In case you haven’t noticed, times are tough here in Wisconsin – not to mention the rest of the country. With all the vitriol, economic turmoil and political back-and-forth going around, we are in dire need of distraction now more than ever.
Thank God for baseball.
I’m not sure if He’s the right person to thank, but it ought to be someone. It’s easy to forget over these long months how wonderful the game really is. I love watching baseball; being a part of the crowd as we gather into cathedrals like Miller Park and spend a few hours cursing at opponents and taking the Lord’s name in vain – then reversing field and thanking Him and all of the saints of baseball past for a victory He could only provide our team. When I was signed on to a gig that allowed me not only to follow baseball, but tell other people how I felt about it, I considered it a gift. If being able to watch and write about baseball is a gift, then the ability to play it must surely be sent from heaven itself. It is the perfect way to escape from real life, if only a little while.
We all know that baseball is quintessentially American. A lot of that probably comes from the endless debate that ensues between teams, players, live ball vs. dead ball, and any other bit of minutiae we can come up with to put one team ahead of another, or get some player elected into our own personal Halls of Fame. But the beauty of this debate is that most subjects come down to the numbers. Those numbers are pretty black and white. Special interest groups cannot change a win-loss record. There is no gray area in a box score. Even when there is contention, baseball is rarely a fiery, intense debate.
Baseball is a conversation with a good friend. It’s Saturdays on your back porch. It’s childhood and endless daylight. The game has emotion, but it builds slowly and it hits you in great waves. The season-long marathon has trials and tribulations, but through it all you stay because baseball gives its audience a personal experience the way no other game can. One man alone makes a difference in the game. One outfielder makes the diving catch, one batter smacks a walk-off into the bleachers. That outfielder tosses the ball up to you; you swear when the batter comes out for his curtain call, he tipped his hat in your direction.
There’s just something about the game that has a positive and relaxing effect. Maybe it’s the endless outfield grass. Perhaps it’s the smell of brats and the sun on your skin in the parking lot. It could be the fact that a baseball stadium is the only place where 60,000 people can get along (provided the Cubs aren’t in town). It’s certainly no coincidence that baseball and ice cold beer go so well together. Baseball forces you to settle in, relax, and focus on having a good time for a few hours a day. There’s no argument that can be made against that.
I’m going to try and keep this brief, because commentaries like this have a tendency to get watered down in over-reaching cliches and nostalgic verbiage. Suffice it to say that it has been a long, hard winter here; filled with enough bad news and heartache to make even the most eternal optimist furrow his brow. As the weather begins to warm, take some time to make that personal connection with baseball again. Remember what it felt like being a kid. Take a sick day and play catch with your friends or take your kids to the batting cages. Catch an afternoon spring training game. Most of all, keep your chin up. Spring is coming soon, and with it comes baseball.
Thank God for baseball.