True Baseball Stories and How They Help Children: The Crowd Sounds Happy

The Crowd Sounds Happy by Nicholas Dawidoff

Pantheon Books, New York

 

The Crowd Sounds Happy is a fact-based novel that highlights baseball, dysfunctional families, single parents, and severe mental disorders and how all of these affect the life of a young boy. The story shows the huge amount of joy given this young boy in the 1970s by his favorite baseball team, the fanmous Boston Red Sox.

Summer means Baseball in America and the life of this writer as a boy illustrates that link with a solid character and sensitivity of prose and understanding that are uncommon in much of our popular literature. Readers do not expect this story to be so important, but is is thaT. This is a story to remember and apply to life. The Red Sox on the radio were as important to Nicholas as all of the shows of the 1930s were to Depression Era kids.

I fully believe that this particular story turned out to be much more important than the author first realized. It has the potential to give certain insights about American society and American families, as well as to provide ground for changing the course of their lives to the good. 

This is not a simple autobiography, but a story of overcoming. It paints a portrait of the impact of unfortunate events on the lives of children whose parent(s) has(ve) Severe Mental Disorders.  It tells us how these issues and tragedies can be overcome or processed and then woven into a life in order to create a pattern of goodness. It is a success story.

Life Without Father

The Crowd Sounds Happy is an elegant and sensitive history of a life of perceptions and insights available only to an individual that has survived and even understood long-term and acute Severe Mental Disorders (SMDs) in one's parents.

This is not to say that there was no happiness in the formative life of the author, whose autobiographical novel is gripping and fascinating -- There was happiness, especially in radio broadcast baseball game listening in the summers of boyhood. There was happiness in lying at night in one's bed and hearing the autumn leaves and gravel skittering against the pavement outside one's window.

The book describes a relatively happy childhood, disturbed by the periodic psychotic breaks of the author's father.

At the age of 3, Nicky's mom fled the family home with him and his sister in tow in order to make a more stable life on their own. The family of three moved several times, the mom a skilled teacher.

At last, they move New Haven, Connecticut during the 1960s and 70s, where Mrs. Dawidoff worked as an elementary school teacher for many years. They arrived in New Haven just in time to witness the initial decline of the city to abandoned houses, unkempt welfare slums, empty school buildings, prostitution and drugs, pedophiles, and daily crime sprees. However, the family survived. The mom slept in a foldout bed in the living room so that each of her children could have their own room.

Baseball in America

Baseball game crowd.
Baseball game crowd.

Making Ends Meet

Nicky was constantly forced to go back and visit his unstable father as a duty throughout his youth. This was an unhealthy requirement.

At times in his book, he feels responsible for taking care of his father and this is classic codependency toward the severely mentally ill, just as it is often the case for alcoholics and abusers and their families and friends.

Not only was Nicky forced to endure the inconsistency and explosive temper of his father repeatedly, but also the sudden explosiveness of his mother - She cursed him as an ingrate in the front room of their apartment with him next door in his own room, hearing every harmful word. There was also no relaxation or personal safety in the home. Nicky's mother and sister constantly walked through his bedroom at any time of day or night to reach the single bathroom and his mother's clothing in his closet.

Nicky's mom felt that she had to very frugal on a teacher's salary and she had no television and no snacks in the house. Nicky would occasionally enjoy these things at the house of one friend or another, sop he found some of his own happiness.

However, there was one time with Mom that some of the other kids did not have. As a teacher, Mrs. Dawidoff read to her children and encouraged them to read, stimulating their imaginations. This is one reason that Nicky must have become an author, and a good one.

Seeking and Finding Joy

Imagination and the family radio led the author to enjoy and become loyal to the game of baseball and the Boston Red Sox. At his age, I loved baseball as well, and can relate.

He chose the Red Sox as his favorite team, because it has been the favorite of grandfather and his aunt - also, because they never won the World Series. They were always the underdogs and Nicky might have related to that identity or might have felt protective of them, as he sometimes did of his father. Nicky became deeply attached to them and they became his role models - the males in his life.

This story in Nicky's autobiography is rather melancholy but tinted with happiness. It illustrates the frustrations, disappointments, and neuroses that families of patients with SMDs or alcoholism or long-term abusive behaviors develop without intervention.

The author likely did not intend for his story to be such an illustration, but it is. The love of baseball is a uniquely American pastime, shared by the Japanese and Cubans as well - shared by myself!. However, a team of males on the radio cannot take the place of an effective father in the home, although they can be either good or bad role models. The Red Sox were good for Nicky and I hope they eventually heard about that.

Into the Future

Growing up with mental illness in the family can create a fertile filed in the mind of youngsters for magical thinking and a need to please others in order to avoid attack. This often transfers to pleasing the school bully in order to avoid being beat up, followed by humoring an abusive boss or mate later in life. Some youth latch on to cartoon or TV serial and movie heroes - even sports stars - for comfort and hope. While Mr. Dawidoff turned to the Red Sox in his youth, he turned to writing as an adult and his story is an important one. It is important in ways he may not have realized when he wrote it.

When the Red Sox finally won the World Series, Nicky was happy, but also suffered a let down. All the years of hoping for an impossible dream to come true, suffering a loss, and rebuilding hope for the next year were at an end. What would he do now?

He has wrtten a lot about baseball.

Preventing Dangers to Children

Neurology and brain research out of Missouri indicate that sever damage can be done to an infant's brain and nervous system in the baby's first three months of life by the presence of a parent or usual caregiver that is not successfully treated for a suffered SMD.Their dysfunction most often disturbs the development of the fragile infantile nervous system that is not finished when the child is born, yet ipen to all influences.It can be markedly influenced through age 5. In fact, every move to a new home before age 6 causes a 1-year backslide in maturity in most children, to name only a single effect.

My opinion is that children should be spared from exposure to untreated or medically noncompliant, unstable, explosive relatives with SMDs or those that are abusive. It is not a "duty" to interact with these individuals and family ties are not an excuse for allowing abuse (even inadvertent) to one's child. The effects can be permanent.

It is, in fact, additional abuse to force children to endure these people's bnad behaviro toward them. Subjection of children to unpredictable and loud tempers, and to the cluster of abuses we see in society is wrong. Those that would force this subjection must examine their motivations.

The Crowd Sounds Happy is a product of one writer's successful approach to dealing with it.

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Comments 3 comments

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

Wow Patty, this sounds like a must read to me. I love autobiographies/memoirs, even if they are sad. Thanks for the great review. Steph


New Day profile image

New Day 8 years ago from Western United States

Patty, this is exactly what I was looking for in my request. A review of specific books that I might want to read this summer. Thank you. I will look for this at Barnes & Noble. New Day


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for the coments! Is is one I will read again.

I've also had good success finding discounted books at Amazon.com, but I like to go to Barnes and Nobles with friends and have a coffee while reading sections of books - much fun!

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