My Dad tells me lots of baseball related stories. Most I have forgotten because that’s just how my brain works. But one that has stuck with me is when he was a child, his dad would come home from work, sit out on the back porch, and listen to the Milwaukee Braves play on the radio from start to finish, day after day. This story fascinates me for several reasons; one: were there not mosquitoes in the 60’s?, two: it’s so hard now to imagine baseball without HD, twitter commentary, and air conditioning, and three: this sounds heavenly.
Up until this season, I’ve never really listened to the Sox on the radio except occasionally while in the car, maybe one or two games a season. And it’s whatever. Ed Farmer rambles on for a bit, then Darrin Jackson has his turn, and it goes on in that fashion until I arrive at my destination. No big deal. But how do those two hold up over time? That is the question.
I currently work at Cosi most nights a week. It’s a shitty job but it fills the void between graduating from college and going back to more college. For those who don’t know what Cosi is, congrats! But it’s one of those urbane corner restaurants that charges you 8 bucks for a soup and a salad, which forces me to mention: YOU CAN NOW GAIN ENTRANCE TO A WHITE SOX GAME FOR LESS THAN A MOTHERFUCKING SOUP AND SALAD. IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WORLD. The magic of Cosi, though, is we smile at you a lot and give you enough free coffee refills to make you think it’s worth it. Where’s your free refills, Reinsdorf??
(A Cosi fun fact: the restaurant was named after the Italian opera, “Cosi Fan Tutte”, which can be roughly translated to “women cannot be trusted.” Take what you want from this.)
Obviously I can’t watch the White Sox at night if I’m working so I’ve adapted to listening along on the old radio. Well actually there’s no radio. (What’s a radio?) I listen through the MLB At Bat app on my phone. (I recommend it. $20 well spent.) So now the chore of making salads and sandwiches collides head-on with the traveling pony show that is the Chicago White Sox, making the monotony of work only more monotonous!
The one thing you realize right away with audio is there’s some things words just can’t do justice. Like Dayan Viciedo’s swing, for instance. There are not enough human senses available to fully enjoy that. I want to touch it and rub my face all over it. But then there are guys like Jeff Keppinger and Alex Rios where I feel I probably enjoy them more by not having to see them. That’s sort of the sinister beauty of Farmio and DJ, they suck the life out of each player equally to where I start picturing the diamond appearing as a scene from The Giver.
So what do we make of Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson? Not good, right? If I had to sum up their collective broadcasting quality, I would simply offer up this example:
Farmer: “The next pitch should be a slider down and away.”
Jackson: “Well that’s only if you want to get him out.”
Farmer’s smug way of saying “I used to pitch in the majors”, followed by resident parrot, Darrin Jackson, adding his two cents with his own way of saying “Hey, I played baseball too!” Their charm knows no end.
In one sense, my contrarian, slightly narcissistic self sort of loves how this duo is a kick in the junk to whatever they are teaching at Syracuse. But yikes. They play the “buddy cop” dynamic quite well assuming the movie you are comparing them to is White Chicks. Jackson just bores me. I would say he’s annoying or unfunny but most of the time I can’t bother paying attention to him. I had a roommate once that reminds me of him. He would wear a polo shirt with khaki pants and a baseball belt. He was very proud of this. I literally can’t remember a single point he ever made.
Ed Farmer is the one I find interesting. He has a Marc Maron type neurosis to him that is oddly addictive. He’s an arrogant prick, there’s no question about that. Plus he provides just abysmal play-by-play. It’s more like play-by-sidebar-by-play, where sometimes the sidebars become stories and the games become a self-reflective podcast. But I feel like baseball, along with sports like golf and NASCAR, needs sidebars. There isn’t enough happening to warrant description of each pitch. Your mind naturally trails off during a baseball game, and Farmer’s trails off with you. It just so happens that Farmer’s mind is always two drinks in at a sad towny bar at 11pm.
I think you may know where I’m going with this, but listening to Farmer at work is sort of cathartic for me. I start thinking about things that I know I wouldn’t otherwise think about. Part of it may be the hypnotic effect of making one pesto chicken melt after the next, but when Farmer wonders off to a story about his playing days, my mind moves to the future and what I hope I can become. It’s a strange paradox where his moroseness invigorates me. His ability to say nothing of significance allows me the chance to think. His droning voice exists as the medium between Cosi and dreams.
None of us know what we are doing in life, or, for that matter, what Farmer and Jackson are doing together in a broadcast booth, yet we go to work each day trying to make something of ourselves. I can’t help but think about my grandpa and the back porch without realizing it was never about the baseball as much as it was everything else.