Monday, October 15, 2012

In Baseball We Trust

This is where Satan plays
Is there any one corporate organization more unfathomably power hungry and unrelentingly evil than the New York Yankees? They are the bane of baseball’s existence and the savior of it as well. They stand for everything that is recognized as wrong in the United States. They set the price on players and the tax on the league. They, and the New York market, single handedly invented the large market power team we now see in professional sports. They are the controlling force in Major League Baseball and for that reason and that reason alone I hate them with an everlasting passion that has me understanding world wide political differences more than I ever imagined. And don’t get me wrong. I say hate as a total bias coming from a fan of small market national league baseball. But if there is one thing that will never change. It’s that I love to hate the New York Yankees.

And then there’s baseball.

Is there any marketable game or sport that is played with the same grace and precision as the sport of baseball? From the field crew sweeping the grounds during the seventh inning stretch to the outside curveball two inches off the plate-- just close enough to swing and just far enough to miss. The precision and repetition in the sport of baseball is mind numbingly beautiful. From the pull hitting lefty switch to the simple synchronized movements of every player on the ball field sliding into place during a play in action, baseball is stunning. From nine innings to ninety feet to nine-inches around a ball, baseball is an indefectible science. It’s a mathematical equation. It’s a historic evolution of perfection. I’ve had foreigners ask me about the culture in America. A country so young has to lack culture. But this is when I redirect them to baseball. A sport that came up with the country, bled with the country, changed with the country, fought hand in hand with the country through two depressions, two world wars, and more than two dozen national disasters. Yes, sure, there are other sports. We have basketball played by seven-foot behemoths. A Canadian game embraced by Americans and globalized by the great Michael Jordan. That’s all good and well for basketball but unfortunately for them there has always been baseball. And of course I can't forgot American Football, the warlike pad wearing atrocity that Americans flock to on a Sunday-by-Sunday basis. Easily the most popular sport in the United States. Only unfortunately for football, historically, there has always been baseball.  Before the civil war there was a game loosely called baseball. Before the home of Spring training became an official state of the union there was baseball. Before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Before we influenced and bred American culture into their society. Before we saw a minute of football ever played-- there was baseball.

There’s no time limit in baseball. Baseball is long because it gives you time to breath. It gives you time to take in the game. Appreciate the game. The personal battles between hitter and pitcher. The defensive elegance of turning a double play up the middle. The remarkable outfield ability to track a pee sized ball in the air and catch it right before it exits the field. These athletic acts lose luster if we don’t take them in with every pitch and every out in a 27-act game of baseball. Which also a dividend of three and nine. Baseball is long because every out, every run, every pitch, and every hit is significant. A baseball run is earned not scored.

Is there any memory more nostalgic and sentimental than playing a game of catch with your father in the front yard, or going to your first baseball game with a mitt in hand just begging that number two hitter to slap one your way? Is there any experience more relaxing, more natural, more infinite than eating a hotdog in the middle of a cloudless seventy-five degree day with thirty thousand people all of which are rooting for the same outcome? Is there anything more astoundingly solemn yet undeniably moving about hearing the star spangled banner start the game of baseball ricocheted by the loud burst of “Lets play ball!” Because lets face it, politics aside, before there was a gulf-war, a president Obama, a Mitt Romney, a civil rights movement, and a somewhat civilized country there was baseball right there in the middle of it all. There was a Jackie Robinson taking his first pitch and a crowd of Brooklyn fans cheering for him to succeed.

Is there any sport more iconic than the sport of baseball? Is there anything more ingrained in the culture of a country than the sport of baseball? Is there anything more wonderfully flawless as the great American pastime we still take for granted every October?

I won’t answer the question with a definite “no”, but it has to be close. It has to be close because out of all my years and every October there are three things I’ve learned to count on. Three things that have been truer in my life than any religion I’ve ever followed or read about.

It’s that the ump will make a bad call, the manager will get ejected, and much to my everlasting dread the New York fucking Yankees will keep on winning.

There may or may not be a god but there is a baseball.

"The Almighty Creator, Whose presence . . . I do feel in every park around the league, on those golden days of sweet, cheerful spring, hot plenteous summer, and bountiful and benevolent autumn, when physically strong and morally sound young men do sport in seriousness beneath the sun, as did the two in Eden, before the Serpent and the Fall. Daytime baseball is nothing less than a reminder of Eden in the time of innocence and joy; and too, an intimation of that which is yet to come. For what is a ball park, but that place wherein Americans may gather to wor- ship the beauty of God's earth, the skill and strength of His children, and the holiness of His commandment to order and obedience. For such are the twin rocks upon which all sport is founded. And woe unto him, I say, who would assemble our players and our fans beneath the feeble, artificial light of godless science!" –Phillip Roth ( The Great American Novel )


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