Thoughts on Baseball & US

Thoughts on Baseball & US October 30, 2009


The New York Yankees’ Nick Swisher climbed a wall to try and catch a ball in Game 1 of the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies in New York. (Elise Amendola/Associated Press) Source

Vanderleun writes of that wonderful picture, above:

As long as we have the World Series every Autumn, I will continue to believe to the adamantine rock bottom of my soul that God blesses America and has an exceptional plan for this nation.

Look at the moment . . .It could be hung in the Norman Rockwell Museum and not be a tittle of a jot out of place. In every face (except Swisher’s) is an expression of pure joy as they all realize that on its way to them, at that very moment, is every baseball fan’s most cherished dream from childhood: The chance to catch a fly ball in a World Series game in the stands.

In another few instants only one will come up with it, but in this moment all have a chance at it and all are transported at the opportunity to transcend themselves and enter into something bigger, brighter, and finer than their lives would otherwise be.

And that’s the way it is in America. That’s why we see many footprints leading in and few coming out. For with all our quarrels, our disagreements, our struggles, and our incessant bickering, this remains a land where you can always get another turn at bat, where you can always, right up until six months after death, get another chance to swing for the bleachers. And where, even if you aren’t a player in “The Show,” you can buy a seat out on the right field line and wait there for the crack of the bat, the rise of the ball against the sky, and… it’s coming, it’s coming…. and whap, you got it. You’re in “The Show.”

And in that moment life, the universe, and everything else comes down to one great roar of joy from yourself and the rest of the crowd.

A friend of mine wrote today: America has the three best games the world has ever seen:

Football, Baseball and Basketball, except pro-basketball has become more thugs in baggy shorts than actual basketball, but still …

Baseball is like the human athlete. Mostly anaerobic jogging along interspersed with moments of sheer anabolic power. . . . Three hours of boredom followed by three minutes of sheer terror. But the three hours are the set up to the moments of sweaty palms, like watching a chess match unfold. If you know what’s going on in those three hours, wow. The three minutes are spine tingling.

Football is war. You advance on the enemy and run an operation. Then fall back and run the intel and assessment and run a different tactical plan at them. And another and another and another until you have to give back the ground you’ve taken. Pure power punctuated by grace and cunning and daring unlike any other sport (daring as in, how a wide receiver bares his ribs to make a catch with a 280 pound guided missile coming at him in a collision that has ben calculated to be like surviving a 30 mph car crash) . . . Again, like chess, but the pieces on the board have muscular butts, can bench press Volvos and run a 4:40.

Basketball is feline king of the jungle sensuous power on display. Incredible skill to get a ball through a hoop that is 3/4 of an inch larger in diameter than the ball. And do it from 40 feet, or vertically leap eleven feet and slam it through the hoop. For over two hours. While big men are trying to take that ball away from you. . . . Doing wind sprints for two hours. With an elbow in your face, and a genetic mutant blocking your every move with hands so large they can palm a Thanksgiving turkey on the end of arms that can change a light bulb in the ceiling fixture, without a step stool.

All very true, but for my money, baseball is the greatest game. No other game has that quintessentially American flavor that defines exceptionalism: there is no clock, therefore there is always possibility; there is always hope. Literally anything can happen up until the very last strike of the final out; there is no whistle to announce that you have run out of chances. There is nothing telling you that it is silly to dream. Unlike football or basketball, baseball sets up one man, be he pitcher or batter, against an entire team and says, “defeat them; dishearten them; do something spectacular.” And by one man, the spectacular may happen. At any moment, the game can be broken wide open and -with scores tied up- begin anew. And for those reasons – because it encourages dreaming, it says never give up, it thrives on hope – baseball is the All-American game, forever. It has the power to bring a mourning nation off its knees and to its feet.

I love baseball! It’s been beddy, beddy good to me, and to America, always.


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