April 21, 2012

Baseball Wins

This is the video they play at Sox park before every home game. It doesn't really pick up until almost 2 minutes in, but if you're a Sox fan every second counts for something, especially all the years of being #2 in the heart of the city because most Chicagoans seem to like the idea of losing and back the Cubs. But I've talked about that before & it isn't my point. God bless the Cubs and their fans. They've been making the Sox look good for a century.

But what's happened to me, and not just because it's baseball season, is that baseball has won the game. Football, which used to be my sport (and I still will never abandon the Bears), has lost me. The obligatory celebrations after a touchdown, sack, tackle, run, step, good posture or successful snot blowing; the overdone hype where the pregame show is as long as the game; and the fact that most of the time you're not really watching anything more than advertisements and meetings punctuated by ten seconds of extreme violence. Then we go back in the huddle and have another meeting.

You have to be tall to play basketball, big fast and mean to play football, and old to play golf. But any body type can play baseball. Plus you know the rules. If you were born in America, whether you are a man or a woman, you know how to play it. Because it's our game. It's in the genes.

I appreciate the fact that you can lounge at the ballpark. You can have conversations. You can lunch and not have to scarf. And yet, like last Thursday, your team can be behind in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded and you'll still get that sports fix thrill while your guys try and tie up the game. And in baseball, nobody steps away from the other players and does a dance when they field a routine grounder. If you put football's celebrations onto a baseball diamond you'd see just exactly how stupid it is for someone to wildly celebrate a routine move. I watch the modern football player celebrate making a routine tackle and I think to myself "there is a young man who, as a child, was told again and again by his doting parent(s) that he never does anything but shine." Lookit me, even if we're down 30-3. I just did my job.

There is a history for baseball going back into the 19th century. And the accomplishments of players today are measured against the accomplishments of players who were already dead 100 years when the current crop was born. And yet, outside of a handful of rules that alter the details but not the essence, it is essentially the same game as it always was. If you take a fan from the era of Ty Cobb say, in the early 1900's, and magically plunk him down in a modern game today, he will know exactly what is going on. Because the game's truths are immutable. Man on first = hit behind the runner. The eternal verity.

If you call yourself a patriotic American, then you have to understand that baseball was with us every step of the way. Kids were playing a form of it in the early 1800's, so it is recorded. If you are a rebel then baseball is yours because football is the domain of the brute thug class of our fellow countrymen; dumb, thick and conservative. I love George Carlin's take on the difference. One game is pastoral, the other is a technological state of war.

I love it that people from Britain hate it. As if baseball gives a shit.

Other stuff that's cool about baseball?
1. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the late 40's after a century of the "gentleman's agreement" banning black players. He's a hero to the wider black community in this country... and backed Republicans as a voter because, he felt, the real idea is self-sufficiency.
2. We could find a softball and a bat and go play seven innings right now. Throw a football around and we're all finished after a couple plays.
3. The deadball era...


4. You can always come back to the game. It remembers you. You won't know what I'm talking about until you go to a game again. I'll still enjoy football. I'll love it even if the Bears do well. But baseball wins. That's just all there is to it.
Don't forget this little gem... (hit the PLAY NOW link to avoid the stupid commercial). better study up on baseball.


B.E. Earl said...

The Ty Cobb era comment is something Bowie Kuhn used to call The Rip Van Winkle Effect. His favorite thing about baseball is that you could have a guy fall asleep for 70 year in 1910, wake up in 1980 and know exactly what is going on in a baseball game.

Today was a great day for baseball and this post. Phil Humber, your Phil Humber, with a totally unexpected perfecto. And, as of right now, the Yankees have come back from a 9-0 deficit and lead the Sawx (Red not White) 14-9. Bobby V is getting booed already in Boston and it's only April 21st. I had May 1st in the over/under.

Love this game.

RW said...

Just for you Earl, here's a video of the guy who bought me a couple beers and sat with me in a booth at Murphy's one afternoon after a Cub game. Yes he's passed now, but imagine sitting across the table from this guy for an hour...


B.E. Earl said...

Veeck was one of a kind. Jealous of your time with him.

His son Mike, by the way, is part of an ownership group that owns 4 or 5 minor-league teams including the Charleston Riverdogs. A team and stadium and city that I have fallen in love with recently. Bill Murray is a part of that group as well. He's listed on the masthead as Director of Fun. A title that really belongs to anyone with the last name of Veeck.

sligo said...

Nice. Very, very nice.

sybil law said...

What a great post!
Reds are playing the Cubs right now. I missed most of the game.

Gino said...

yeah, you make an excellent case.
i loved playing baseball, and i really enjoy watching little league at the park (yeah, i do that even if i dont know any of the kids).

but none of that applies when i go to a MLB game. its just not the same and not worth the price.

Baseball? hell yeah. double 'hell yeah'.
Major League? nope, i cant.