I was hanging out at my friend Bill’s place last weekend, we were sitting on the couch drinking some beers and watching a baseball game. It had been like half an hour already, and I was getting pretty bored. We hadn’t said anything to each other in a while, we were just kind of sitting there, I was on my phone, but not doing anything, just swiping from app to app, hoping that something interesting would pop up on the screen. Once that got to be unbearable, I tried breaking the silence.
“Since when do you watch baseball?” I asked him.
“I don’t really follow it, but it’s playoffs,” he said.
“Yeah?” I was trying to say, so? Really? But I didn’t want to jump straight to being a jerk. But Bill didn’t get what I was going for, and so he just responded back, “Yep.”
And so we kept sitting there, watching this baseball game. For a while I actually tried to follow along, but it was like reading a textbook. A really big, old, dusty, dry, boring textbook, and the cover has all of this gross film all over it, I’m guessing from years of disuse, and when I open it, I find out that it’s in Finnish. It’s like, back to baseball, I had no foundational knowledge of what was going on, I wasn’t attached to either of the teams playing, so it’s not like I could at least get behind any of that false hometown pride enthusiasm. Maybe ten minutes later, I started prodding Bill again.
“So which team are you rooting for?” I asked him.
“Baltimore,” he told me.
“Oh yeah? Baltimore? Why?”
“What do you mean?” he took his eyes off the screen and gave me a sideways look.
“What do I mean? Why did you pick Baltimore? Why not the other team?”
And there was a pause of maybe a second or two, and then he said, “I don’t know, I just like Baltimore.” Then there was another pause, then he added, “And one of my roommates from college was from Baltimore.” He threw that in there, like clearly he’d been thinking of it, ever since I asked him, why was he rooting for Baltimore? And even though it seemed clearly pretty forced, at least from my end, Bill sounded satisfied that at least he had something. At first he said he didn’t know, but then he took it back, because he did know, and apparently it had something to do with an old roommate.
“I don’t know,” I told him. “I’m not really convinced.”
“What aren’t you convinced of?”
“I mean, I’m convinced that you’re rooting for Baltimore. I mean, you said it. I guess I shouldn’t have said convinced. That doesn’t really need much convincing. I guess I should have said that I don’t get it.”
“Well,” Bill said, he wasn’t looking like he was annoyed, and I get that, I would have been totally annoyed if Bill were over my house and I was watching something that he didn’t get, and he kept asking me questions about why I was watching what I was watching, “I don’t understand what’s to get.”
“It’s just that,” even knowing that I was on the verge of needling, I couldn’t stop myself, “you say you’re not into baseball, fine, your old roommate is from Baltimore, that’s great, I just don’t get the appeal of sitting in front of a game that you’re obviously not interested in, largely because of … because of what? Because of a third-hand connection to the city of Baltimore?”
Now he looked like he was getting annoyed. And as soon as I saw that annoyed look on his face, I got a little pissed off at myself. Because I knew it was coming. If I kept questioning him, of course he was going to get even more annoyed. But I kept doing it anyway. It was like I couldn’t help myself. Bill didn’t say anything, so I tried to ease off the gas a little, maybe take back some of what I had said.
“I’m just saying,” I said, “you’re not into baseball, right?”
“Right,” he was still annoyed, “but it’s playoffs, man.”
“And what does that have to do with anything?” I asked, maybe a little more confrontational than I’d have liked.
“It’s playoffs. It’s exciting.”
“Dude,” I said, “we’re sitting here on the couch in silence. I’m not excited, and I’ve seen you excited before, this isn’t it, OK, and this doesn’t feel exciting.”
“Whatever,” he turned back toward the TV, “what do you want to do?”
I said, “Well, do you still have your XBOX Live subscription?”
“Yeah,” he said.
“Well,” I said, “do you want to play?”
“After the game,” he said.
There were still like five innings left. And every time there was a commercial break, the TV station kept showing the same commercials advertising back-to-back reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond weekdays at seven. There was nothing to do on my phone. After an hour, I yawned and said that I was tired, that I was going to go home.
“All right man,” he said, “I’ll see you around.”
And then I got back to my house and it was even more boring that over at Bill’s. My XBOX was stolen like two years ago, and I’d never bothered to get a new one. And there wasn’t anything on TV. I kept flipping through the channels, just to see if this baseball game would ever end. But it was still on. It went into extra innings. I fell asleep on the couch and woke up sometime in the middle of the night with a huge pain in my neck.