“The 7 Questions” is a new sports questionnaire — the Eephus way of catching a snapshot of the fan’s life. From writers to artists and beyond, we bring you answers every Monday morning.
Today, we get the answers from Andrew Forbes, whose writing has appeared in Eephus, Hobart, The Classical, and Vice Sports, among other places. His first book, the short story collection What You Need, was shortlisted for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, and named a finalist for the Trillium Book Prize. His second book is The Utility of Boredom: Baseball Essays (read an excerpt here!). He lives in Peterborough, Ontario.
1. When was the last time sports made you cry?
I’m an easy mark when it comes to emotions that spill out of my eyes when something happens on a ball diamond. I know I got a little watery when Vin Scully was on the field for a little thing ahead of his final Dodger home opener back in April. I wept in confusion and joy during the 7th inning of Game 5 of the ALDS last October. I also screamed myself hoarse. But the most recent instance wasn’t about baseball or professional sport of any kind; my kid, my eldest, my daughter, ten years old, recently ran in her first track meet. It was an all day affair, characterized by quick bursts of excitement separated by hours of inaction and waiting and sunburn and thirst, but her first event of the day was a grade four girls’ 100M heat. I’d never seen her compete in anything like this before, and she was nervous as all get out. I wanted for her to do well, not because I need her to win or anything like that, but because I wanted her to learn that she could do something like that. She took the heat easily—like, by a mile—and my wife and I were just beside ourselves, completely overcome with excitement on her behalf, and pride, I guess, or whatever we call that emotion which arises when a small human that you’ve created goes and does something it doesn’t think it can do.
2. What’s your most treasured piece of sports apparel or memorabilia?
Tough call. I have so much junk. I just can’t get rid of any of it. You begin to think, maybe as you near a milestone birthday, or just as physical stuff threatens to overtake you in your home, that with a few modest tweaks life can operate as an efficient machine. Little waste, not much extra stuff. You undertake a campaign to make your existence leaner, getting rid of all kinds of things—clothing, books, trinkets, photos, whatever. The goal is a spare, empty room. Everything must go. But then you hold in your hands a ticket stub from Tiger Stadium, or a Roy Halladay bobblehead, and you think, “Well, okay, but not this.” I have so many of those things. They’re the modeling cement which continues to affix me to memories of ballgames and ballplayers and who I was when I watched or attended. They’re a piece of those old versions of me. So okay, life’s not so efficient. But at least I still have the M’s cap I bought at Safeco when I first saw Ichiro play, and the Frosted Flakes cereal box celebrating the Blue Jays’ second consecutive World Series title, where Tony the Tiger’s wearing a Jays uniform, and an incomplete set of Youppi! figurines, and a Ken Griffey, Jr. signature model Louisville Slugger, and an Andre Dawson Rawlings glove, and several years’ worth of Ottawa Lynx box scores cut out of the newspaper, and thousands of baseball cards, and so on. If you pressed me, I could probably name the item that I treasure most, but the response would be dishonest or at best only temporarily true.
3. Competed in any sports lately, at any level?
Friends and I used to rent the gym at a Catholic elementary school here in town for two hours every Monday night. We kept that up for a few years, a weekly shoot-around and BS session that would eventually morph into a game, once we’d shared the week’s news and talked sports for a while. It was an island peaking above the waves and eddies of adult life, something to cling to, a little bit of what I think we all felt was both exercise and therapy, or at least fellowship, and I know I was always a better person at the end of each night, when we’d sit sweating and gulping water on the edge of the stage, talking about renovations or child rearing or work or our health, having just shot and dribbled and defended and talked trash for couple of hours. But the effort overtook us last fall, and the habit quietly died. I miss it, but I also understand, and I’m happy we were able to keep it alive as long as we did. Now I take my ball and my Nikes down to the Y a few times a week, and shoot by myself just to keep the mechanism working, and sometimes maybe get into a game there.
4. What’s your desert island sports movie or book?
I’m abandoning the orthodoxies of desert islands and taking three books: David Mariniss’ Clemente, Jane Leavy’s Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy, and Dan Barry’s Bottom of the 33rd. You know what, though? I need some Roger Angell, too, so I’m also bringing a copy of The Summer Game. Four books. As far as a movie goes, though it would mean living out my days in the presence of Kevin Costner, I think I’d have to go with Bull Durham.
5. What do you like to eat and drink while you watch sports?
I have a friend who’s a photographer, and he and I are always talking about hitting the road to visit as many ballparks as possible in order to sample the over-the-top offerings—burgers with a pair of cheese pizzas for a bun, two-foot-long hot dogs, ice cream tacos, all that stuff. I think it’d make a pretty good book, or at least a magazine piece. But at heart I’m a traditionalist, maybe. Popcorn, hot dog, beer. In Toronto, the best hot dogs are the ones you buy on the street on your way to the ballpark. When there was still a Triple-A team in Ottawa I’d get the poutine, though it was pretty awful. At home I’ll often cook while watching or listening to a game. Here in Peterborough there’s a bar called Champs that I’ll sometimes wind up at, if the game’s big enough to warrant going out and meeting friends, and they serve lattice fries. I’d never seen these before I moved here. They bring you a basket of those and some French Onion dip. Even if you’re not hungry, if you’re there and there’s a game on, you sort of feel obligated to order the lattice fries. I was there several times during last year’s playoffs watching the Jays, so now I associate the taste of them with October baseball.
6. What’s the greatest length you’ve gone to watch or attend a game?
I’ve driven some pretty decent distances to see games. They’ve got a pull on me. It isn’t even necessarily the quality of the game itself that draws me, as much as it is the experience of being in a ballpark, especially one I’ve never seen before. I used to spend hours at an office job concocting complicated road trips that would allow me to see as many games as possible, in major and minor league parks, checking schedules and driving times and so on. That I never actually took those trips didn’t matter; it was enough to know such things were possible, and might yet lay in my future. I still dream of finding myself in some unfamiliar town on a summer afternoon and wandering into its ballpark. Doesn’t matter where. I’d drive through the night to see the Cedar Rapids Kernels. Many years ago my wife and I drove across the continent from Ottawa and went to games in Milwaukee, Spokane, and Seattle. It wasn’t the sole purpose of the trip, but it was an incredible part of it. In 2003, the year the Tigers lost 119 games, we drove to Detroit to see them play Cleveland, just because we hadn’t been to Comerica yet. At the border, when the US agent asked the purpose of our visit, we told him we were going to a ballgame. He said, “You’re driving all the way to Detroit to see the Tigers?” Once, with a friend, I basically kidnapped a co-worker and coerced him into driving us to Montreal to see Tony Gwynn collect his 3000th hit. I have no regrets about that.
7. Ever caught a foul ball?
Four to date. One of them, maybe the most memorable, is the subject of an essay in the book, “Marco Scutaro Hits a Foul Ball.” The others: at an Arizona Winter League game, which also featured a small airplane dropping cash over the outfield, where contestants tried to run it down (most of it blew over the wall in right); a ball tossed to my daughter by John Wetteland, who was then the Mariners’ bullpen coach, at the Rogers Centre; a dribbler fielded by Rochester Red Wings first base coach Dave Cash and tossed to me, sitting in the front row at Ottawa Stadium. They’re all still here, amid all that other junk I talked about. I can’t let them go.