I love baseball. Currently, this would seem obvious – as a Gamecock fan, it’s easy to proclaim the awesomeness of baseball while riding the wave of back to back National Championships. (We closed down Rosenblatt, in case you hadn’t heard) And, as usual per this woefully neglected blog, I am only referring to college baseball – the pro’s may as well not even exist in my little world.
But the sport itself is fascinating to me. Complex, yet simple, simultaneously. The premise is easy – the execution is the challenge. I don’t even bother trying to understand the record keeping. Recently I read Moneyball, and basically had to think really hard in order to understand the book simply because of the sheer quantity of information – stats, stats, and even more stats. Regardless, I pushed through and became privy to one of the greatest stories in modern sports. Numbers never lie, and once the pattern was revealed, Oakland A’s manager Billy Beane became a man obsessed with them. As an aside, if you are a sports fan reading this blog, I highly recommend the book, as well as the movie. Truly fascinating stuff.
Baseball moves slowly for play after play, and then, in the blink of an eye, points are scored, runners are thrown out and history is made. Anyone who has played a sport of any kind will attest that the waiting around for play action is enough to make you climb straight out of your skin. When you are sitting in left field while your pitcher throws strike after strike, it’s hard to stay focused, to stay as taut as an arrow on the string, ready to fly at the flick of a wrist. But stay on task they must, while those of us watching from the comfort of our sofas are lulled to sleep by the slow cadence of the broadcast. That one moment of acceleration to catch a outfield fly ball begins and ends in an instant, and yet can change the course of a game entirely.
There is a certain kind of mystique attached to America’s pastime, though. A mythical quality not yet breached by this country’s other love, football. For while the football fans are legion, baseball fans are different. They notice subtleties and dissect them endlessly, challenging the outcome of a game by posing possibilities that seem minute, but game changing nonetheless. Neither is superior over the other; they are simply different animals. Football is power while baseball is prowess. Football is the bear, while baseball is the wolf.
I grew up watching baseball, often supervised by adults holding cigarettes to keep the bugs away. Sitting on aluminum bleachers for at least two, sometimes three hours at a time, making countless trips to the snack bar for blow-pops, sodas and popcorn. Eventually I sat in real seats watching local minor leagues and my beloved Gamecocks. By then I was there for the socializing, the dollar beer, and the cheap entertainment. But now I’m back as a lover of the game itself, and am happy to report that it is exactly as it always has been – slow and fast, simple and complex, all at once. Take me out to the ballgame, sooner rather than later, please.
“Baseball is a ballet without music. Drama without words.” ~Ernie Harwell, “The Game for All America,” 1955