The fine line between triumph and disaster
Sometimes shit gets in the way of life.
So too, vomit.
That’s precisely what happened during the vital research phase for this column about the agony and ecstasy of baseball’s World Series and the prospects for New Zealand’s newest professional sporting franchise.
The clock recorded that it was precisely 10.45pm on Sunday when this column was watching a Frankie Boyle stand-up routine on YouTube, pondering how to get a gag about Jimmy Saville's victims and mouthwash past the censors and into a missive about hitting a ball with a stick, when a six-year-old child emerged from his bedroom intent on emptying his stomach upon the lounge floor.
Disaster was narrowly – but sadly, only temporarily - averted when said child was swept up by his mother and held over the kitchen sink to perform a fairly violent, extensive vomit.
This could have been – and should have been – a successful and highly celebrated manoeuvre. It would have been, too, had it not been for said sink having become totally blocked earlier in the evening.
As with all great disasters – and we can all agree a blocked sink full of vomit fits that description – its genesis can be traced back to a seriously unfortunate chain of events.
In this case, that chain began with a wife, in an attempt to make the children a nutritious meal, purchasing what would transpire to be a weevil-infested block of rice noodles. At around the same time, a husband was off extensively tasting his friend’s new batch of home brew.
Those two events later collided when the weevil-infested noodles went into the sink half-cooked, shortly before the husband returned from his outing half-baked – and in no fit state to competently clear a blocked drain.
It’s tempting to blame the weevils for what then ensued. However, having been boiled to death, they’d already met justice. And this isn’t a story about blame. If it were, we’d have gone straight in on a Major League World Series between the Boston Red Sox and LA Dodgers, clinched by the Red Sox in five games yesterday.
Baseball – which will be hitting these fair shores in earnest soon when the Auckland Tuatara take their bow in Australia’s professional league – is among the cruellest of sports.
Spare a thought for Yasiel Puig, a Cuban defector who reached America via a leaky raft, and has since had to wrestle mightily with the demons that accompany instant wealth, fame and having far too much time on one’s hands.
The ultimate showman, Puig is famous for playing like the millionaire he is. His trademark is a debonair, couldn’t-give-a-shit attitude displayed while consistently under-delivering on his massive talent. Fortunately for the Dodgers, he does like to throw in a good few moments of indescribable brilliance, making him both a horrifying and truly wonderful athlete to behold.
Puig’s three-run homer late in game four of The Series, to give the Dodgers a handy lead in a must-win contest, was just such a thing of beauty and horror. Having crushed a pitch hard to centre-field, he ignored a multitude of unwritten baseball rules - the most pertinent of which is ‘Don’t stand there like a turkey with your arms aloft just because you’ve smacked a ball hard; run the freaking bases’.
Baseballs have a habit of doing funny things, including not travelling quite as far as hitters think they will.
Standing at home plate like a statue of the second coming of Christ is not the preferred position for a hitter to be in should a baseball that seemed destined for Outer Pluto pull up short and land just inside the fence. Showboating is also deeply frowned upon – and likely to end with the show-boater copping a 95mph fastball flush on the spleen next time up.
Puig being Puig, he flipped his bat and entered full Cuban Jesus mode.
He got away with it, too, as the crushed baseball sailed deep into the stands.
Puig, of course, had no idea that he was actually just baseball’s version of a mother getting her child to vomit into a blocked sink rather than all through the shagpile.
Handed a 4-0 lead late in the game and a World Series lifeline to boot, the Dodgers’ pitching staff imploded, coughing up nine runs in the final three innings.
The seeds of this destruction – the weevils in the noodles to continue this fine analogy – were sown the previous day when the Dodgers’ relief pitching staff were worn out in an overtime game that lasted a World Series-record 18 innings.
The Dodgers won that war, but it was a pyric, short-lived victory.
Like its close cousin cricket, baseball is a game of repeated failures punctuated by occasional successes that will inevitably be followed by an even more abject failure.
One swing of the bat can change not just a game but an entire season. One fat pitch hung out over the plate can define a career. Dodgers fans might well lament the failings of the club's pitchers, but it was surely Puig who angered the baseball gods, sealing the team's fate.
It will be fascinating to see if New Zealand – a country traditionally content to glory in its success in the much smaller and less competitive world of softball – embraces professional baseball when the Tuatara begin their season on November 23.
Home games this season will be played at McLeod Park in Te Atatu, before a long-term shift to a specially reconfigured North Harbour Stadium next year.
While North Harbour is a modern facility with the capacity to handle good-sized crowds in comfort, its location at the city’s northern extremity is less than ideal. Aucklanders not domiciled north of the Harbour Bridge will need to be highly motivated to take in a ballgame, while Shore residents aren’t exactly noted for turning up to sports events in droves.
On the flipside of the ledger, the Tuatara offer something new, different and have the coolest name in New Zealand pro sports. So you never know.
Predicting the future is never easy. If it was, this column would have realised ahead of time that attempting to clear a blocked sink full of vomit with a toilet plunger would only cause a major blowback that would distribute the contents of the sink across every wall, ceiling and appliance within an eight-metre radius.
Pro tip: the correct way to clear a sink blocked with half-cooked noodles, weevils and vomit is to place a bucket under the drainpipe and unscrew the u-bend. This should be done sooner rather than later.