I don't watch football, except perhaps the Superbowl once a year - maybe. I don't watch basketball, hockey, soccer, golf, or even the Olympics (winter or summer). There isn't a principle in this. I think sports make more sense to follow most of the time than politics or fashion, and are not as bad for your brain and stomach as reality TV shows. I don't watch most sports because I don't have the time, or as I've been saying lately, "I've got shit to do!"

But baseball? I still watch baseball. Not every game, and rarely the whole game, and only the Yankees. I always have, since I was a little kid. I still remember the 9th inning World Series game Mickey Mantle won with a home run in 1964. I was there, at the old old Yankee Stadium, when I was 10 years old, with my father to witness it.

But why? Why do I still watch? Why do I still love baseball? It is a very peculiar game/sport, isn't it? The players have to develop very odd and unique skills in order to excel. And one doesn't have to be in great physical shape to be a star player either. In any one game, any one player may be standing still doing nothing for long stretches of time. And then there's the time factor. Baseball doesn't have one. Any one game can theoretically go on forever. Some games seem to. Hitters are considered at the top of their game if they actually hit just 30 percent of the time. What other career offers such a low standard for success, and will pay you millions for the effort?!

Imagine telling your boss: "Listen, I have no idea when I'll be finished with this project, but I do expect to get it thirty-percent right whenever I am done."

Baseball is contemplative in its pauses, slow and thoughtful, with frequent conferences on the pitcher's mound that anyone is invited to join in on. There are unlimited time outs to adjust one's clothing. Baseball is deeply complex in its strategies, relayed through elaborate secret signals that make a grown man look insane. And then there's the umpires, those ludicrous arbiters of reality, barking and dancing their decisions as to whether a pitch is in a viable zone or not and whether a player is safe or out at a particular base. Doesn't matter, either, that our technology actually makes umpires obsolete. They are considered almost as infallible as popes, and they are as often as the pope, wrong. Yet, you cannot argue with their decisions, or you'll risk getting a really big time out!

But none of the above actually explains why I love baseball. Ultimately, we cannot really know why we love anything, or anyone, because love is the movement of the soul, and our souls do not move according to our logic or calculations. If you ask me why I love baseball, or why I love the Beatles, or even why I love my girlfriend, I couldn't give you an accurate technical answer. I just do.

OH, AND ONE MORE THING - which has nothing specifically to do with baseball, but is a great message from "Field of Dreams" which I've repeated many times in many situations:

"Build it and they will come!"


loff56 said...

Excellent thought, PL.

I'm in complete agreement with you on this one. Not to get too philosophical, but I think perhaps it's the complete statistical nature of the sport that makes it so akin to the way the universe works. It's all statistical. In the universe small anomalies in statistical patterns work out into something organized over cosmic time scales. Just like the way a manager's ability to manipulate small statistical anomalies over a very long season can win the team a pennant. Think about it, if a manager puts in a hitter that's hitting .340 against a particular pitcher versus a guy that's hitting .280, he's only increasing the odds by a mere 6 percent for that single at bat. But over the course of a season, those odds add up. But, ultimately you're at the mercy of the statistics. You can "execute" your game perfectly (by baseball statistical standards) and still lose. This is unlike any other sport. Football for example does use a ton of strategy, (probably much more than baseball), and yet perfectly executing a perfect strategy in Football will almost always lead to a win, whereas doing the same in baseball may only increase your odds of winning by 15, maybe 20 percent or so.

Baseball also relates to life in a much more complex way than any other sport. I mean, what a lesson to be learned that continuing to persevere despite a 70+ percent failure rate is the only route to success. And it's the only sport where failure can actually lead to a direct positive gain. A sacrifice bunt or a sacrifice fly are actually intentional failures designed to advance the overall chances of winning the game. In certain instances you can actually strike out, (a complete failure), and still make it to first base and ultimately maybe score a run and win the game. How deliciously odd is that?

jujutomb said...

Good post but I disagree when you say you don't have to be in good physical shape. Granted some pitchers are overweight (although not as overweight as a LOTS of football players IMO) they nonetheless posses physical gifts and talents that people like you and me dont have. As Tim Kurkjian, a long time baseball expert puts it: "The idea here is to acknowledge the degree of difficulty of baseball. It is golf, with similar skill and concentration, but with tremendous athleticism – running, jumping, throwing, sliding, colliding, etc. – and with significant fear involved. The danger of the game is what separates baseball from golf. Ask NFL players; they want no part of that little white pearl buzzing 100 miles per hour toward the batter's body, which is usually unprotected except for a helmet with an ear flap."

Please, dont classify baseball as a leisurly stroll...fascinating, yes, complex, yes and physically demanding. We love it because it is statistical but also athletic and skillfull


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