FOOTY and BASEBALL
by, 02-24-2012 at 11:49 PM (18448 Views)
On the ninth day of spring, just yesterday, I attended the first footy game in a big stadium in Australia-at York Park in Launceston. I had lived in Australia for 36 years and two months--nearly 60 per cent of my life by then; I had watched parts of several games on small ovals across Australia and, of course, seen dozens of parts of games on TV. But I don’t think I had ever watched an entire game.
I was married to a big football fan and having a son and two step-daughters who also enjoyed the game, it was difficult to escape its regular sound in our home for six months of the year, especially at the weekend. Given the centrality of this game to the Aussie ethos, I felt my attendance and what it involved deserved a prose-poem to mark the occasion even though I only watched part of the game and even though it was only for the under 14s.
But the game was a grand final in the NTJFL, the northern Tasmania Junior Football League, my 14 year old step-grandson, Tobias Wells, was playing and my wife saw that it was an essential part of my step-grandfatherly role to attend.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 10 September 2007.
Back in what many saw as the quiet fifties, my attention, my spiritual and physical resources, my curiosity, was channelled into sport, school and an emerging interest in the opposite sex. The energies of that young child and adolescent who had just begun the long race of life were, indeed, stretched to the full during those halcyon days by activities having little to no connection with any organized religion.
Organized religion in any form has not been a popular activity in Australia and Canada, at least in the places where I have lived all my life, although certain evangelical-fundamentalist groups did attracted large followings. The following poem tells a little about one of the sports, baseball, its context in my life, in modern history and this new Faith whose connection with my life was a largely peripheral one during the years of my childhood and early to mid-adolescence.
I wrote the following poem six weeks before leaving the classroom and retiring from employment as a teacher at the age of 55 in 1999. So often in life I felt strongly that I just could not stay any longer in a place—a town or a city--in a work situation, in a marriage or in any one of the multitude of other relationships one can have in life. For one reason or another I just had to go, had to split, as we used to say colloquially. Sometimes the reason was obvious; sometimes it was inexplicable; sometimes the choice was not mine.
In 1953/4 I felt strongly that I had to leave softball for hardball and third base for the mound, the role of pitcher. In 1950 I had to leave our house in RR#1 Burlington. The former was my choice; the latter had nothing to do with choice but, rather, it was a decision of my parents. Such is part of the nature of fate, determinism and free will.
In August 1962, at the age of 18, I played my last game of hardball in the juvenile league for the Burlington All-Stars. I pitched a full nine innings in that game and in the bottom of the ninth I was hit for three runs and we lost the game 3 to 1. The next week my family moved to another town and the next summer I worked for the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company to make money to go to university and did not play another game of baseball until I was 39 and lived in Katherine, Northern Territory. It was so hot in that northern Austrralian town that, after a few innings in one game, I gave it up with an excess of sweat on my brow as a lost cause.
When a series of programs about baseball, a series called The Big Picture, began to unfold on television, I quickly came to realize the remarkable similarity between the story of baseball and the story of the Baha’i Faith, both of which grew up in the modern age. The game of baseball was born in America in the 1840s as a new activity for sporting fraternities and a new way for communities to develop a more defined identity.(1)
There are many organizations, activities, interests which were born and developed in this modern age, say, since the French and the American revolutions. The points of comparison and contrast between the great charismatic Force which gave birth to the Baha’i Faith and its progressive institutionalization on the one hand, and the origin and development of other movements and organizations on the other, is interesting to observe. I wrote the poem which follows about seven weeks before teaching my last class as a full-time Tafe teacher in Australia. -Ron Price with thanks to Ken Burns, “The Big Picture: Part Two,” ABC TV, 18 February 1999; and (1) John Nagy, “The Survival of Professional Baseball in Lynchburg Virginia: 1950s-1990s,” Rethinking History, Vol.37.
They both grew slowly through
forces and processes, events &
realities in the late eighteenth
and nineteenth centuries:
baseball and the Baha’i Faith
along their stony and tortuous paths,
the latter out of the Shaykhi School
of the Ithna’Ashariyyih Sect of Shi’ism.
And it would be many years before
the Baha’i Faith would climb to the
heights of popularity that baseball
had achieved quite early in its history.
Baseball was a game whose time
had come, a hybrid invention, a
growth out of diverse roots, the
fields and sandlots of America, as
American as apple pie.
And the Baha’i Faith was an idea
whose time had come, would come,
slowly, it would seem, quite slowly
in the fields, the lounge rooms, the
minds and hearts of a burgeoning
humanity caught, as it was, as we
all were, in the tentacles of a force,
a tempest that threatened to blow
17 February 1999
Updated on: 25/2/'12
A second poem about baseball, written about a year after retiring from full-time teaching to Tasmania, where I lived in its oldest town, George Town---also conveys something of the flavour of those ‘warm-up days until I was 18 when my curiosity about this new religion was exceeded by curiosity about other things.
A BASEBALL-CRAZY KID
In October 1956 Don Larsen of the New York Yankees pitched the only perfect game in post-season baseball. Yogi Berra was the catcher.1 That same month and year R. Rabbani advised Mariette Bolton of Orange Australia, in the extended PS of her letter, that it was “much better for the friends to give up saying “Amen.”2 The following year Shoghi Effendi died and Jackie Robinson, the first Negro to play professional baseball, retired. I was completing grades 7 and 8 when all of this took place and, even at this early age, was in love with at least three girls and possibly four in my class: Carol Ingham, Judy Simpson, Karen Jackson and Susan Gregory. I found them all so very beautiful. Karen was the first girl I kissed.3 -Ron Price with appreciation to: 1"The Opening of the World Series: 2000," ABC TV; 2Messages to the Antipodes, Shoghi Effendi, editor, Graham Hassall, Baha’i Publications Australia, 1997, p.419; and 3Ron Price, Journal: Canada: To 1971: 1.1, Photograph Number 102.
I was just starting grade seven
and still saying amen
occasionally when I went
to that Anglican Church
on the Guelph Line
in Burlington Ontario
with my mother and father
and saying grace
just as occasionally.
I watched the World Series,
a highlight of autumn
for a twelve year old
baseball-crazy kid, back then.
And I passed the half-way point
of my pre-youth days1
when I was the only kid
with any connection
with this new world Faith
in these, the very early days
of the growth of a Cause
in the Dominion of Canada,2
a Cause that contained the seed
for a future world civilization.
1 1953 to 1959: my pre-youth days.
2 In 1956 there were only about 600 Baha’is in Canada. The 400 Baha’is that started the Ten Year Crusade in 1953 in Canada became 800 by the time I became a Baha’i in 1959. In southern Ontario, from, say, Oakville to Niagara Falls and Windsor, to several points north of Lakes Ontario and Erie in 1956 I was the only pre-youth whom I then knew, or later came to know. There may have been other pre-youth but at this early stage of the growth of the Cause in Canada, year fifty-eight of its history, I was not aware of them.—See Canada’s Six Year Plan: 1986-1992, NSA of the Baha’is of Canada, 1987, p.46.
23 October 2000