Friday, October 24, 2008

Baseball and Falling Leaves

I originally posted this in 2006, but I have been thinking of baseball all week in the back of my head, so here it is again. Only now, we're not in the Series, so we have to love the game from afar.

The Glory of the Game

Man, I love baseball. I don't love it in the wearing-red kind of way (which is obvious if you know me). I don't love it in the I-always-go-to-games way. I don't love it in the I-really-know-about-it way. I just love the game, pure and simple.

I love baseball because it reminds me of my mom. Growing up, my mom would sit in front of the TV-- I could see it flicker in the dark from the street when I came in from playing-- and she would watch the Pirates by herself, hooting and hollering at the TV. I love it because my mom used to take the train in Florida when she was a kid with my grandfather, travelling to see Spring Training. I love it because I never saw my first game until I was 22, and I was with my mom 2 weeks after I had moved to St. Louis, on a humid September night in the old Busch. The Arch was there and flags were waving, Mark McGuire still played, and when that anthem was played, it was like everyone in the stadium was suddenly the same-- all in one place, and it was amazing.

I love baseball because it seems American in the best possible way. I remember watching the first game that was played after 9/11, and thinking maybe it would all be okay.

I love baseball because it's egalitarian. You know the rules, and the rules are simple and fair. Generally, calls are straightforward. Everyone gets their chance to score and defend. You take turns. There's no contact, no pushing or shoving or manhandling of one player by another-- not like basketball or football. Baseball is a team sport made up of individuals, each having very specific jobs and territories-- but they need to work together, in rhythm.

I love the tradition of baseball. I love that kids play it all over, in different versions. A stick, a ball, some land. It's still meant for families, and there's none of the glamour or glitz or bling that some other professional sports have adopted.

I love baseball because it makes me wonder if life is really about talent, or if it's just about burying our nerves and having confidence. It's a series of decisions and a guessing game at the same time, almost like rocks-paper-scissors, where you are not so much thinking of what you want to do, but rather what your opponent might think. You have to out-think and then react, but still, you never know.

I love baseball because I am amazed at what can happen in the few short seconds between hitting the ball and running to the base. So much can change in that distance, and yet the runner must simply run, not worrying about where everyone else is. They must follow their own path once they set the field in motion. I love how everything can change in that quick flash as we barrel and careen towards our targets. And part of me loves the idea that you can steal bases, the thrill of having nerve and the fact that if you succeed, you are not punished.

Maybe I just like the metaphor. But if that's the case, I like it because it's a metaphor I know intuitively. It doesn't need to be overthought or even articulated. We all get it. We know it. And we understand. It's like knowing the secrets of death and then forgetting, but it doesn't matter because you are too busy living. Baseball might mean more, but ultimately, all that matters, is it's one hell of a game to watch. And we live in a great city right now to watch it.

I love October. Go Cards!

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