APPRECIATING BASEBALL AFTER A TENUOUS RELATIONSHIP
Author: Ken Wolf
I hear it often and I’ve said it myself, “Major League Baseball is too long and too slow.” 162 ( just the regular season) games of three hours (unless extra innings) at a pace comparable to watching molasses move. One game for every 2.25 days in a calendar year and near daily starting in March through the World Series at the end of October. Over seven solid months of guys mostly standing around, spitting, and scratching themselves.
HOWEVER, maybe baseball’s tortoise pace is just what we need. Now more than ever. An antidote for our expectations of instant gratification. Growing up, my elderly neighbor Ralph Dusenberry used to listen to games on an archaic radio while sitting on his back porch most evenings. Decades and unimaginable technology growth later, people still do this. Only with baseball. There is something Zen in listening to the game and being able to see and smell the ballpark. The roasted peanuts, hotdogs, and beer. The occasional sound of bat hitting ball and roar of the crowd.
No other sports arena compares to the ballpark. Just the accessibility alone (for most teams), where the amount of games allows for reasonable and available tickets. Even in the cheapest seats, you’re still experiencing the ballpark. And the game’s pace allows for real conversation. People sitting inches from each other, away from life’s stress in a non-stressful environment watching a non-stressful game. With 162 of them, no one is that critical. Of course you want your team to win, but maybe your favorite player hit a home run or made an epic defensive play or maybe you even caught a ball or at least got close. Either way, you were at the ballpark soaking it all in.
I make it to a few a season, but I watch many more on TV. And by watch, I mean ballgame on, windows and doors open, making lunch or dinner or laying on the couch reading with the game itself in the background for a decent chunk of it. I focus at times when the bases are loaded or a certain batter is up or somebody’s pitching a killer game or any of the other nuances and storylines inherent to the sport. A sport rightly deemed ‘America’s Pastime’, but also considerably more ethnically diverse than most others.
When your team is good, length and pace are far less relevant. Down years can seem tortuous if you don’t appreciate both the little things in baseball and the larger picture of the sport itself. Just like life, I suppose. When my Reds won the World Series last in 1990, that season could have gone on forever as far as I’m concerned. And I’d be more than happy to have The Big Red Machine back playing every day for eternity. Would have liked the 2012 Reds to play considerably longer.
So, as my team continues a longer than usual rebuild and has started the year with the worst record in baseball at 1-8, I’m still happy to have the games on in the background. Much better than the news, that’s for damn sure. And I’ll watch Joey Votto craft his art and follow our overhauled pitching staff and new personalities like Yasiel Puig and plenty of threads that will wind through the season. And I’ll make the ballpark a few times. And who knows? Maybe they’ll turn this ship around. Certainly plenty of time left. 153 games to be exact.