I note with some regret that with last Saturday's loss to the hated Gigantes del San Francisco, my Dodgers cannot possibly finish the season with a better-than-.500 record. Yet it is still at least theoretically possible for my third-place team to pass the Padres for the division pennant. That's how bad the National League West is this year.
This got me thinking. It's been hard to follow baseball this year. I've been busy at this job all season long, and Knoxville isn't exactly a baseball town. There's a minor-league team in Sevierville, (their season ended two weeks ago) which isn't that far away, when you think about it, but I found myself unwilling to go even when I had the opportunity to do so.
In terms of geographic distance, the stadium that this ball club plays in is 42 miles from The Estate At Louisville, and Yahoo! says it will take about an hour and fifteen minutes to get there. Experience suggests that this time estimate is a little high; I've driven to that part of the world in about an hour from home. By way of comparison, Yahoo! says it is 22 miles from where The Wife and I used to live in Los Angeles to Dodger Stadium, and that the drive would take 45 minutes. Well, I know from experience that the drive will take longer than that -- anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half with the normal ebbs and flows of Los Angeles traffic.
So if I was willing to drive an hour to an hour and a half to go to a Dodger game, why am I not willing to drive an hour to an hour fifteen to see the local AA club play? The answer is either:
A) The geographic distance, 20 miles greater, is more important to me than the time commitment involved in making the drive; or
B) Sevierville has become more mentally distant to me than downtown Los Angeles had been when I lived in Redondo Beach.
I think it's the latter. It's irrational -- I'd be in the car no longer than I would be when I went to see my Boys in Blue. But somehow, the fact that I need to go such a larger distance, through two time-consuming, relatively rural segments of road, makes it seem to me like I'd have to drive halfway across Tennessee to see the ball game. Back in California, I'd willingly make the longer trek down to Anaheim to see the Angels play (33 miles, 90 minutes minimum with guaranteed heavy traffic at multiple points en route).
A big part of it is that the route out there goes through some rural territory. That seems to make me feel like I am driving a great distance, even if I am not.
I've commented before that counties seem to be of bizarre importance here. And that the roads in this state are all windy and poorly-labelled. For instance, to go more or less due east to see a ballgame, I would take Lamar Alexander Parkway northbound -- and the route would follow a big curve southeast before turning northeast to get where I wanted to go. Sevier County is two counties over since almost all the routes there from The Estate At Louisville -- which itself is just across the river from Loudon County, although we never think about the properties and houses that we can see across the river -- and that just seems like a whole different world away. Kind of like San Diego is to residents of Los Angeles, or San Jose to San Francisco.
So, it appears that after a little bit more than a year of residence here, I've begun buying in to local concepts of distance -- concepts which are unrelated to either geographical separation or transit time, which are the two units that I used in California. This is a demonstration of the concept of mental distance, an inexact and irrational misperception of reality that causes one to behave differently than one might without the inhibition of a subjective sense of separation.
Of course, there is very little press coverage of the AA team; all the local sports coverage during baseball season was about either prep school track and field, NASCAR, women's college basketball, or the upcoming UT football season. There's no room left over for baseball in the local mindset, so that means I have to follow my teams on the Net, which is not nearly as engaging. The lack of media coverage of baseball has also separated me, mentally, from following baseball closely -- something which I enjoyed doing very much back when I was in California.