As a professional rock n roll band trying to make it, there were times when I strived for perfection to the point of overdoing it. I lived and died too much with the outcomes of certain gigs I thought were “professionally important”, or the outcome of a song we recorded trying to get a hit out there. If anything, this perfectionist mindset that I carried at times inhibited us. I should have just let it happen. I should have just gone with the flow when we were playing a gig sloppy or too loud. Or I should have just went with the first take I sang. Mind you, I wasn’t always difficult like this, but there were a lot of times where I let overthinking and analysis ruin the feel or natural order of things. That is my advice to anyone who might be in a band or artistic endeavor. Just let the entity you have born from your mind grow, live and develop without trying to control it too much. You can ruin things by thinking on it too much. Stop thinking.
Perfection is an interesting word, though. It is fun to think about. It is commonly defined as a state of completeness and flawlessness. I believe the planet Earth and its natural resources are perfect to have successfully sustained animal and plant life for so many millions of years. There is a lot of precision to our environment that had to be just right for life to have endured as long as it has. Nature is a perfect thing. But most things about life are not perfect. That’s what makes life ultimately what it is. We are humans who must navigate a life of imperfection. I believe the world we live on is perfect, but we are humans who are constantly not perfect.
While navigating this imperfect world, we strive to achieve or get close to perfection. And occasionally, we stumble across something that is perfect or witness it. But maybe the word perfection doesn’t apply to things that we perceive in the material world. It is just our opinion or feeling that another person is perfect in beauty and actions. Or that a song is perfect. If you asked Beethoven about one of his most famous compositions, such as Pathetique Piano Sonata No. 8, he might wish here a note or two that he wrote differently.
A lot of things that we say are perfect are really our own projections onto the concept of perfection. In actuality, real perfection is something that is more than anything, a concept that is strived for. For example, an architect can design a mathematically perfect building, or an engineer a perfect computer, but those objects are always, in the end, still physical objects subject to the elements. They will eventually break down, get old, or die. Same with the most beautiful person you can think of. They will break down and disintegrate.
But there is one thing I can think of that will always stay perfect both in its concept and in its completion. That is baseball’s Perfect Game. In order to complete a baseball game and win it, a team must record twenty seven outs and have scored more runs than their opponent. This comes out to nine innings. A perfect game is when the winning team’s pitcher has recorded all twenty seven outs without a single batter from the opposing team reaching base. In major league baseball’s one hundred and fifty year existence, only twenty three times has a perfect game been pitched. Thousands upon thousands of baseball games have been played in those years, but only twenty three times has anyone watched this feat happen.
Fortunately for our obscure traveling rock n roll band, we were lucky enough to watch the seventeenth perfect game pitched in history while sitting in a motel room in Sante Fe, Mexico. The perfect game was pitched by Randy Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks over the Atlanta Braves at Atlanta’s Turner Field on May 18, 2004.
That evening, we pulled into Santa Fe to stay for the night. We were headed north to Colorado to play a gig in Denver the following day where we would see our drummer Todd’s dad, Dave. It was a cheap motel on the outskirts of town and we settled into our room with some snacks and a bunch of beer. This was par for the course with us when we stayed in a motel. I remember that it was pretty hot by that time of the year in New Mexico, probably somewhere in the nineties.
Our band had a lot of nights where we pulled into some small town to stay overnight in a cheap motel. Most of the time, these types of nights aren’t that remarkable other than I thoroughly enjoyed them at times. Our band certainly had its share of good, bad, exciting and happy times. There were a lot of nights where we met wonderful people and played great concerts to smiling, dancing people. There were also nights where there was hardly anyone at a gig or we played like shit in front of a big crowd. All these different types of experiences had a tendency to wear me the fuck out at times. Touring is tough. Its long drives, late nights, and a lot of commotion. Partying every night for a month can wear you out. So staying the night in some remote motel in between drives to a gig were quite pleasurable at times. It would give us a chance to take it easy, have some quiet time and get centered again.
So in talking about the concept of perfection, our band certainly never attained it. I don’t think any band ever has or ever will. But we watched Randy Johnson pitch perfection on that late spring evening. Often times when we first settled into a motel room, the television would be turned on, and each of us might go about doing some type of task. Matt would try and get online somehow with a laptop if he could, working the Internets for the advancement of our band. One or more of us might try and make a phone call to a girlfriend or something of that nature. Someone would take a shower or shit in a place that wasn’t a bar bathroom or some strangers home. After all this had taken place, beers would be cracked open and some serious chilling would commence. We might play some video games or just watch the television.
