone else can take baseball; I’ll take my books.

Anywhere.

Recording a Reading Revolution

I love books, as evidenced by this corner of my house:

Again, I’m a planet outlier.

Publisher’s Weekly bemoans a 20 percent decline in fiction sales. Only one year out of the past five have sales climbed. Thank Harper Lee’s 2015 book, Go Set a Watchman. 

All the reasons for declining fiction sales equal sensible logic:

More competition for entertainment hours and products.

More closings of brick‐and‐mortar stores.

Fewer book reviews.

Shorter attention spans.

Even audiobooks are displacing the printed novel. Mike Shatzkin, a noted publishing industry guru, calls it words‐to‐be‐heard vs. words‐to‐be‐read.

What’s ignored in the worrying noise is the price we’re paying by not reading.

Be it television, video games, the World Wide Web, streaming books, and other entertainment options, we’re actively rewiring both our brains and bodies. Few of us pay attention to the consequences, either short or long‐term.

Photo courtesy Amazon.com.

Writer Maryanne Wolf takes a look in her fascinating (ahem, non-fiction book), Reader Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World.

Wolf cites varying studies that blame the widespread screen explosion for our collapsing attention spans, declining imagination and thinking skills, worsening physical health, and strained relationships.

One of the first studies came out in 1998. Linda Stone, of the Virtual Worlds Group at Microsoft, possessed frightening prescience when she coined the term “continuous partial attention.”

Stone referenced children specifically when she created the term. Twenty years later, she’d no doubt label us adults with the same syndrome.

Tag me guilty, too. But only when I’m not reading a book. In that printed landscape, my attention laser‐focuses to imagine a world only I can see. 

Delicious creativity and control! Fun and fulfilling, too!

Yet, these recent books and magazines frighten me about this road we’re on. There seems an almost willful ignorance for behavior and consequences. In confronting these effects, there’s information and messages to share, heed.

Even so, I cross my fingers, remembering what’s happened with music. Printed books could travel a similar road.

Remember LP’s and turntables? They’re back, and popular, for reasons I don’t comprehend. Records over CD or streaming tunes? Clunky equipment over flat, round disks or no plastic at all? Pray tell, why

Amid my semi‐Luddite questioning, possibility arises.

Once can become twice. 

Music now, books next?

Copyright, GrooveBags.com.

Meantime, I read, wait, and check my mailbox.

Shoes inbound promise a coming retro‐revolution. 

Our world needs more fiction, published. And read. 

A broad can hope.