One of the sadder moments in any given year is when the last out is tallied at the end of the World Series. Since this just occurred, I have become introspective and I will start counting the days to the start of the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues. The brightest day at the end of the typically dreary winter is the day when “pitchers and catchers report.”
It seems to me that I am virtually alone in my despondency over the end of the baseball season. So many of my contemporaries are wrapped up in football and basketball, to an annoying degree, even as the baseball playoffs approached at full gallop. With the World Series right around the “hot corner,” the weekends are saturated with hours of pundits and prognosticators guessing as to how the football season that has not even started is going to go. There are countless shows dedicated to both college and professional pigskin. To boot, they throw in scads of “fantasy” football “experts.”Real baseball fans look forward to playoff baseball regardless of which teams are participating. The “home town, fair weather” fans, whose magnetic logos and window flags disappear from their cars when the home team fades from the playoff picture, begin quickly looking for other sports with which to assert their “home town supremacy” and bragging rights. A true fan appreciates the quality of play and the intensity of playoff baseball and stays with it until the last out of the World Series. Baseball was the American pastime. America’s game. The reverence the Canadian’s rightfully show the wonderful sport of hockey is how America used to feel about baseball. What has happened? How did baseball end up second fiddle to other “simpler” sports?
America has now become an “instant gratification” nation. The brevity of a football season is just enough to sustain the limited concentration of the average American. Strangely it seems, football and (shudder) basketball hold more sway in America. Forget soccer. Please forget soccer. Leave that one to the Europeans, the South Americans and to North American five-year-olds. Now pituitary misfits tipping the scale at over 400 pounds and those over seven feet are signing whopping contracts to pad up for a few weeks or to slam a basketball through a metal hoop.
What sets baseball apart? Baseball is boring to the average “vidiot” of the 21st century. Baseball is methodical. Cerebral. Think not? Check out the rulebook for starters. The lexicon and the nomenclature of baseball. Where else can you hear “The Annie Oakley, the ole wholesaler, the yakker, the Rawlings lobotomy, chin music..” Baseball takes work. Every week or so, we see another high school wizard take to the hardwoods where they dominate this simple game.
Years ago, everyone played baseball. Everyone wanted to sponsor a team or sponsor a league from childhood age teams on up. There is nothing harder in the world of sport than hitting a baseball moving 90 miles an hour with a baseball bat. Slamming a basketball through the hoop does not match up.
It takes tremendous discipline and countless hours of practice to achieve in this sport. Baseball is truly an international game. Players emerging from third world countries are excelling because they are willing to do the work. The Xbox, Youtube and the Internet are of no concern to them. The world understands the magnetic appeal of the crack of the bat. Other sports in the Caribbean and Asian nations are merely diversions.
Baseball is so difficult that if you fail seven out of ten times at the plate in your career, you will almost certainly get a plaque at Cooperstown. The last person to fail six out of ten times in an entire season did so 66 years ago (1941) and is still spoken of today as the greatest hitter ever. Fail seventy per cent of the time in football and you will be soon saying, “May I super size your order” in nothing flat. Fail seventy per cent of the time in basketball and “paper or plastic” will be your next catch phrase.
To the average dullard, the seventy per cent failure rate is what makes baseball boring. What the “failure rate” actually proves is how difficult the sport truly is and how amazing a 30% success rate for your career certainly is. The only other profession that rewards that type of success rate is meteorology. With all their supposed education and technology, they are still only good for 8-10% at best..
Children’s football and basketball are virtually the same as the adult variety. Children’s baseball requires the ball to sit atop a tee.
Is there anything more visually poetic in the world of sport than a three and two count with the bases loaded?
Some thought baseball was gone after the 1994 strike that cancelled the World Series for the first time in history. Then came Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. There have been those who ask if that amazing period in baseball has been tarnished by “performance enhancers” as well as some embarrassingly inept testimony before congress.
The game is bigger than the weaknesses of its individual participants whose personal character has eroded from generation to generation.
I suppose that a sarcastic person could theorize that basketball and football became popular so that those who did not have the ability to play baseball would have something to do with their time. That being said, any team sport is vastly superior to any individual sport. Who, other than old women, get “geared up” for an “exciting” tennis match? Who, other than old women, participate in this silly game? Every “old folks home” has two things: a shuffleboard court and a tennis court. Tennis is a great sport if you only have one friend in the world. ‘nuff said.
The great Hall of Famer, Joe Morgan said, “Baseball is a game where you have a round ball, a round bat and you tell the batter to ‘hit it square’.”
Between the last pitch of the World Series and the first pitch of spring training, I will amuse myself other sports in a cursory, pedestrian manner. It is understandable to like other sports but there is something clinically wrong with you if you do not love baseball.
Nothing else takes the place of the great game.