"Pitchers and catchers report for spring training this week." -EBE

Slashing the Show

Let me start out by saying that I don't intend to name any names here. It's not nice to play games with real live people. But when you give your mind over to the slash mentality, it changes the way you look at television--all of it, not just the fiction. So it shouldn't surprise anyone who knows me that I can't resist the desire to combine two of my favorite sources of entertainment.

Of course, in the testosterone fest that is professional athletics in the US, there are numberless male bonding moments to choose from. My thing happens to be baseball. Some things stand out immediately even to the unpracticed eye--haven't we all seen the congratulatory slap on the ass, or the catcher running out to jump on the pitcher when they've won a divison title or a perfect game? Some newspapers, depending on the city, make a point of printing the shot taken just when he's wrapped his arms around the pitcher's shoulders and his legs around his hips. Hello, win column! Others make a point of never printing that. But it happens nonetheless.

Other moments are less exuberant. Wait till the pitcher gets into a jam. Maybe he's loaded the bases, a couple of bloop singles and a walk, with less than two outs; especially if he's a rookie and the catcher is a veteran. Watch then. Watch the catcher go out to the mound and see what he does. Will he stand next to the pitcher and drape his arm around his shoulders, or across his back, and pour reassurances in a low voice into his ear? Or will he stand facing him, close, so close, so that none of the opposing players or managers or nosy television cameras can read his lips, and put a palm up on the pitcher's chest to calm him down, buck him up, keep him steady, and let the hand linger till the last moment before he turns to go back to the plate? Can you say "hurt/comfort," anyone?

The most intense interaction, though, doesn't even need that kind of melodramatic occasion or physical proximity. Just a regular part of the game, this is, and it can happen a dozen times an inning: the catcher hunkers down over the plate, gets into a squat, looks over to the mound, catches the pitcher's eye, and then drops his hand between his thighs to give him the sign. One finger, two, three, four. This is where I want it. This is how fast I want it. Can you do that? A little nod of the head. They know what they mean. Then the catcher spreads his knees and they're in business. Now that's the show. Major league. What a game!