Ah the spring! The season of renewal and promise.
For all you baseball fans out there, you know what I am talking about. It is a time that your team, whom you’ve been loyal to for decades, is starting out even in first place and the dreams and promises can all be realized. There is a level of optimism about the long baseball season as if a family member came back home from being away at college. All is right with the world again.
For those who are 40 years or older, you can appreciate my rosiness about the baseball season and what it means to you. Baseball is a sport that is more of a lifestyle. Just like you wake up and brush your teeth, take a shower and put on your clothes every day, baseball is a ritual that follows the same path. It is a sport unlike anything else. We take our team into our daily lives and live the ups and downs no differently than how our personal days are going. It is this integration that makes us closer to our community than any other sport.
In the sport of running, there is a difference between a sprint and a marathon. In a sprint, you run as fast as possible, the event is short-lived and happens not as often. With a marathon, it is practiced for a long time, it involves deep mental preparation and routine, and has a strategy involved in pacing yourself to reach the elusive finish line among thousands of people. A marathon, not a sprint, is analogous to baseball.
Think chess; now think Candy Crunch with a timer. Which game seems more exciting? To a more mature, intellectual, and strategically minded person, chess achieves this goal. If you want instant gratification, heart stopping moves, and glitz, you will prefer a sprint. Baseball is the unique sport among the big four in the USA, the others being the NHL, NHL and NBA.
I find it fascinating how people tell me that baseball is boring. It goes too so slow. There is not enough action and there is no time element. Some of these attributes are true compared to the other three sports. However, this is not how a baseball fan looks at the game. They see it as mental and physical chess; a skill that involves strategy for each play and a crescendo of emotions when an impactful play actually happens. There is tons of excitement in spots of the game. However, you need the patience to get to the promised land. That is why patience is a virtue.
Baseball as a cultural experience shows us where is our great divide. The younger generation, raised with instant gratification, bells and whistle visual displays, and not having to think as much as simply observing the excitement, the game of baseball is falling out of favor with them. Baseball is like using the telegram while the NHL and others is like using an iPhone. What do you think will attract the youth of America for the future?
So what does baseball do to not lose an audience like Fox News will experience due to their aging and monolithic viewership? I think baseball has ethnic diversity so that is not the major problem like that of the NHL and NBA. However, the fan base will shrink as more of our youths turn out to more immediately gratifying activities to participate in. This is a shame.
Culture and sports follow hand in hand. As we see our society more addicted and reliant on their smartphones, it goes to follow that the art of ‘waiting’ for something special to happen has disappeared from our collective conscience.
How many times have you been out with a friend and were talking about a star in a movie you just saw? You both have their name on the tips of your tongues but cannot perch it out further. This use to drive all of us nuts. We use to say, “God damn it! I am going crazy that I cannot come up with this name. I will not fall asleep tonight unless I get the name. Jeez this sucks!’
Now fast forward to today. We say in our minds, “Haha, what an ancient mind F$*@ck exercise.” In a flash, someone is taking out their smartphones and googling the movie on Wikipedia to get the answer. Perfect! Efficient! Less torturous! However, what we do not realize is that we have lost the capacity to challenge our amazing intellect and use our minds in a methodical way to figure out the puzzle to the name. Nine out of ten times we eventually remember it (normally immediately after your friend just left!). The gratification of figuring it out without the help of a ‘cheat sheet’ is immensely more satisfying. Remember the hi-fives you got when you picked it out of your fedora? Now, we are just human transmitters of someone else’s information.
I love you baseball. You are in my heart and in my soul. I get your concept and what your founding values meant to me. You have taught me to appreciate the moment, get excited by the intrigue of the strategy, take the time away from the day and focus on a relaxing day at a warm ballpark. All these things we are starting to lose as our culture slowly deteriorates to immediacy.
I cannot predict the future of this great American pastime. However, if we lose it, we will look back and fondly remember a better time in our lives when we were able to live vicariously through our beloved team whose loyalty was unshaken. Baseball gave us the ups and downs, but always stuck in there with us. The teams were our family and our personality.
This game will go down as being part and parcel with the greatest generation we had and those we all admired.