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Jewish World Review May 8, 2003 / 6 Iyar 5763

Bill Tammeus

Bill Tammeus
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Mustering robust   — if apathetic   — cheers | BALTIMORE I am in seat 21 in row BB of Section 384 in the left-field upper deck here at Oriole Park at Camden Yard and, frankly, my dear, I don't give a crab cake who wins tonight's baseball game.

Which may make you wonder why I'm here at all. Well, wonder away. I don't need to disclose all my secrets. I'm just here.

The Baltimore Orioles are playing the Chicago White Sox. Those teams rank near the bottom of my passion scale, even though I love almost any baseball game.

The question thus forced upon me is how I can cheer in a way that respects the role of being a fan (which, remember, is short for fanatic) and yet allows me to be true to my deeply felt apathy for the teams engaged in this alleged struggle.

Perhaps you, too, have found yourself in this or an analogous situation - say, attending the wedding of two people you hardly know or the funeral of a man you've never met. Maybe the creative way I'm dealing with my time at the Baltimore ballyard will help you through your own experience of disinterest. Or maybe not.

The first thing someone in this situation should do is to respond to the breaks, all those lucky twists and turns of fate that smile on apathetic souls for reasons largely unexplained in the sacred texts of any religion.

For instance, the three guys I came here with and I decided that we would buy $15 tickets after we had looked at the range of seats available. But the ticket seller unexpectedly sold them to us for just $9 each. It was some kind of unadvertised sale, I guess.

I was so pleased by this financial gift that every time I see a stadium employee here I high-five him or her and say thanks. They seem to like it but wish I wouldn't "Woo-hoo!" so loudly in their ears.

Another break I got was that as we walked in, I noticed that former Oriole great Boog Powell was signing autographs near the ballpark barbecue joint named after him.

Now, if I'd been at Wrigley Field to watch my Chicago Cubs, and Ernie Banks had been signing autographs, I'd have spent a lot of time in line to get Ernie's John Henry. But Boog? His Boogness means almost nothing to me. If Boog wants me to have one of his autographs, he'll have to come to where I'm sitting and hand me one. He hasn't. Big deal. No loss. In fact, I've saved time.

"Fine, fine," you're saying, "but what about the game itself?"

Oh, that.

Well, look, you just have to adapt to reality. The reality is that I don't much care who wins, although an Orioles' victory tonight would aid my Kansas City Royals in the standings.

So when the crowd here started a rhythmic chant of "Let's go, Orioles, let's go, Orioles," I joined in. Well, I joined in with a slight modification. With great gusto and pretense I shouted, "Let's go, Whoever, let's go, Whoever."

And when the electronic scoreboard urged fans a few minutes ago to "Get Loud," I began clapping and hollering out parts of several Shakespearian sonnets I once memorized.

It's really quite exciting to cheer for a double into the gap by screaming, "Love is not love which bends with the remover to remove," which is how I remember the line.

Another way to enjoy games you don't care about is to make side bets on irrelevant happenings.

For instance, the friends I am with have made a bet on whether the ball the home plate ump rolls to the mound between innings for the incoming pitcher will stay on the dirt of the mound or roll to the grass. I have lost $3, but it's pretty cheap entertainment.

Now, if you're not at a baseball game but, say, at a funeral, you'll have to find something else to bet on. Like how many times the preacher uses a particular word, such as "celebration," "sorrow" or "doofus." If you can get to a three-doofus funeral at least once in your life, you'll always have something to talk about.

Well, the Orioles just won 7-1, and it has filled me with such an overwhelming sense of indifference that I'm too choked down to finish this column. If you want to cheer this development, I suggest something loud from Kahlil Gibran.

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JWR contributor Bill Tammeus' latest book is "A Gift of Meaning." To order it, please click on title. To comment on his column, please click here.

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Reprinted by permission, The Kansas City Star, Copyright 2002. All rights reserved