Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sportswriter's Creed

This is my suitcase.
There are many like it, but this one is mine.

My suitcase is my best friend. It is my life.
I must master it as I must master my life.

My suitcase, without me, is useless.
Without my suitcase, I am useless.
I must pack my suitcase true.
I must pack sufficiently for airport security who is trying to search me.
I must pass through before they randomly select me. I will...


The cab is scheduled to pull into my driveway at 6 a.m. Actually, "as close" to that time as possible is all the dispatcher would promise me when I phoned in my request one night earlier. That means the phone alarm will go off at 4:45 and my empty suitcase will be awaiting me on the small couch in my office.

I walk into the room, flip on the light and rub my eyes as I try to remember where exactly I'm heading, and for how long. Is this a one-city trip? No, this one is two. I'm pretty sure. A quick glance at the pocket schedule in my wallet confirms it for me. I'm in a daze, but I'm conscious enough to read the tiny, multi-colored grid that's in my hand.

I count off the days. Palm up, I shoot out a finger for every day that I'll be gone. This one is seven, including this lovely morning that still felt like the middle of the night. Thus begins the packing ritual that I have gotten down to a science.

You know you do something a specific way when your 1-year-old son knows how to pack your suitcase. One afternoon, he stumbled into your office, grabbed a handful of socks from the nicely folded pile that was placed on your desk. Your suitcase wasn't put away in the closet. It rarely is during the heart of the baseball season.

So what did he do? He headed to the suitcase and stuffed the socks into the clear plastic zipper pouch that is on the inside of the top section. What do you know? That's where I put them. That's where I always put them. It was the kind of thing that makes you realize just how much your kids pay attention.

If he knows where I pack my socks in a suitcase at 1 year old, Lord knows what other habits he's bound to pick up from me. Poor kid.

Socks in the small top pouch. Boxers in the larger zipper pouch. Pants, folded into a square, serve as the base layer in the bottom of the suitcase. Running shoes, one atop the other to form a green and yellow rectangle, all the way to the left.

That leaves a perfect slot to house a media guide and your scorebook. If your luggage is lost, you can do without those for one game. That leaves room in your backpack for the book you have been bringing (but never read) on the plane for the past two months. There is a similar space that is perfect for one or two pairs of your running shorts.

Folded dress shirts on top of the pants. T-shirts on top of those. Then, your bag of toiletries rests across everything, with a sweatshirt providing the final piece to a puzzle that has been perfected over the past few months. A new routine might be required with the next suitcase. Christmas is always coming, and it seems like you go through one suitcase per year.

It's a rough world out there.

Zip! Zip! And a swoosh as the handle is pulled up.

Your suitcase is ready. You're ready. And the cab has arrived.

Time to go.