No cheering in the press box

Baseball fan that I am, I’ve wangled my way into more than a few press boxes in my day.

Press boxes are now far too big to be considered boxes or boxlike. Some press boxes at newer ballparks are now called “media centers” in acknowledgment of the multiple forms of communication — radio, television, online and, yes, newspapers.

No matter what communication form or which practitioners are inside, the dictum remains: No cheering in the press box.

Well, what of a papal Mass with attendance bigger than any one ballgame in the same stadium could accommodate? And, unlike a game, there’s just one side on the field at a Mass.

Upon further review, there was no cheering in the press box during Pope Benedict XVI’s Mass at Nationals Park today. A little excitement, sure, when the popemobile first came into view from its route from a tunnel in center field, as reporters were craning their own necks to see with their own eyes something caught on the jumbo-screen television in right-center.

And that was about it. The only other thing that could remotely be described as “home-team” behavior was the occasional crossing of oneself at points in the Mass. I catch myself doing that while watching the “Mass for Shut-Ins” on TV, and I’ve never been a shut-in.

There are simply too many things to track during a Mass of this magnitude in terms of following texts and liturgical rubrics to spend much time shouting (or even murmuring) “Viva il papa!” And too many people are working — multitasking by typing or reading radio copy while following the Mass — to get caught up in the drama of any one moment.

Two things for sure, though: There’s a lot less wisecracking in a papal Mass press box than in a ballpark press box, and the papal Mass press-box denizens are dressed far better than their baseball conterparts.

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