I was hanging out with a friend of mine, and we were listening to the baseball game on the radio. It was a hot July afternoon in the city, and we were sitting on the back stoop in the narrow alleyway that ran behind the apartment building. My friend started going on about how the instant replay feature had ruined half the fun of listening to these games. In the old days, he said, a close call would lead to disputes of passion and imagination, marvels of improvisation. Now they just waited for the replay to settle everything.
He said that his old uncle was a master at this peculiar craft. He would set up the whole play and go through it beat by beat. My friend proceeded to demonstrate. He stepped up to an imaginary home plate and swung away. He cracked a fly ball into the outfield and barreled down the first base line. Then he was the outfielder, scrambling for the ball at the fence and then whipping it to the shortstop. And there he was the runner again, headed for second, and now the shortstop, and again the runner, and then back again.
“Safe,” he pronounced quietly, showing that the shortstop never touched the bag, that he had missed it by just the slightest inch, indisputable proof informed by physics, stats, and simple geometry. The play was over. The pantomime had stopped. The spell was broken. It was just a back alley again on a sweltering day. My friend nodded his head and tossed the nonexistent ball to me, and as a matter or reflex, I reached out to catch it in my nonexistent glove.