Baseball used to be called the National Pastime. Whether it qualifies for that accolade now is a good question.
My opinion is the level of excitement generated in the typical game of football is twice that of baseball. And that leads many to conclude that baseball is boring. It is not.
On the other hand, the baseball season is six months long and involves 162 games. Whew. The NFL’s regular season lasts from September to January and has only 16 games. That means baseball has ten games for every one football game.
Baseball is not boring. It’s quiet and relaxing much of the time, and downright exciting the rest of the time. (Reminds me of how an airline pilot described flying: hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.)
My wife Margaret would accompany me to games, but not to watch. She did not understand or care for the game, but she would take along a novel she was reading. And she was a people-watcher. Meanwhile, I was totally into the game. And she was fine with that.
I played ball as a child and in the late 1940s listened to games on the radio from that West Virginia mountaintop. They sounded so exciting. I was to find out in time that the reason for this was the recorded background crowd noises which could be raised or lowered as needed.
I have attended games in Montreal’s Olympic stadium with the retractable roof, in Boston’s Fenway Park (built in 1912 the same year my Dad was born), in Atlanta, St. Louis, Arlington, Anaheim, and Cincinnati. I do love baseball.
These days, I no longer attend the games. It’s more relaxing and satisfying to sit in front of the television and watch the contest in high definition television. I pay enough per month to have funded two or three entire trips to the stadium in the old days, so it’s not cheap. But I love it.
I will talk to the game–to the players, the managers, the announcers (“please be quiet!” I’m thankful for the mute and closed captioning), and the umpires–while Bertha sits to my right crocheting afghans. It’s her thing and she finds it just as relaxing and far more rewarding than I do with the game.
“Baseball is almost a spiritual experience for me,” I tell Bertha. Almost. By that I mean, it’s refreshing, uplifting, and peaceful. No football or basketball game–especially that!–is peaceful. Those are hectic from the opening tip-off, kickoff, or faceoff (okay, hockey).
- It’s a fun game.
- It’s easy to follow.
- It’s as complex as you want it to be. There must be a thousand statistics for any given game.
- You can see the players. In football, they’re hidden behind pads and helmet. In baseball, you see their faces.
- Everyone plays the game growing up. Not everyone played football or basketball as children, since they are so vigorous and dangerous.
- In major league ball, the season is so long that it rewards endurance, patience, perseverance.
- It’s about the team, although one individual can make a huge impact.
- The stadiums–I’m mainly speaking of the diamond and playing field–are just so gorgeous.
- The strategy is fun. Managers are always trying to outthink the other side. “If I bring in a left-handed pitcher, who will they have at the plate? Can I shift the outfield over? Do I need to put in a pinch runner? Is it time for a relief pitcher?”
- Baseball will occasionally have a perfect game–very rarely–but it is a game of averages. In a long season, the best team will lose a third of their games. A bad team will win a third of their games. In between is skill, talent, managing, strategy, and luck.
- It’s a quiet game. You don’t need a stadium announcer, and you sure as shootin’ don’t need all the chatter from the TV guys.
- Any player can do something heroic at any time. (Baseball, they say, is the only sport where the defense cannot score. Even so, the defense–those in the field–are having a great time out there in the open field, the sunshine, the interaction with their teammates. There’s almost nothing not to love.
I do love this game. I could go on with things I love about it.
You can meet friends there and have a great conversation while you are enjoying the game. My college roommate (best man in my 1962 wedding) Joel Davis lives in the Atlanta area. When our sons were young–he has Kenny and Keith and I have Neil and Marty, roughly the same ages–we would meet for a game and enjoy a reconnection. There is nothing better.