RBI Baseball Week Post #1 – “Wasted Time” by Wynn Walent

I asked five of my friends if they would write an essay about a mystery topic. I wouldn’t tell them what it was unless they agreed to do it, but assured them it would be something they’d enjoy writing about. All five said yes. The topic was RBI Baseball, a 1987 Nintendo game that I’ve spent hundreds hours playing with all of them. Here is the first entry, by Wynn Walent

Read all the essays in the series here

When I was in 8th grade my sister, who is three years my older, and her boyfriend Drew Lindsey broke up. He was a star athlete, valedictorian, and a pretty solid guy all around. I’m not certain but I think my sister broke up with him to date someone who respected her very little and then quickly regretted it.

In any case, Drew made her a mix tape, and on it, was The Eagles, Wasted Time. I’ll save you any self-righteous, way-too-easy pot shots at the Eagles. Let’s just say I don’t listen to them. That being said, if I were to hear Wasted Time on the radio it would make me think of Heather and Drew and the summer that she listened to that mix tape constantly. The workings of the human brain are curious, but when Conor asked me to write about RBI Baseball, I thought about it for about 3 seconds before I started to picture a montage of our college friends playing RBI baseball with that song as accompaniment.

College is a bit of a blur. It’s bizarre how I was able to be as unproductive and unappreciative of the fact that my life was ALL free time. I did lots of silly things with this time, as many of us did, and a few good things I’m sure, but mostly, it was a lot of wasted time. The exception being the friends I made. There are many types of camaraderie, and I’ve known some very good and powerful ones in my life. In some cases the trench that you’re in defines what type of bond you develop with someone. It certainly has an effect. The more intense the situation you’re placed in, the more likely you are to find the best in a few people who are there with you, and the more likely you are to become friends. I’ve done some fairly stressful and difficult things since college and the trenches I’ve since chosen have been a hell of a lot different than Preston 4B or whatever apartment number it was. BUT…that peculiar and hazy trench produced some nice memories now that I’m remembering, and the friendships are not flimsy just because our lives were. In some sense the friendships must be more real in order to overcome the fact that the trench we were in entailed nothing to distract us from ourselves. There was no shared pressure or challenge, no self-sacrifice, no shared danger, nothing really at all other than the thoughts and quirks that we appreciated, accepted and enjoyed in each other. When RBI baseball is one of the trenches you have bonded in, and when the other trenches are of similar nature more or less, you can be damn sure that the people, the bonds themselves are what is strong, and not misplaced or exaggerated feelings of camaraderie creating the perception of closeness. It was the people that were compelling and important. Because God knows the situations we were in were not.

Here’s a few images to include in the mental montage that should accompany Don Henley’s tortured voice.

  • Conor once telling me that my (losing) performance in an RBI game against the dreaded and powerful Danny was the first time he’d ever been proud of me. I wasn’t good enough at the game to have a rival. If anyone had admitted to being my rival it would have been like saying, “I am close to being the worst at this”. This explains why a losing performance can  elicit pride.
  • Danny humping me (clothed and without my consent) in front of a large, laughing crowd after defeating me, calling home run shots, and reciting lines from ‘A Few Good Men’.
  • Danny and Derek playing with a wager of belt whips on the line. I think this happened a few times in fact, and the whips were very real.
  • Danny saying “floodgates” in an arrogant tone after hitting the first of his many homeruns.
  • Danny humping Conor (clothed and without his consent) in front of a large, laughing crowd while reciting lines from ‘A Few Good Men’.

Ok so these aren’t very inspiring. I guess the truth is that RBI Baseball doesn’t evoke that much in and of itself. But it makes me think about a time of my life that now seems very distant, and when I think about that time in my life, it is overwhelmingly clear that the only good thing, the only lasting thing about it, is the people that I shared it with. Those people are beautiful pieces in the larger quilt of my 31 years, and RBI Baseball is a nice thread.

“So you can get on with your search baby, and I can get on with mine.
But maybe someday we will find….that it wasn’t really wasted time”

For that last line you would probably want to cut from Danny humping someone to a nice touching shot of the group of us hugging, laughing, listening to records, giving a high five, watching Dexter’s Laboratory, or playing music together. RBI baseball was just one of the things we chose to do while being friends. Which is nice and means it wasn’t a waste of time.

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