Sunday, July 22, 2012

Simple Pleasures

We drove up to Lake Elsinore yesterday to catch a minor league baseball game. The Storm is the lowest ranked (Class A) professional baseball team - three steps below Lynn’s beloved Padres, which are several steps below the team they were a couple of years ago when they were in contention. For simple straightforward sports entertainment, it was hard to beat. After talking about our night out over breakfast this morning, we think there is an analogy to books.

Major league baseball in is the process of losing itself to spectacle and hype. In order to compensate for the outrageous ticket, parking, and concession prices, the most poetic of sports is being drowned in show. The major league owners feel compelled to “razzle dazzle” in order to compensate for soaking fans over, what many times is, an inferior product. This is certainly the case for the Padres. Not so the Storm. At Lake Elsinore, the wonderful and fanciful game of baseball is still the central attraction. Sure they have fun between innings, mostly by getting the kids who’ve come to do crazy stuff on the field, but what happens while the players switch sides is a warm wholesome compliment to the only American sport that suspends time while the game is being played.

We think something similar is happening with mainstream publishers. In order to justify their bloated overhead, the process of choosing, producing, and marketing their books feels like a Roman spectacle rather than a straightforward generation of literature. Like minor league baseball, it is left to independent authors to provide a purer product – a story worth reading.

Also like baseball, books can be wildly inconsistent, but, good or bad, are more likely worth the time and money, when not burdened with weight that comes with unsustainable overhead. When you’ve only paid a couple of bucks, there is an “oh well” attitude when a player, writer, umpire, or book producer makes a mistake. There is also a real thrill when someone does something wonderful on the field or between the pages. When it costs five times as much as it should, the inevitable mistakes in print or on the field seem inexcusable while the wondrous never quite lives up to expectation.

While driving home after watching The Storm wither under perhaps the most inconsistent strike zone we’ve seen called by an umpire, we listened to the Padres lose by two in twelve innings. Even with the announcers hyperventilating over some great plays by both teams that drove the game into extra innings, we were more disappointed by the major league game than we had been by the Lake Elsinore home team that had been outperformed all night. It was a real joy to pay $12 for the best seats in the stadium and relish America’s past time on a warm summer’s evening rather than drown in all the expensive, extraneous, and superficial fluff in order to hunt for baseball with the rest of disappointed fans.

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