I have many guilty pleasures at 30-years-old. I love internet humor like OneFTE; Damn You, Auto Correct; GraphJam; VeryDemotivational; FailBlog…etc etc. I love to still play video games (albeit nothing like in my youth). I am a politics and policy nerd. But aside from offending and pissing people off, there is nothing I enjoy more than sports. I love everything — but there is nothing quite like baseball.
Much of my love affair focuses around dedicating nearly the first 18 years of my life to the sport. While I was not playing baseball when I exited the womb, I do not have an early enough memory where I was not playing in some league. Everything centered around my practices and games and the Minnesota Twins schedule. I will never enjoy anything in life like I enjoyed playing baseball, it is simply a magical sport. I played many other sports, but none of them have the magic or the history of baseball.
This is why today is the greatest day of all days. For many, it is a holiday. While the NFL spends millions of dollars making their Opening Weekend the most important event in sports, minus the Super Bowl – baseball’s Opening Day never needs the hype and promotion. It simply is what it is. Unfortunately, like many things in America, baseball has falling by the wayside in our technological, fast-paced, immediate-gratification society of the 21st-century.
In hockey and football, you have the big hits and the fast pace that people demand. In football, their is a strategy that a casual fan can clearly understand. When your team is down 21-3 in the 4th quarter, it is easy for anyone to criticize a conservative offense approach. You do not need to understand a 3-4 defense or even know what a nickel package is to watch football.In hockey and basketball, you have constant action until a whistle — a back-and-forth that creates a drama and can keep fans on their seats even if the score is lopsided or the action is extremely vanilla. NASCAR, has a rabid fan base — and I watch every race, every week — but this is a sport that proves no understanding to know what’s going on. There’s an oval, there’s a bunch of cars, and you want to be first. An understanding may make you appreciate it more; but not to understand it.
This is not true for baseball — even though the sport has hordes of casual fans. 80% of fans do not have any idea what is going on during a baseball game and to try to explain it to them is like to trying to teach Japanese to a 12-year-old. Actually, I should give a disclaimer here: That’s probably not an accurate analogy for me to make. I don’t know Japanese, nor have I ever tried to teach any language to a 12-year-old. So, who the fuck knows?
What I do know is that today is Opening Day 2011 (for most teams) and I am here to defend the greatest sport every created and dispel many of the “opinions” out there from casual fans:
1. Baseball was invented by Abner Doubleday. So many people still believe this to be true, including, embarrassingly for the sport, Commissioner Bud Selig. Recently, MLB hired historians to really document the history of the sport, so it looks like even his opinion on this myth is shifting. Doubleday didn’t invent the sport. Native Americans played a very rough iteration of the sport centuries earlier, but if you were to watch what they played you wouldn’t even atribute it to baseball. Today’s baseball was invented by Alexander Cartwright, mainly because he was the first person to actually create rules for the game that so many different independent leagues. Even this is in dispute. However, Doubleday didn’t invent the sport.
2. Baseball has no action. Neither does a chess match, technically. Since all of the scenarios are in the heads of the chessmasters. I’ve said this a thousand times: Baseball is the chess of professional sports.
The “action” that casual fans witness when a ball is in play can be argued to not be action at all. It is the outcome from all the real action that no one sees. In all reality, when a ball hits the bat, the play is already over. The outcome has been decided by the pitch, bat speed, position of the defense, and the location of the pitch. It’s like setting up dominoes — you are just watching to see if you did it right. The only X-factor in the “action” is whether or not an fielding error will change the inevitable outcome. That is really not worth sitting for three hours to watch the 5 minutes that the ball is in play.
3. Baseball is boring and monotonous. There is many iterations of this to; as I’ve heard that many people feel like the pitches and swings are all the same. This topic alone could be a book. However, I will simply make this comparison:
A: Batter #3, Top of 1st inning; 2-2 count; runners on 2nd and 3rd; no out, tie game.
B: Batter #9, Bottom of 8th; 3-0 count; runners on 1st; 2 outs, down by 1.
If a fanatical fan is reading this — they just came up with 50 questions they need answered before they even consider throwing another pitch; including about 25 that would give them more information about the batter other than their order in the lineup; another 20 about the pitcher; and finally, variables that are nearly endless.
If a casual fan is reading this — they probably stopped reading awhile ago.
Baseball is the greatest sport in history. But it takes a level of comprehension that most people just do not possess. You don’t get brutal hits, epic crashes, visceral fights, hard dunks, or hard slapshots — all which take almost no comprehension to appreciate. It is a sport of nuances, and it ought to be appreciated as such.