Back at home, the Red Sox have been in the World Series.
Sima and the kids are in Turkey, and I am here in Orkney, doing some of my own end-of-the season work, though my work is on a boat.
American sports are not much followed here. And so I watch the team from a distance. I am not new to this.
Several years ago, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, I picked up the Super Bowl, on a staticky a.m. radio connection, as a New York Giant caught a football pass, seemingly miraculously, the announcer said. Maybe he said that. I couldn’t really tell. In the end, I made out enough to learn that the previously undefeated Patriots were actually to finish 18-1. Alone at watch in the middle of the night, there was no one with whom to mourn.
Three years ago, Sima and I got a room in a hotel on the other side of Marmaris, Turkey, so that we could wake in the middle of the night to watch a hockey game. There, we met up with a Canadian couple with whom we had become good friends, and watched in an outdoor bar, opened just for us, as the Bruins took out Vancouver in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup.
Two years before that, in Malaysia, we had joined another Canadian couple in another outdoor bar, this time at sunrise, and watched Sidney Crosby fan on a shot that nonetheless slipped between the goalie’s pads and into the net, as Team Canada edged the USA for gold in the 2010 Winter Olympics. At a marina in Italy, we had to outwit a night watchman who tried to keep us from watching the closing ceremonies of the London Olympics. (“That station doesn’t work,” he fibbed, wanting to watch his own sitcom and having disabled the cable box before he changed channels.) This had become habit even before we left the United States: On the Intracoastal Waterway, we used a credit card one night to jimmy open the door to the marina’s public TV room, so that we could watch a late football game.
Yet, as inconvenient as it is to follow U.S. sports while traveling, the ability to do so has certainly improved dramatically over time.
I lived in Sweden years ago as a teenage exchange student. That was in 1980. There was no Internet, let alone ESPN, and neither TV1 nor TV2 stayed on past midnight, and didn’t broadcast much beyond Swedish sports anyway.
I knew of only one source to get results, and that was in the International Herald Tribune.
The paper wasn’t available in the town where I lived. But every once in a while I would find myself in Stockholm and would go to the library to catch up. Results would come in batches, sometimes several days after they occurred.
It’s not like that anymore, of course. I can listen to my college team play on the radio over the Internet. I can even stream any of the games live on my computer. I had considered watching some of Boston’s run that way, but with no one to share with, couldn’t bring myself to crawl out of bed in the middle of the night, fire up the computer, and stare into its blue glare for hours.
Thus I am back to learning about results after the game is played. Of course, nothing beats watching these games at the park and a close second is watching on the couch with my family. But there is still some measure of enjoyment gained from the prolonged suspense. In the mornings, I go out and get my run done before I turn on the computer to find out what happened. And on days when I travel by bus to the archives in Kirkwall on the other side of the Mainland (as the biggest island in Orkney is called), I wait until I am set up to begin research before I look to see the results. It is good discipline.
(I do not worry that anyone on the bus will spoil it for me, which would be a concern in the U.S., and perhaps anywhere in the Americas. In addition to the fact that there are usually only a couple of additional souls aboard, they don’t care a whit about baseball.)
I went through my usual routine on the morning after Game Five. On my run, I listen to Radio Scotland, a treat in and of itself. Scotland is a small enough to have just one weather report and one traffic update for the entire country.
I worked up a hill, as the sun came up, and the news cycle was ending. The announcer then said, “In the American . . . “
No, it couldn’t be. They NEVER ever talk about U.S. sports.
“. . . World Series . . . ”
I couldn’t believe it.
“. . . . the Bosotn Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals and are one win away from the World Series Championship.”
“Nooo!” I yelled, happy and annoyed at the same time, so loud that the nearby cows picked up their collective heads from the morning feed, puzzled at the ruckus.
The Sox won it all two nights later. Reading about it the next morning, however, I felt detached from the game, the park, the crowds, my family. Maybe I’d waited too long to read about. Maybe I was just too far away.
I tried to find some video, thinking that maybe if I heard the roar of the crowd, that would connect me. I pulled up the highlights. I just wanted to hear people, but all the highlights I could find made musical montages of the lot, covering up fan reaction with a variety of pop and rock tunes. Useless.
I was about to give up, when I found a link to video of Victorino’s triple. Just pure crowd reaction and play-by-play. I was at once at the park with the cheering crowd, on the couch next to my dad, and holding the Herald Tribune in my lap as a young teen excited to be abroad yet connected to my roots. Goosebumps. Connection. Home away from home.