Slumbering Umpires


Shortly after getting on 1 train at 181st street this morning, I noticed a slumbering passenger. This is not particularly unusual for the New York City subway system, or any form of public transportation. His arms were crossed, head leaned back, mouth agape – an oldie but a goodie as far as sleeping positions are concerned. But this is not why I noticed him. Emblazoned on his shirt’s left breast was “New York Umpires School.” I was both intrigued (wow, an umpire!) and disgusted (ugh, an umpire…), but now I’m mostly just confused, because apparently this school doesn’t exist. Fine. That wasn’t the point of my story anyway.

The train pulled into 157th street five minutes or so after I got on. The Slumbering Umpire jerked his head forward and groggily opened his eyes. The doors opened, people exited and entered. He looked around lethargically. The doors remained open, but it was now in those four or five seconds when you know they could close at any time. The Slumbering Umpire tilted his head back as the doors closed. Then, he jolted awake, clumsily sprint-weaved his way between standing passengers, and arrived at a door that had been closed for several seconds already. He hung his head, remaining there until he could get off at 145th street.

I don’t know what this means, but I found it incredibly funny. This is probably because my encounter came on the heels of a Yankees-Angels game in which umpires blew three calls, two of which were outrageously bad (find the game highlights here for the gory details). Umpire Tim McClelland erroneously called Nick Swisher out for leaving third base early on a sacrifice fly, even though replays showed McClelland wasn’t watching third base at all. He then somehow concluded that Robinson Cano was safe at third base, even though he was tagged by catcher Mike Napoli while nonchalantly standing off the base. Both these calls made me genuinely angry, so I took more than a little pleasure and found more than a little irony in the plight of this morning’s Slumbering Umpire. At least he had company. Tim McClelland might as well have been asleep in making those two calls.

Naturally, I sent this anecdote to my commuting girlfriend, who told me that she just had an encounter of her own. An insane, rambling, bearded Jesus freak (not that there’s anything wrong with that, but still) has been known to walk the length of the 1 train throughout the day, telling New Yorkers why we’re going to hell and what we can do to avoid such a fate. If you’re really lucky, he’ll more or less corner you and make his pitch personally. It’s great fun. Anyway, Jesus Man (as he has come to be known) was apparently on the prowl this morning, and I sort of wish that he and the Slumbering Umpire had crossed paths. I’m sure Jesus Man would be much more willing than I am to forgive the Slumbering Umpire and the rest of his kind for their transgressions. Maybe they’d rub off on one another, forming some sort of evangelical umpire. A Jumpire, perhaps?

“And the Lord said… YER OUT!”

Halloween is right around the corner, kids. If you’re looking for an original costume that is sure to make your friends wonder about your sanity, the evangelical umpire is right for you.


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