Why Baseball Perseveres
Gosh, baseball is boring. I mean, seriously freaking boring. As in, so boring that I sometimes feel that watching a meaningless mid-season game on television in the doldrums of early June might somehow necessitate fashioning a device to prop open my eyes like a scene out of A Clockwork Orange. Yeah, that kind of boring. In fact, even though I focused a couple of crucial scenes in my first novel around baseball and consider myself a lifelong fan, there are only three real circumstances under which I can actually watch a baseball game in its entirety.
The first of these possible circumstances is that one of the teams playing is a team I root for. I root for two teams. The first, of course, is my beloved Red Sox. The other is whoever playing the rival New York Yankees. If you’ve read my novel, Waiting for Today, or know me personally in even a casual fashion, you know I love me some Red Sox. It’s something of a religion. I’m not joking. In my novel, I use the indefatigable belief of the enduring Red Sox fan prior to 2004 as a metaphor for religious faith. When the Sox play, I care, and thus every pitch takes on the consequence of the moment and resonates with the inherent deliberation of thought that only baseball, in its finest instances, conveys.
And while I am partial to watching a game at Fenway Park, being there live makes any game watchable. Shoot, as long as they’ll serve me ice cold beer on a hot summer afternoon, I’ll watch kids I don’t even know playing a little league game at the park down the street. Heck, serve me enough of those thirst quenching libations (which fortunately we all know they will not in those circumstances), and I might just start screaming unprovoked obscenities at the umpire in a way that makes even the parents on the same team uncomfortable.
There’s simply nothing like sitting out on a gorgeous summer afternoon watching time pass idly by to the languid pace of a baseball game. Interspersed between the moments of action are lulls that make for perfect conversation with friends. Even the crappy, highly processed hot dogs and nachos with artificial cheese hastily produced in a chemical lab in someone’s basement somehow taste better when consumed in the presence of the smell of roasted peanuts and freshly cut grass. There’s an unmistakable ambience to baseball that no other sport can replicate. It’s something I learned to appreciate while watching so many games with my old man. And now, it’s the same ethos I try to impart in watching the games with my own children.
One of the tough aspects of living in Colorado for me is that Denver is a National League baseball city, so the Red Sox rarely play the Rockies, and I thus don’t get to see them play much. As such, the last few nights have been a treat as I have watched the games on local tv with my kids, and because the games were in Boston, they were over early enough that my kids could stay up and watch the whole game. Fortunately, Big Papi and the boys won two out of the three game series. I love Big Papi- love him about as much as it is possible for a pasty white boy from Colorado to love a significantly larger black man from the Dominican Republic.
The best part, though, is that my kids love him too. He is a hulking mass of a hero to both of them. They have seen his crisply cut sideburns, his routine clap of his hands before grasping the bat, his late-game heroics, and they are absolutely enamored with him. My kids are adamantly aware that they should never go anywhere with strangers, but I am pretty sure that if David Ortiz drove up in a white, unmarked pedophile van, they would jump in before he even held out any candy. I feel I’ve trained them well.
I must admit their reaction amazes me. Somehow baseball still holds sway with them. We all know that this generation, thanks to a lifetime of tablets, iPhones and television, has a preposterously short attention span akin to something like a hyperactive squirrel on crack, and yet they’ll sit down for a game that often makes us think that watching paint dry might not be such a bad hobby after all. The same children that had been bouncing around the house and riding the poor dog just hours earlier were now curled up aside me as we talked about how to calculate batting averages and ERA’s. We discussed when to throw a curveball and when to come with the upper strike zone heater, and the chess match pitchers play against a veteran hitter who knows them well. They asked questions about different players, about various rules, about strategies, and somehow in answering each and every one of them with the patience and interest only a parent could have, I felt oh so very “dad-like”. This, I thought, is why baseball perseveres.
For all its 20th-century conventionalities, inherently limited by a pace of play that should render it obsolete in a modern world that demands a higher action to time ratio, baseball still somehow bridges the gap between generations. I may not be able to talk music with my dad, and I sure as hell don’t want to do so with my kids given the crap they are listening to these days, but I can always talk baseball with either of them. So sit down and watch a game with your parents or your kids. You might just find it makes them somehow bearable.
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: in 1000 Words or Less every TUESDAY and FRIDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com