Sunday, October 07, 2007

Neatness Counts

Last night I ironed all my clean t-shirts while watching the Stanford-USC football game. Football is perfect for ironing. Something quickly happens -- motion, collision, collapse -- and then there's a pause, often as much as a minute in length. The rhythm of baseball is more elusive. The interval between pitches is shorter, and most of the time the pitch simply pops into the catcher's glove. I think there's about 12 seconds of action in a typical baseball game. It's too easy to be looking down at the wrong time.

But football is perfect for ironing -- do a sleeve, arrange the neck, watch the play, repeat -- particularly a game involving teams I care little about. You could burn yourself if you care. Stanford is local. That's enough. I'm as subject to the gravity of proximity as the next fellow.

I didn't intend to iron all those t-shirts. I wear every one I have, right down to the last two or three, usually the green ones made out of some kind of knit that aren't really t-shirts and make me ill at ease. So it is a significant stack of ironing I have to do when I choose to do it.

My intent was to iron until Stanford was 14 points behind, which condition Stanford never attained, so I ironed on and on: the A's t-shirts; the three Oakland Department of Public Works t-shirts; the luxurious long-tailed black t-shirts from the Duluth Trading Company; the American Federation of Teachers t-shirt; the t-shirt celebrating the 10th anniversary of Arizmendi, our local baker co-op; the four t-shirts from Australia; the Save the Planet t-shirts with the bevy of jolly animals....

That's just a few of them. Most people have more than I do, I reckon.

I ironed. Stanford hung tough. When Stanford actually had a chance to win with a couple minutes to go, I quit ironing, aware that my stopping might jinx them, since it was clear that my ironing was an important part of the gestalt. I had carried them far enough. If only for their self respect, they needed to do it on their own.

And they did. They won. Hmmm. A big upset, one that must have cost some bookies a few bucks, though the line was 40 points, and I doubt there was much wagering. Betting one way or the other on a 40-point dog is masochistic.

It made me think of my student at North Carolina State almost 40 years ago when I taught English there while I finished up my dissertation at Duke. I had one of the famous Buckey twins, who played football for State. One was a quarterback and pretty good. I had the one who wasn't either of those things. It was freshman composition. I was down in the pit. I had four sections: That means 120 students. We had a textbook of essays we were supposed to use as theme subjects, but with some regularity I let them write what they wanted, as much out of my own curiosity about what they would come up with as for any pedagogical reason. Talk about masochism.

My Buckey twin wrote about God. He said upsets in football showed that God existed. That was it, just that sentence, as if it were self-explanatory.

I guess it is. I certainly have nothing to add. Look at those two stacks of t-shirts, which proliferated like the loaves the fishes.


B. Wieder said...

Irons his t-shirts? As Gloria noted in directing me to this posting, "I think that deserves a comment." Which may be comment enough in itself. Gloria, the fastidious neatnik in the household, rolling her eyes, speaks volumes, I think, about someone painstakingly pressing the creases out of an undergarment. For $200, I will not reveal this to the rest of the league.

....J.Michael Robertson said...

I didn't mean undershirts. You mean there are people who just *wear their damn t-shirts wrinkles and all*!

I am not an animal. I am a human being.