Friday, June 14, 2024

BLOG RERUN: For it's money they have and peace they lack

NOTE: This post originally ran on the blog on September 7, 2017. I bring it back today for three reasons: (1) It is baseball season; (2) It feels even more relevant today than it did nearly seven years ago; (3) While I mostly don't love my own writing, I've always thought I did an OK job with this one. I hope you do, too.

There is a cult within America – populated largely by white, middle-aged males, but certainly not limited to them – that has romanticized the game of baseball beyond what it probably deserves.

I am perhaps one of them, but at least I know I am one of them.

The reasons for this idolization of the sport are varied. For many, baseball was their best (and perhaps only) connection with their fathers. Many of us root for the teams our dads rooted for because there is an indelible bond, strengthened ever further by blood, among those who live and die with the fortunes of a common athletic team.

For others, baseball represents a simpler time. In most cases, I think that simpler time for which they yearn was really no simpler than today, but it certainly seemed simpler in a pre-Internet age...and with the passing of time, of course, which tends to whitewash every flaw.

In the days before massive youth soccer leagues, baseball was the one sport in which most young men – it was softball for the girls – participated at one level or another. I played through the age of 13 until I could no longer keep up with the fastballs and had no hope of hitting a curveball. More importantly, I became a fan of the game at the age of 9 and remain one to this day.

It is a slow game, some will say, and I don't disagree with them. But "slow" does not equate with "boring." Watching a well-played baseball game is just about the best way I can think of to spend a summer afternoon, even if it takes 3+ hours to play and ends with a 2-1 score.

I bring this up because, as I type, my beloved Cleveland Indians have won an astounding 14 games in a row (the second consecutive season in which they've accomplished this feat). And tonight they go for No. 15 with ace pitcher and Cy Young Award candidate Corey Kluber on the mound.

So many people I come across these days (including my doctor as she poked and prodded me this morning as part of my annual physical) want to talk about the Tribe. Could this be their year? Will they stay healthy? What's up with Jose Ramirez's incredible bat? And his hair, for that matter?

They ask these questions with that note of restrained, even fatalistic, optimism that Cleveland sports fans have perfected. We have been burned in a variety of creatively cruel ways over the years, and there is a part of us that always assumes the worst will happen.

But the important thing is, talking about the Tribe is fun, and it makes us happy. It gives us a few minutes to stop thinking about hurricanes and politics and flag protests and everything else that makes us cry and worry and act viciously toward one another.

There are poor people in this country, no doubt, but as comedienne Marsha Warfield said about hunger in the U.S., "It ain't but so bad." The vast majority of us have the essentials we need to live. Most have roofs over their heads and some sort of food on the table. We have the things our wages can buy.

What we don't have, what perhaps we've never had, is peace. A sense that everything is going to be OK. Maybe that's impossible to have in this (or any) age, so we settle for small glimpses of it. We talk about the things that make us feel good and remind us that humans have the capacity to do meaningful, inspirational things.

And I include baseball in that. It's just a game, you might say, and you're right. But it's also an escape, albeit temporary, from everything else that weighs on us. It is a way to connect to the part of our collective consciousness that shuts down in the face of worrisome news and constant conflict and our own mortality.

There are bad characters in baseball as in anything. There is greed, there is selfishness and there is cheating.

But there is also purity and honesty and beauty that mostly eludes us as we slog our way through everyday life.

It's purity, honesty and beauty that can be had for the price of a ticket, or even the click of a TV remote.

If acknowledging that simple fact constitutes over-romanticizing baseball, then I can only plead guilty.

In the end, I'll be back season after season to watch and cheer and fret and fume. I follow other sports, but in the end, it was baseball that was my first love. And she never fails to deliver.

1 comment:

  1. Update the word tribe unfortunately. Also can you share your doctor's name. Looking to be prodded lol