In the second month of this journal, April 2000, when nobody was reading it, I posed the following question:
why is it that baseball people (players, coaches, umpires) spit? Especially on camera? What is there about the game of baseball that makes a grown man feel that he can send a big wad of spittle flying out into space with every third breath? Do we see accountants spit? "Here, Mr. Jones. I’ve gone over your tax forms and ... ptui! ... this is what you owe the IRS." Do we see surgeons spitting into their masks during tense moments in the OR? "Nurse! Scalpel! Spittoon!" Does Jose Carreras let fly a big one between arias?
I thought a lot about that entry while I was watching the first game of the World Series (yay, Sox!). I think baseball is a really good reason not to get a high definition TV set. It's bad enough seeing all that spit flying everywhere on a regular TV set, but to get a chance to watch it sparkle as it catches the light and makes that arc from the mouth of the spitter onto the ground is just more "reality" than I want to think about. They seem to spit compulsively. It's like they all suffer from salivary Tourette's. It gives new meaning to "shooting your wad."
There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the spitting. They spit everywhere. Some fans think it would a big treat to be invited into the dugout on game day. You wouldn't get me there for $1 million. Imagine what the floor looks like.
I tried to think of other sports. Do they spit in cricket? I can't believe that a sport where the players take an official break for tea would allow its players to spit. Nor can I picture golfers spitting before making a crucial putt.
Game 1 of the World Series, with the Red Sox racking up all those home runs, actually got sort of boring — Ho-hum. Another double. Ho-hum, the pitcher walked in another run — that I finally started paying less attention to what was happening on the field and more attention to what was coming out of the mouths of those involved...and how.
Perhaps it is a greater awareness of the potential cancer risk of chewing tobacco that has caused gum to be a substitute for some. It seemed that it was about 2/3-1/3 tobacco to gum chewers. And not just "a" piece of gum, but a huge wad of it. Oh for the Wrigley's concession at the ball park! But whether it's tobacco or gum, they all spit. Some spit forward. Standing upright, head facing forward and out comes a big one flying out onto the field.
The coaches tended to bend over and spit big globs onto the dugout floor (see previous statement about the questionable "fun" of visiting the dugout!). There was one guy I looked at who didn't seem to be chewing anything at all, and then suddenly this little spray of spittle squeezed out from between his upper teeth like a fine mist. I was impressed at the distance it achieved.
There are also different ways of handling the wad of chewing material in your mouth. Those in the dugout seem to roll the wads around in their mouths. Looks like there's a hamster in there turning round and round and making a nest in their cheek. It just sits there making the chewer look like he's coming down with a case of mumps.
Then there are the real chewers. The more tense they get the faster they chew. Like a mouse with a piece of cheese (I don't know why all my metaphors are of the rodent variety!)
The coaches engage in synchronized chewing and individual spitting. The jaws work in unison. Chew...chew...chew. You imagine there is a coxswain calling out the rhythm.
The gum chewers occasionally blow big bubbles instead of spitting, which I think is definitely preferable to spitting. One guy was taking his gum out of his mouth and playing with it before popping it back in again.
My cousin Kathy turned me onto the Discovery Channel program, "Dirty Jobs" recently. I don't watch it all the time, but just enough to get good and nauseated watching the host attempt all these completely disgusting tasks that we don't want to think about. (I'll bet you don't know how to sex a chicken, do you?)
I wonder who cleans the baseball dugouts. And perhaps even more important, how do you clean spittle out of Astroturf? With more and more stadiums using fake grass, what happens to all that spit when the game ends?
Spit is a good excuse for not wanting to be involved in professional baseball. I can't imagine what it must be like sliding face first into home plate right after the batter the catcher, and all the guys hanging around home plate have been spitting on it.It must be a "guy" thing.