Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hodgman essay on Massachusetts

Someone asked a bunch of writers to each write an essay about one of the 50 States for a collection called State by State.
John Hodgman was one of those writers, and he wrote a really nifty essay about Massachusetts. Here is an excerpt:
Boston has much to offer any visitor. There is of course a fine symphony orchestra, world-famous universities, and the Mother Church of Christian Science, which has a truly boss reflecting pool. However, if you do not like sports, Boston does not have much to offer you. The local sports teams –– which I am told are the Baseball Red Sox, the Football Patriots, the Basketball Celtics, the Hockey Bears, and of course the famous Boston Lobsters of the World Tennis Team League –– are an obsession.

When a game is on, it will be broadcast in every bar, home, and taxi cab. I once frequented an eccentric coffeehouse in a small town in western Massachusetts. It hosted literary readings and served vegetarian food and a small selection of wines. I loved it. It had a small TV that showed only a closed circuit feed of the baby eagles that had recently been hatched at a local bird sanctuary (which seemed perfectly reasonable to me). Unless there was a Red Sox game on, in which case, sports would preempt baby eagles.

In the finest restaurant the waiter will be checking the scores and passing the news of the game between the busboy in the kitchen and the Harvard professor at the table. The professor will tell you that, in a city largely stratified by class, race, and ethnicity, sports erases all those distinctions and reminds us of our common humanity and reties, season by season, the frayed threads that hold our community together. He will probably be wearing a baseball hat as he says it, one of those good-quality, fitted jobs. And if you tell this academic that you don't happen to like sports, he will ask what is wrong with you. And then he will punch you in the face.

The essay wanders across the history of Massachusetts, weaving in personal anecdotes in true Hodgmanic style. Hodgman fans will enjoy this essay.

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