As we were initially settling into that motel room in Santa Fe, New Mexico everyone was going about their usual business when I noticed the baseball game on the television. The sound was turned down low and the channel would have likely been changed soon by one of us. Often Todd, Joe or I would be subtly battling each other for control of the remote. For example, when Todd would step away for a second, he would come back to the television being on a new station. This would carry on for a while until we were all distracted by something else. This was about to happen again when I was going to step outside to call my girlfriend at the time. Except I noticed the box score they show before a commercial break and it showed all zeros for the Atlanta Braves. The game was going to the top of the seventh inning.
It took a moment for this to sink into my brain.
Me: “Dudes, there’s a perfect game going on right now. The Braves haven’t had a single base runner yet.”
Me: “Yeah, it’s only in the sixth inning, but not a single base runner yet.”
Todd: “Who’s pitching?”
Me: “Randy Johnson.”
Todd: “Looks like we got something to watch for a while.”
It didn’t seem too serious of a possibility at the moment, perfection, since Randy Johnson still had to pitch three more innings to pitch. Getting nine outs in a row in a major league baseball game is difficult and uncommon on its own. So we didn’t get too excited. But it was enough reason for no one to change the channel. Another inning passed and Randy Johnson had gotten through the bottom of the seventh inning and had still not allowed a base runner. Things were getting very interesting at that point. Randy Johnson only needed six more outs to reach perfection. It was a possibnlity.
Me: “I think he’s going to do it. You know there’s only been something like fifteen or sixteen perfect games ever pitched?”
Joe: “That’s it?”
Todd: “Shit. I didn’t realize that.”
Me: “Yeah, there’s been a lot of no-hitters thrown where a guy has given up a few walks or there has been an error on the field, but a perfect game, that’s not one single batter reaching base.”
Joe: “So what, that’s how many straight outs, twenty seven?”
Todd: “Yes, that’s correct. Nine innings with three outs per inning equals twenty seven straight outs.”
Me: “Good job bud. Your math is pretty good.”
Now we really settled in to watch the action. We were drinking beers and really enjoying ourselves. Randy Johnson started to pitch the bottom of the eighth inning and quickly got the first out. Only five outs left to reach perfection. Now Matt who was usually locked into working the computer or fixing a guitar or amp was paying attention.
Me: “Only five more outs. He’s going to do it.”
Matt: “Holy shit, I hope he does it. How many perfect games have been pitched before?”
Joe: “The announcer just said sixteen have been pitched before.”
Randy Johnson mowed right through the Braves batters in the bottom of the eighth inning and now only had three more outs to get for perfection. I have to admit that I had some anxiety. I really wanted to see Randy Johnson make history. When the bottom of the ninth inning approached, we all opened a new beer for good luck and sat still.
The first batter of the bottom of the ninth inning grounded out with a nice play by the second baseman to stop what could have been a base hit.
Todd: “There’s one!”
Me: “Only two more outs.”
Joe: “Ol’ Rando’s got it. Here comes the perfect game.”
The second batter of the bottom of the ninth was called out on strikes.
Matt: “Wow, Rando’s blazing them in there.”
Todd: “Hell yes he is.”
Me: “One more out dudes. We’re about to watch history being made.”
The last batter had two strikes on him in the count when Randy Johnson fired one last fastball in there to get the batter swinging.
Todd: “Struck him out!”
Me: “Holy shit. He did it and we watched it live!”
Matt: “A perfect game. That’s pretty fucking cool!”
And so there it was. A perfect game.
Our band was never perfect, nor would it ever be. But Randy Johnson was able to complete the concept of perfection as applied to a baseball game. To compare Randy Johnson’s perfect game to music, you could think about what a group of musicians might strive for though. A group of musicians might feel perfection was achieved by playing a concert where every person in the group played every single note correctly. And with no one hitting one wrong note, the exact amount of emotion and feeling in playing those notes. I think this outcome is impossible. So maybe in pushing perfection on our band, I screwed up. I think as a band, we created a lot of magic and magical moments. But if I would have not tried for perfection, even more magic moments would have landed on our doorstep.
Ambition and letting things happen in life are hard things to balance in life. If you only rely on letting things happen, than you may end up waiting around forever and never going anywhere. You become the person who always talks a big game but never actually tried. But if you push too hard, than you might miss opportunities that could have happened if you’d have just chilled the fuck out. So I guess that’s the point of all this writing about perfection. It’s a good idea to work hard, but leave perfection to being an interesting concept or to Randy Johnson.