Thursday, October 31, 2013
Through a Screen Darkly
I was pretty sure the Red Sox won the World Series last night, but I was watching the game in Spanish and couldn't be absolutely positive until I read it in the paper.
I'm exaggerating, but it's the truth that I didn't understand why the Sox lost Game 3 on that strange base path obstruction call until the Times spelled it out for me the next morning.
People in the grandstand manage to watch baseball without benefit of color commentary and technical exegesis, so I figured I could do the same this post season, the first for which we were already in Mexico and dependent on the local cable lineup.
We've got a few English language news and movie channels on the far end of the dial, but no sports or at least no baseball.
Not that I'm complaining. It actually seemed like an act of generosity on the part of Fox Sports to run out their video on Mexican channels, siphoning off Joe Buck and Tim McCarver and replacing them with some guys whose names I never did catch.
There were hardly any ads at all, other than a short and endlessly repeating string of promos for Fox coverage of NASCAR, the NFL and an assortment of "futbol" events staged by FIFA, UEFA, the League of Champions and the South American Cup. Lots of guys scoring goals while doing back flips and then ripping off their shirts. I now will never forget that Club Leon fans paint themselves an attractive shade of green for big matches. And I have memorized all of Fox's lurid blow-molded station break graphics.
Fox also mercilessly flogged its late night sports talk show "La Ultima Palabra," the "Last Word," an obvious falsehood since the program seems to have four hyperventilating hosts, none of whom ever stops talking.
I had hoped that there might be some good Spanish lessons in the Series for me, because I assumed that basically understanding what was going on just by watching would be the functional equivalent of subtitles.
But no, it didn't work that way. Actual game action turns out to be a small part of what you see on the screen. Fox panned the crowd for the benefit of its U.S. audience for celebrities whose names I couldn't remember and who my Spanish commentators ignored.
The intra-game dugout interviews with the managers got the same treatment. Instead, my guys talked about other stuff, which might or might not have been baseball related, so I was treated to the rare experience of missing two trains of thought at the same time.
When the ball was actually in play, my guys talked so fast I was lucky to catch one word in a dozen.
I plucked a few morsels from the stream. An inning is an "entrada," which is also the word you see for entrances to parking lots and grocery stores. A strikeout is a "ponche", which is also the word used around here for a flat tire. I learned that the hard way of course. Top of the first inning is "primera alta," and you substitute "baja" for the bottom and "mitad" (half) for middle.
Before this, I only knew the ordinal numbers up to "tercera" or third. Now I have them all the way to novena or ninth, but since the Sox and Cards never went into extra innings that's all I've got.
I had mastered this much baseball vocabulary by the middle of the ACLS. So when Pam asked me during the Series if I minded hitting the mute button, I didn't mind at all.
Oh, snap! It has just occurred to me that I could have streamed English audio for free online from ENPS, MLB or somebody. I used to do that in New York, where I preferred the Yankee radio commentators. But the audio arrives first, and the brain has to deal with the disorientation of an ear that's ahead of the eye.
It's clear from all of the above and especially the preceding paragraph, that my brain is already playing catch-up on many fronts, and losing. So it's probably just as well that I didn't try it. I might have hurt myself.