Saturday, April 28, 2012

The zen of baseball

Recently, I got into a heated “discussion” with someone about baseball. It was in a bar (naturally) and the Jays were on the screen just in front of us. He made a comment about how dumb a game baseball is and couldn’t understand why anyone would waste their time following any team. “Baseball is so deadly boring.” (At least, I think he used the adverb “deadly”.)

Curious and always will to do some in the trenches research for the good of Late Innings, I asked my soon-to-be debating opponent what sport(s) he followed. “Football, and none of that stupid Canadian garbage, either. It’s good old NFL and some college ball for me!”


He talked basically uninterrupted for nearly five minutes about the strategy, excitement and movement of the game. “People don’t stand around waiting for something to happen. Baseball is a hell of a lot of standing around. That’s boring.”

Now if our Will had been there, he probably would have agreed, but then gone into a long look back into baseball history, citing statistics on how the game is slowing down due to balls seeming to be thrown out if a player so much as touches them, batters leaving the box after every pitch, pitchers peering in for at least ten minutes while they try to figure out just what the catcher is trying to tell them, etc., etc., etc. If John had been there, he probably would have challenged the poor guy to a duel at dawn: “You’re choice of weapons, sir!”

Both would have been correct in their approach. This poor, misguided soul obviously didn’t understand the game at all. He’d probably not been picked by either side in some gym class back when he was six. But believe me when I say, this guy was way anti-baseball.

I used a bit of Will’s approach, because I do believe that those in control of the game are allowing it to slow down drastically, and to the detriment of the game. I reserved John’s approach for the possible situation where the only way I could win was to put a beating on him. (I did slip in the innocuous seeming question about if he was interested in martial arts or anything like that.)

But I wasn’t making much headway. So I tried a different approach. “Baseball has just as much strategy as football and probably more.” He told me a lot about football strategy. I told him much about baseball strategy, a lot. We agreed to disagree.

By the end of two more beers, we were no further. I couldn’t budge him; he couldn’t budge me.

However, later that evening and for nearly every day since, I’ve been thinking about just what it is about baseball that I like so much. Why did I get caught up in baseball and not some other sport?

Perhaps Late Innings’ readers can help out. Please name one thing that you think makes baseball so interesting to watch or play, just one. I'll tell you mine (and this after much thought): the clock doesn't matter. The game ends when the game end.

I’m really looking forward to hearing from all of you. And thanks!


Larry Toman said...

Hi Rick, like yourself, I could probably name a litany of things I love about this glorious game. But I realize you have capped it at one, so here it is:

The balletic,artistic poetry in motion. Cheers!!

Anonymous said...

I think it's the suspense. More pronounced in a game that relies heavily on strategy and has "slow" moments interspersed with high drama.

D.J. McIntosh

Rick Blechta said...

That's because you're a writer Dorothy and understand that pacing is everything to building suspense. Baseball does that in spades.

I also sort of like the fact that everyone does stand around and then with the pitch from the mound, everything starts in motion. You don't really get the same thing in any other sport.

Will Braund said...

Interesting that someone who loves movement would prefer the stilted, run-dominated, huge players on a small field NFL to the pass-oriented, big field CFL. The best thing about baseball - the duels between individuals, i.e., top pitchers against top hitters - like last night - Yu Darvish against Lawrie, Bautista, and Encarnacion (who homered). Yet another thing slowin' the game down - managers and pitching coaches calling pitches from the dugout.

John Trembath said...

I love the game because it is truly fast and strategic. The excitement of trying to figure out what's going to happen, then seeing it play-out or not. It is a thrill. I like other team sports too(football and basketball). They all have their subtleties. But for real tension and strategy and lighting action baseball covers it all.

As for subtlety when arguing for baseball, unlike Rick I prefer jamming them inside with a high fast ball, just in case they don't get it. See if they can argue that.