Joe Garagiola/Bazooka BLBGBCApril 7, 2010
I am a little scattered these days, and also very tightly wound. Though the promotion of my new book is not exactly the dawn raid on Normandy, I feel as if there are ten thousand details of extreme urgency to keep track of every day. This panic-inducing distortion of reality is what I get for preferring to live as lazily as possible for most of my life.
I keep periodically forgetting the things I need to keep track of, so much so that my wife recently brought home a gigantic desk calendar for me with each day of the month as big as a baseball card, and I have started writing down the things I need to remember in big black letters and then checking the calendar several times a day. (Most of the days are blank, a testament to the bush league quality of my assault on the American literary establishment, but I still check back in case a trick of the mind has caused me to think, perhaps wishfully, that I am living through one of the blank days when in reality there’s something I need to be doing.)
While this strategy has worked so far, in terms of staying on top of things, it has apparently contributed to the tightening of the metaphorical guitar strings inside me. Yesterday, spurred on by too much coffee and perhaps a few too many viewings of the movie Slap Shot (which embroidered much of its hilarious dialogue with outlandish vulgarity) and still smarting from Butler’s narrow loss to execrable Duke, I loosed an obscene disparagement of Clark Kellogg on the email list of the NCAA bracket league I’m in every year. Many people on the list are friends, used to indulging, or at least tolerating, my debatable “sense of humor,” by some on the list are friends of friends, and one of them replied to all after my email to announce that because of my message he was “unsubscribing.”
I felt terrible about it the rest of the day. I’d never, to my knowledge, caused anyone to unsubscribe from anything before. I reread my message and could easily see how someone could get offended by it. (I’d rather not get into the specifics of it, but it bristled with a concentrated thicket of frustration, lewdness, and violent imagery.) Later, at K-Mart, buying a couple packs of 2010 cards for an upcoming book-promoting guest article on another site, the cashier asked me if I wanted to donate a dollar to the March of Dimes. Groping for repentance, I said yes, though hesitantly, because of my preternatural cheapness (the bit of guilt-inspired charity brought the purchase of two two-packs of cards to the stunning amount of twelve dollars—12 times the cost of a similar purchase back in my long-gone days of innocence, and I didn’t even get any gum!).
So anyway, to recap, I’m scattered and tightly wound and far from my long-gone days of innocence and possibly jonesing for some gum. I may not be able to muster any deep forays toward those long-gone days for a little while, even though such forays might be exactly what I need to center my tenuous psyche. But I would like to at least try to keep a toe in the past, and so for that reason I’m going to try as much as I can over the next few days to relive, or at least re-imagine, one of the greatest contests the human will to compete has ever created. I’m talking, of course, about the 1975 Joe Garagiola/Bazooka Big League Bubble Gum Blowing Championship.
As everyone in the world knows (don’t they?), Kurt Bevacqua won this championship and was immortalized for doing so in a 1976 Topps card. I do not own this card, but my brother did, and I remember both it and its impact on me well: For years, I wanted to follow in the miraculous bubble-blowing footsteps of Kurt Bevacqua. (Though I’m early in the planning stages, I hope to create regional Kurt Bevacqua Bubble Gum Blowing Open-Invitational Championships at each of my book tour appearances.)
But what of the other competitors in this hallowed 1975 contest? What about the early round contests, the stunning upsets, the growing tension of the action as the tournament wore on, the crushing defeats, the controversies, the soaring triumphs of the human spirit?
Well, you can get a sense of some of that at a great post on the subject at the Topps Archives blog, where I accessed the photo at the top of this page. In the coming days, I hope to augment the factual report on the tournament with the kind of skewed conjecture that could only come from a harried consciousness yearning for the days when nothing mattered more than blowing a really big bubble.