The Aesthetics of Airwaves 

I grew up in southern Missouri, not quite East, but on a physical divide of the flat lands of the bootheel and the foothills. Those foothills lead to the Ozarks. A jagged, but beautiful terrain. I lived as far west as Springfield. Heart of the Ozarks. I was born in Tulsa. Where the Ozarks ends for me, but notably past where the western flat lands begin. I currently live on top of a ridge that over looks the flood plains of the Missouri River, a few miles before it concludes into the Mississippi River, it is also rather flat. This is the most northern point of the Ozarks. Not really mountains, more like a plateau that pops up in the middle of the Great Plains of the Midwest. But in all these places, I could, and still can, find a Cardinals game on the radio dial. They came, and still do, across airwaves. Technology and infrastructure that is over 100 years old. From Tulsa to Doniphan to the Flag Ship, St Louis’s own KMOX, they all come across simple air waves. The games are carried in markets as far south as Vicksburg, Mississippi and as far west as Norman, Oklahoma. Certainly modern media and global communications make those listening/watching the game a truly global audience. However, the people who listen on their local radio station, are the ones who are far more likely to be the same people who fill the stadium every night. Yes, I’m asserting, they are the true fan base, on par with those with the means to attend all 81 home games. To see a Cardinals game from Vicksburg or Des Moines, is an event, not a hobby. It’s a vacation, a treat; it’s something families save up for to splurge on their children. Those kind of people listen to the game on the radio.

Last night was no different from many other summer nights of my life. Windows were open, a cacophony of cicadas provided a dull roar, and the hum of a baseball game coming from a basic radio; all this could be heard. The only new variable was the sound of my daughters frequently giggling–and sometimes arguing–in the distance. And from time to time, the sound of my littlest sleeping in my lap as I listen to an extra inning or west coast game.

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The game last night was a great one. Seth Manness came in for relief in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and no one out. He got 2 strikes outs and a ground out. It was a mic drop. As Nancy Rice, a fellow St. Louis Cardinals lover, tweeted.

Seth #Manness just dropped the mic. Comes in with bases loaded and no outs and retired next 3 batters. That’s what champions do #STLCards

Trevor Rosenthal came in and claimed his 41st save. The legendary Yadier Molina was brought in on his day off to catch the ninth inning. Rosenthal was pitching with a kid about to be born, he needed Molina at that point. With that 5-3 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Cardninals maintained their 4.5 game lead in National League Central (NLC) over Pittsburg. The NLC is the toughest division, without a doubt. It has 3 teams poised make the playoffs. This rich narrative came across the airwaves. A comforting and aesthetic texture, like a vinyl record, with its crack and pops. These old communication dinosaurs give faster service than your digital option. It is true. Watching a game on TV most likely means it has to go to space to get to your screen. Not with radio, it’s relayed by towers.

My youth had very little consistency, something painful that isn’t worth remembering, but one thing that never changed during those turbulent years, was baseball’s ability to help me escape what I couldn’t cope with or understand. The game, and the world, are changing in a way I’m not really sure I like. So, while I can, I will cherish the nostalgia and simplicity of listening to a baseball game on the radio. I hide no bias. I have been a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals since I can remember. I hope you enjoy your favorite team as much as I enjoy mine. I also hope you try the joys of listening to the game on an old and antiquated system of communication, called a radio. Believe it or not, it’s less distracting than the television broadcast.

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