As of last Monday, professional baseball is officially back. Just wonderful. I can’t contain my joy. Now I can once again watch a plethora of fiercely overweight competitors take the field to chew some tobacco, crack some jokes in the dugout, and occasionally pick up a base hit. As you can tell, the “excitement” of Major League Baseball doesn’t really strike a chord with me. It’s slow-moving, anticlimactic, and boring all wrapped in a display that seems to last about six hours—one hour down, with only some standing around to show for it; three hours later and, alas, a groundball……into the hands of the shortstop for another out.
If anyone should fall in love with baseball, it ought to be me. I’m just a short car ride away from the iconic Fenway Park—one of the most famous stadiums in the entire country—and many Bostonians revere the sport like faithful Christians embrace the Word of God. From April to October (if the Red Sox make it that far) encapsulates a season-long holiday of catching up on the latest trade rumors, discussing what went wrong with Josh Beckett, and remembering the runs of 2004 and 2007. Sure, Tom Brady’s always great and all, and Kevin Garnett rejuvenated an entire franchise, and the Bruins even squeezed in a league championship of their own, and our clam chowder tastes really good. But nothing beats that old American pastime of connecting leathery, rubbery ball and wooden bat.
Why baseball receives such adoration downright confuses me. By my estimations, there’s a whole lot wrong with the sport—and I have definitely given it a chance, if for nothing else but to satisfy the baseball nuts ever-present in my childhood. I can go on and on with my misgivings. Not enough fast-paced action, that’s for sure. Three thousand twenty-seven games each season plus dozens of exhibitions and a whole lot of batting practice, or somewhere around there. A lot of standing, not a lot of running, and plenty of chewing and chewing and chewing.
Part of the reason to watch professional athletics rests in one inevitable truism: “I can’t do what they’re doing, so I want to watch them do it in front of me.” Why exactly would I watch an out-of-shape David Ortiz swing at a pitch (and, most likely, whiff completely) when I can watch LeBron James sprint and dunk, Adrian Peterson weave and explode, Lionel Messi nutmeg and juke, Zdeno Chara bash and mash, Novak Djokovic return and volley, Michael Phelps glide and extend, and on and on and on? There’s so much in the world of sports that deserves attention—LeBron James dominating the Americas and Lionel Messi dominating Europe, for starters—that wasting viewership on an assortment of standing and gazing and chewing makes absolutely no sense.
When it comes to baseball, I often feel like some of the sports-deprived students at Vassar. I don’t quite understand it, and working on an essay due two weeks later made more sense than watching Opening Day 2013—even if the Red Sox and Yankees were paired up. In the end, it’s just a wooden stick hitting a tiny little ball with no greater significance.
Yeah, some will say that basketball just involves throwing a ball through a hoop and soccer just means kicking a ball between some white lines. But baseball doesn’t even come close. One guy swings a stick with about a 30% chance of making contact, while the rest of his team and the opponents stand and stare—dozens of “athletes” most likely waiting around for naught, based on the percentages. No extra movement. No jumping and dunking. No real emotions, such as the touching camaraderie on display in that surreal Louisville-Duke game a few days back.
Nothing of the sort. Baseball is officially back. In the meantime, say some prayers for Kevin Ware and his family. Just writing this column makes me want to think about something else, even an injury as gruesome as that one. Anything but baseball.