Sunday, February 5, 2012
Growing Into Baseball
If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me pass on my regrets this past week for having missed out on my regular weekend blogging duties. I had every intention of getting some of my rambling thoughts into cyberspace, until I got a text from a friend with an extra ticket to the NHL All-Star Game being held in Ottawa last Sunday. So yes, dear readers, I chose to attend a half-hearted and fairly lazy display of hockey over talking baseball with you.
The thing is, a younger me wouldn’t have thought twice about going to the hockey game. I might have been angling to get there on my own, not just dropping in as a matter of happenstance.
But now, I actually had to give it some careful consideration. My hesitation was not, as you might assume, because of my overwhelming sense of obligation to the Tao to get a weekend post up. (Bastard bounced my last paycheque.) It was because even though I’d never been to an All-Star Game of any kind before, I just had a hard time getting interested. I didn’t know many of the players on the teams; hell, I barely could understand how they got chosen. Fifteen years ago, that wouldn’t have been the case.
Something about getting older has simply made me a bigger baseball fan. Over the past decade or so, I’ve become a more engaged, passionate baseball fan than I’ve ever been of other sports – even the ones, like hockey and football, about which I used to be most passionate, and even played as a younger man.
Baseball attracts and further engages me in part because of the mountains of baseball knowledge that exist. I’ve personally been let in on the game in a way that hockey and football never allowed, at least based on what I had read and consumed. At the same time, all of this knowledge is growing exponentially by the day, and easier to find than ever.
That’s not to say that there aren’t the same resources out there for other sports. But they don’t bring you inside the game the same way. Football thrives, for instance, on its image as a battlefield, populated by superhuman warriors who bring home three-inch-thick playbooks to study, and mere mortals can only watch and wonder. Baseball seems much more human.
The books, websites, blogs, and other media that are out there can help a person know more about just about any aspect of the game, in an interesting and entertaining way. If you want to understand its statistics and how they paint a picture of the game in different ways for different people, you can start with Moneyball and work your way through to Bill James and beyond. If you want to read about baseball’s history, its unique character and charms, its brightest and blackest days, there have been generations of smart and talented chroniclers of the game to whom you can turn.
Tonight, I have the Super Bowl on TV.
(Side note: I started watching an hour late and was PVRing the broadcast, which allowed me to fast-forward through the commercials during the first half. I didn’t catch up to the live broadcast until Madonna’s withered carcass was about halfway through her spectacle. Three things about that: one, there really is no better way to get through the stop-and-start bullshit of a football broadcast. Two, this is another reason why baseball is more compelling to me, because they just play the damn game, and yes, it takes a while, but at least I don’t have someone trying to sell me Dr. Pepper every six minutes. I only have to put up with that when the inning ends or they change the pitcher. Three, the Super Bowl halftime show could run Up With People out there again and I’d be more interested in it than Madonna.)
The fact that I was willing to turn away from the largest North American sporting event of the year, and spent an hour scribbling some thoughts about baseball, tells you pretty much all you need to know about which sport has its hooks in me for good.
Pitchers and catchers report in two weeks.