“The 7 Questions” is a new sports questionnaire—the Eephus way of capturing a snapshot of the fan’s life. From writers to artists and beyond, we bring you answers every week.
Today we get the answers from Matthew Specktor, author of the novels American Dream Machine and That Summertime Sound, as well as a nonfiction book of film criticism. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Harper’s, The Paris Review, Tin House, and numerous other periodicals and anthologies. He is a founding editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books.
1. When was the last time sports made you cry?
My God, the idea of a world where I wept about sports seems positively antediluvian—even though it was only a few weeks ago, when the Dodgers beat the Nationals in game five—but nevertheless. There are so many things that have required my tears since. But honestly, I weep all the time—over sports—in the incredulous, grateful sense. The heart-stopping reversals, the more hopeful narratives, the small glimmers in the middle of the game (I’m thinking of Clayton Kershaw’s NLDS heroics, the Cubs’ series win—I’m a Dodger fan, but still— Francisco Lindor’s smile): these things make me weep all the time. It’s probably been longer since I outright wept for reasons of disappointment, which, for me as for any loyal sports fan, are numerous enough that one can only become inured to them. You’d have to go back to one of the World Series losses of my childhood. The 1978 Yankees series was tough. That definitely earned some full-throated sobbing from me.
2. What’s your most treasured piece of sports apparel or memorabilia?
The most treasured—at least in memory—is probably the most pedestrian. Although I own a couple of sweetly-autographed balls aspicked now in plastic cubes (one signed by the entire squad of the ’81 Dodgers, another signed only by my 1977 hero Rick Rhoden, whose hot start that year—“hot” at least according to the counting-stats of the time—endeared him to me irrationally), the most treasured would probably be the disorganized shoebox full of Topps cards that exists either somewhere in my attic or only now in my mind. It was real, though. And while there was a time when I would’ve given anything for one less Oscar Gamble or Tito Fuentes—those dudes seemed to be in every pack—today it would be those things, fugitive scraps from the one true cross.
3. Competed in any sports lately, at any level?
Well, given the level of rhetorical ferocity we’ve all been operating at during this particular—Trump—era, I start to wonder what we might include beneath the rubric of “sports.” But assuming you mean a game in which people don’t actually want to kill each other and focus most of their murderous impulses on a ball of some kind or a net, sure. I’ve played basketball at a writers’ conference (terribly; I have no skill there), tennis with friends (same), and softball in a sort of offhand, Sunday fashion (3 for 5, all singles. Somewhere in my forties, I appear to have lost all my power). The upshot of all this is the same: I wake up the next morning, and for several days after, raw and aching and stiff, having upset muscles I most of the time can’t quite recall exist. It hurts, in other words. Which brings sport and politics into close relation after all, apparently.
4. What’s your desert island sports movie or book?
Josh Wilker’s immaculate Cardboard Gods, which is a straight up phenomenal piece of contemporary literature. To call it a “sports book” (ostensibly, I guess, a meditation on various baseball cards of the 1970s, the book is an embracing chronicle of failure, and a brilliant portrait of suburban American life) is reductive. It’s right there with Frederick Exley’s A Fan’s Notes, in my opinion.
5. What do you like to eat and drink while you watch sports?
Honestly, I’m not too much of a purist when it comes to sports-eating. I’m not a big believer in the Designated Foodstuff, which I wish they would abolish in American League parks. If I’m on a bar stool, whiskey and peanuts are fine. If I’m at a game, well, a watery plastic cup of Budweiser is cool. And those frozen malt thingies I suddenly am not sure if they sell any longer at Dodger Stadium. It’s been decades since a stadium hot dog didn’t disappoint me. And yet the efforts to class up stadium wares seem doomed to failure. Which is a way of saying I do my best eating before or—better—after a game. I’m a big fan of the postgame spread.
6. What’s the greatest length you’ve gone to watch or attend a game?
Will it make me seem lazy—or too much like a casual fan—if I admit I can’t remember a single pilgrimage of any memorable length? Not one. In part, I realize, it’s because I dislike crowds. It’s delightful to go to a game, and I’ve been to some killers (the last truly memorable one being game four of the 2013 NLDS, which was won by a late-inning home run by Juan Uribe), but I’ve never driven all night —or cross-country—to do it. And since I rarely leave home (I’m a writer, after all; a sanctioned hermit), the game is always on. Or at least it has been since I moved into a neighborhood that carries SportsNet LA. (Fuck you, Time Warner.)
7. Ever caught a foul ball?
Are you kidding? Does anybody actually catch a foul ball? It’s like the moon landing. Everyone knows those are faked.