When it comes to fandom, can it really be true that it's not whether you win or lose but how you play the game?
I was surprised to find the Orioles-Rays game still on when I came home. It had stretched into the 13th inning, though, nearing four hours. I didn’t have much time—I had to go back out again in a few minutes—but Chris Archer, who as a Durham Bull I have watched, interviewed, and written about often over the last year or so, was pitching a third inning of long, late relief. This was just his fourth career appearance in the major leagues. So of course I wanted to tune in.
Archer issued a leadoff walk to Endy Chavez, then made a poor throw on Manny Machado’s sacrifice bunt attempt for an error. That put two men on. Mark Reynolds followed by hitting a tantalizing corkscrew fly ball into shallow right-center field that retreating second baseman Elliot Johnson couldn’t quite catch. It ticked off his glove—oh, poor Elliot—for a single, loading the bases with no outs in the 13th inning of a game fraught with post-season implications for both teams
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A radio broadcaster's persona reflects the team's roster and fan following. Or is it the other way around?
I’m driving in Georgia with my new wife, way, way down south. We’re here on family business, but we’ve taken an afternoon to indulge the notion that we are still on our honeymoon, although it officially ended weeks ago. We are passing through the rural exotica: tiny, ruined towns, no signs of life. Stunted, desiccated crops. Vultures are everywhere: in the air, in the trees, devouring carcasses on the side of the road. Rain blatters on the windshield. History has ended here.
We need a signal, some reassurance of life against this deathless decrepitude. Put on the radio, there’s a Braves game—that will more than do. Those live pauses between pitches, the ambient life piping through the speakers. Baseball on the radio is as potent as the smell of bread in the oven. What sound could possibly be better in southwest Georgia, on a road where the speed limit is 45 mph, where you can drive five, 10 miles at a stretch without seeing a single other vehicle?
The Durham Bulls are in the midst of a rare losing season, prompting Adam to wonder: How do fans of the Royals and Pirates live with losing every year?
The art of losing isn't hard to master; so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster.
- Elizabeth Bishop
Down here on the Durham Bulls beat, I watched “America’s favorite minor-league team,” as they call themselves, go 5-2 in their season-opening home stand. The needle was pushed all the way over right from the start, when the Bulls and Gwinnett Braves went to extras on opening night. In the top of the 12th inning, Cesar Ramos gave up a go-ahead solo homer to J. C. Boscan; but in the bottom of the 12th, as the game passed the four-hour mark, the Bulls rallied to win it when Gwinnett shortstop Greg Paiml misplayed a fairly easy grounder. The Bulls’ Will Rhymes, since called up to Tampa Bay in the wake of Evan Longoria’s hamstring injury, opportunistically raced all the way home from second base with the winning run.
“There are more people out there touring the nation in conversion vans chasing the purity offered by minor-league baseball than you think. And Durham was their Mecca.”
So observes James Bailey in his new, self-published novel, The Greatest Show on Dirt. Bailey should know: he worked for the Durham Bulls for three seasons, 1990-92. You haven’t done the minor leagues until you’ve done Durham.
An MVP award suggests that the Rays' Russ Canzler was the class of the International League, but as one Durham Bulls beat writer explains, Triple-A threats aren't always destined for major-league greatness.
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Adam Sobsey has been the Durham Bulls beat writer for the Independent Weekly since 2009. He has also won numerous awards as a playwright, and his work has been staged in New York, California, Austin and North Carolina. His most recent play, WESTERN MEN, or OPPOSITE TO HUMANITY, was a comparative intertextual weaving of Shakespeare's TIMON OF ATHENS with the lifelong friendship between the poet Ezra Pound and the painter/author Wyndham Lewis, commissioned and premiered by Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern at the Nasher Museum of Art in October 2010. As a journalist, he has won the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies Award for Arts Criticism, and two North Carolina Press Association Awards. In 2012, Adam will collaborate with writer Sam Stephenson, creator of the Jazz Loft Project, on a season-long documentary project about the Durham Bulls.