Posted by: Brad Nixon | March 30, 2010

3-Second Violation

My loan was approved, so I’ve just come back from the office supply store, where I bought a new cartridge for the printer. And that was just the BLACK cartridge. I guess it’ll be the pawn shop for us when we need to replace one of the color cartridges. I thought the people at Chanel were the champions of charging insane prices for a tiny bit of liquid in a container, but they are pikers compared to the print supply companies, whose stuff doesn’t even smell all that good, and Canon and HP and whoever else sell millions of these things. I’m going to check with Surf Boy to see if we can arrange to have a 50-gallon drum of black ink to fall off a truck at the printing plant the next time he has a press check. We’ll get ourselves a couple of syringes and go into the refill business. We’ll be rich within days. Dial 1-800-MOREINK, night or day. Operators are standing by to take your call. Cash only, please.

That’s beside the point, though.

Most of you who read this blog are multitaskers. Whether you write memos while you listen to conference calls, fill out paperwork while answering a phone call, or fix dinner while helping with the evening’s homework, you’re rarely focused on one thing at a time. Except for driving. I know none of you are talking on cell phones or texting while you drive. I just know it.

Our American spectator sports (and possibly most global ones — more on that later) are predicated on the notion that one can watch basketball, baseball and football and still do at least two other things at the same time without missing anything. Whether you’re watching in the stadium, watching television or listening to the radio, you can be doing one thing and then turn your attention to the action when something happens, thanks to the fact that it’s not exactly non-stop action. One estimate that made the rounds during the recent Super Bowl was that out of every elapsed hour of real time, there were 11 minutes of genuine on-field play.

Baseball thought it had that lifestyle locked up for decades. You watch a pitch. Strike, the umpire says. You debate: should Maloney have come more inside? Now he’s behind in the count, and you know Banks is going to be looking fastball. You get a beer and a dog. You wonder if that’s really a “take” sign the third-base coach is signaling? Oh, wow, it’s already time for the next pitch.

The Counselor did not appreciate this leisurely sort of game mode that prevails for baseball the one time she went to a game with me. She’s a runner, accustomed to the constant stream of stimulation that sport provides: Okay, I passed that weaving bozo, boy did he have a bad smell, now here comes a bunch of pebbles in the road what’s THAT all about? I have a pain in my left knee I hope that doesn’t keep up here’s a sign that says “2” is that kilometers or miles? okay, now what’s this idiot with the headphones going to do, keep running or stop and tie that shoelace? That kind of stuff. Sorry, Counselor, baseball just isn’t quite like that. Neither is any other “major” sport.

Incredibly, for the past week I’ve been tuning into the college basketball tournament, either listening to the games on radio while I drive home from work or having the TV turned on while I work around the house. I can’t even account for my interest in this year’s tournament, since I’m no kind of basketball fan, and didn’t watch a single one of these teams play even a minute and didn’t even pretend to fill out a bracket. But for some unknown reason, I’ve gotten interested in every single game for the sole purpose of rooting for the underdog. I know that all across America, millions of fans have made their estimation, sometimes after deep cogitation and significant discussion and research, about how a given team with a given coach on a given day will perform against each possible opponent. At every turn, I have delighted when a #10 team has beaten a #4 team, and wrecked the hopes of millions.

Last weekend the stakes were higher, the frenzy was greater, and I kept breaking away from all the work I had to do in unpacking boxes of housewares from their 5-month slumber, arranging them into the newly remodeled kitchen, and looking at the score of whichever game was on TV. The Counselor was off at her Saturday class, and my time was my own. It got into the middle of the second half, about 10 minutes of game time left and, as any fan knows, this means that there are only two, perhaps three hours of real time left until the game is over. Timeouts, commercial breaks, stoppages for injuries, foul shots and official replay judgments consuming the other couple of hours. I decided it was about time to go out and change my oil which, for my car, involves removing a complicated skid pad that protects the transmission from bumps, calling Germany for directions on how the oil filter works and then putting everything back together.

Got back to the house, and there were 5 minutes left to play. I unpacked some more boxes. 4 minutes left. The score was tied. I knew I needed to transplant all those herbs and things out along the fence before the contractor showed up Monday to stucco the wall, so I did that. Back in the house. Three minutes left in the game. I unpacked some more boxes. Two minutes left.

Here, let me now address the rising tide of objection I sense from my few European readers, who are ready to hit the “Comment” button to proclaim that one does not see this sort of craziness in “football,” as they mistakenly call soccer. Oh, no. Not at all. The clock runs down irrevocably down to O:OO, with no stoppages. Except for penalty time and injury time. After the clock hits zero, there is some mysterious period of from 2 minutes to 2 hours to account for the fact that Lococabeza faked that life-threatening injury when the other team was about to break loose, not to mention the red card that Poudre de la Perlimpinpin incurred objecting to the fact that Juan de Jesus was looking at him in a certain way that could only be decided after the game under the stadium. So soccer games have one ending, and then they have the real ending, which is kept secret from everyone except the official. Don’t tell me that there’s nothing that can be done about THAT!

So, two minutes left. I started thinking about it being late March, the end of the annual whale migration from Mexico to Alaska, and it would be nice to go out and see some whales from a tour boat. I drove down to the harbor in San Pedro, got on a boat which cruised out about five miles into the Santa Catalina Channel. We not only saw three California Gray whales, but a whole pod of dolphins, maybe fifty of them. A great trip. I got back to the house, dashed in just in time to see that the game was in its final three seconds. Three seconds? Oh, man. I should’ve taken the cruise that stopped at Avalon Harbor with a tour of the fabulous Wrigley Estate out on Catalina Island! How would I spend the next hour?

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