Saturday, December 12, 2009

Get With The Game

Since I'm laid up I have ordered episodes of Ken Burn's Baseball on netflix. It comes in ten discs and I am on number 6. I never felt I could spare the time to watch it before the operation although I'm sure I could have.

It got me to thinking, though, baseball season is over and not peep from any of you. I realize it is a busy time of year, holiday season, snow season, the advent of a new year; a lot to do. I also realize that not everyone has baseball as their sport of choice, but it is after all the national pastime. My friend Jack and I just refer to the period from early November to March as the "off season", it simplifies things - don't have to remember those pesky holidays and whose President's birthday we are celebrating on "Presidents' Day."

I celebrate the fan in everyone - enjoyment in this life should be found anyplace you can get it - basketball, hockey, football, golf and even soccer and olympic ironing (no kidding), they all have a place; but try to take a small interest in baseball and see at least one game next year. Just a suggestion....:)

Baseball reflects our character as a people, both individually and collectively. Baseball is a main thread woven through our national character and bears our unique sensibilities that make us, as a people, a beacon of liberty and good throughout the world.

Here's why:

Baseball is sneaky. Deception, misdirection and cheating are not only allowed, but encouraged and rewarded! Ricky Henderson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year and received more votes than previous inductees Jim Rice and Goose Gossage. For What?
Ricky had the career record for stolen bases. An activity that gives birth to guile, timing, speed, and stealth. In his retirement years, he can have great success breaking into houses if he chooses that for a post-retirement activity. Good luck Ricky!

Stealing signs, hiding pitch release points (Luis Tiant completed his windup by facing center field, his back to the batter - solely for the purpose of denying the hitter a view of the oncoming pitch), masking a trapped ball in a glove then holding the glove up as if caught; are all part of the game. Forget steroids, corked bats, and pine tar, there is more deception and assumed betrayal in a nine inning game than a short conversation between two Congressmen.

Baseball is emotional. Anticipation, exasperation and deep depression will reveal itself within the confines of one inning. Even suicide, if you have Eric Gagne as your closing pitcher. More wide-ranging emotions than an 800 page Russian novel. Baseball is life without the boring parts.

Besides, Dostoyevsky never had any of his characters hit a grand slam or perform an unassisted double play.

Baseball is timeless. There are no timed "periods" or "quarters." a game can be played under two hours or up to eight hours (the record). The game is played for nine innings until completion.

Name another sport that is not timed. Ok, golf. Though it really isn't a sport and even if it were and you actually played it, there is always a guy playing behind you yelling for you to hurry it up. Sometimes in not a nice way - ok again I apologize; how long is it going to be kept against me?

This doesn't mean time isn't a consideration. A hitter has to decide with 1/3rd of a second from the pitcher's release point of the ball whether or not to try contact with the bat. The batter must analyze velocity, angle of ball path, and whether to pull or try to jam the bat to direct the
ball where the defensive players aren't. Conversely, a third basemen engaging a line drive directed in his vicinity has only two moves with his glove; up or down. The shortstop, the guy to his left who is a little further from home plate, with just a full second more, has six possible moves; up, down, left, right, and if he's lucky, forward and backward.

Baseball can be paced. You can go to a game, discuss the events of the day with friends, catch up on a cell, text to your heart's content, and/or bring a book. Next time you are at a ballgame, look around. Everyone's smiling and relaxed. Try taking out a Marcel Proust or your cell phone at your average college basketball or football game. Good luck.

Baseball involves failure. Try telling your boss you failed at your job seven out of ten times. Then tell your boss you are so happy with that result you are doing to demand a big raise! That's exactly what 300. hitters do - and deservedly so!

Baseball is unique. Think of another game where the defense has the ball. You hand off the football to the defense, they will run with it, score, and be very grateful. Ditto hockey and basketball!

Baseball fandom involves participation. As a fan you are part of the game. In every major ballpark I've been in, the home team starts the game with a public announcement of "dos" and "don'ts". My favorite....Fenway Park in Boston..."Do not say anything that will bring attention to yourself." It's like going to church, but with beer.

So if this were one of those Top Ten lists, my number one reason for supporting baseball would be: If god didn't invent baseball, we'd have to watch soccer all summer....or worse, golf.


1 comment:

  1. Whoa,
    A very deep reflection on the national pastime. I admit to not being much of a baseball fan. But I also remember the days of the great Cleveland Indians. When the team was really good. In the late forties I think.

    My only claim to being around baseball is having fallen asleep to the radio commentaries as a young child. My bedroom door was near the radio. No TV yet. Besides, on hot summer nights the bedroom window was open and all the neighbors were listening to the Indians games too. Next to the sound of trains coursing through the night and sending out their mournful warning blasts, I most often remember the sounds of commentators electrifying the night with their descriptions of a game we could only imagine. I guess that just proves it is our national game. I'm not even a bona fide fan and it's part of my psyche.

    So what do you think of Hockey, Jim?

    Take care of yourself and please let us know how you are doing.