It’s another Sunday morning, you’re rushing around the local market getting what needs to be gotten for the week ahead. You know where you need to go and what you need to grab, so to be checked out by noon. Why noon? Well of course noon, because you need to be home by 1 p.m., just in time to turn on the football game.
But the start to your day is ruined on the drive there by the old couple driving 10 mph below the speed limit. The morning worsens as you pull into the parking lot and a careless parent lets its pair of children sprint across the aisle and to the car. But what sets you off, what really sparks you from irritated to infuriated is the unbearable length of the check-out line. As you glance around in disgust you see not one, not two, not five nor six, but 10, 15 unused lanes. “Why not open Lane 16?” you politely ask yourself. “I have things to do, places to be. I don’t have time for this,” you then mutter to yourself, but probably with a bit more vulgar language.
Now you’re stuck, forced against your will rather, to wait as patiently as possible behind seven others. Kickoff is set eight minutes from now, your cart remains helplessly in front of you still full of broccoli, fruit snacks, toilet paper and a six pack and you’ve subsequently given up hope. You woke up at 7 a.m. sharp, were out the door by 9 and ready for another productive Sunday, only to have it thrown away three hours later. So your favorite football team wins, but you still sit there, at 4:30, disgusted with your day. Sure, you gave that awkward, forced yelp as the clock hit 0 to show the others in the room that you were watching, that you still cared, but, but your dreadful morning still haunts you.
That’s baseball if you let it be.
OK, you’re lost at the moment, I get it. Most people are when they watch baseball.
Let me explain.
Baseball is a game that desires to be understood. It slows itself it down to be so. But still, the consensus is that “it’s boring.” Not only is this because you don’t understand, but it’s because you prefer not to understand. Football is easy to like because it features that barbaric simplicity that society has become infatuated with. Be it the popularity of The Walking Dead, the anticipation of the next Ronda Rousey fight, or just the simple inability to take your eyes off the casual bar fight across the table, you like to see others face issues. Because you don’t want to face your own.
Other sports, but for the sake of labels, football, is easy because after a long week of “issues” you can prepare yourself for a day of indulging. Your day-in day-out struggle disappears for a few hours and all that matters, for that small amount of time, is your fandom. There’s no thinking involved, it’s just get football, put football in end zone. You cheer when your team does and boo when it doesn’t.
Baseball offers this and much more.
The nuances of the game — the same nuances that can be routinely overlooked in other sports — are the very stable of baseball. What pitch will he throw in this 2-1 count with a runner on second and a left-handed hitter up? With a guy on third, no outs and “the shift” is on, what approach is the batter going to take? Bottom of the eighth, one out, the pitcher just walked the bases loaded, the tying runner stands on first, what options does the manager have with a switch hitter at the plate? This is just a quick peep into what baseball fans cherish. Their importance has been cemented in a way that other sports fans are afraid to understand.
Sabermetrics became a real ‘thing’.
Without preaching about the idea behind sabermetrics, their newfound necessity within the sport, or the applications from situation to situation, at your own risk, take my word that they delve much deeper into performance than, “Tony Romo is a bad quarterback because, uh, interceptions and stuff.” But the casual sports fan is too lazy — in the least damning attitude — to invest the thought process of applying ‘answers’ to the game’s problems. Instead, you’ll all just sit around clamoring for ESPN to reinvent its old Jacked Up segment before Monday Night Football.
I could jump into explaining the difficulty of a sport that appears to be so simple. I mean, kids play little league baseball, so it mustn’t be too hard, right? Not to mention that the greatest players of today’s game, the invincible Mike Trout, the polarizing Bryce Harper and the forgotten Paul Goldschmidt, they succeed roughly 1/3 of the time. That’s a tough concept for a layman to grasp. How can you be great when you’re so susceptible to failure? It’s a credit to the complexity of the game.
Ultimately, the constant failure reinforces the greatness that is baseball. This holds true for us all. Game 7 of the NBA Finals just ended and you witnessed Kobe Bryant knock down a seemingly impossible shot. What do you do? You grab your greasy, pizza crumb-covered napkin, crumple it into a ball, stand up, and display your best Bryant-impersonation with a herky-jerky fadeaway jumper, hoping the napkin lands in the waste basket across the room. It does, but that shot was too easy, so you grab it once more, move the basket to the corner, behind the rolled up blanket; now you have to hit the shot again … only tougher. Nailed it! But one last time, you grab the napkin, only this time you call “Bank shot!” Surprisingly — or not so much — you missed, so you disgustedly punt the trash can and walk to the kitchen for second helpings of pizza.
But pizza aside, you’re driven by failure. As much as you think you’re vehemently opposed, you subconsciously strive for failure. And next Sunday, you’ll set your alarm for 7 a.m. sharp, roll out of bed and stroll to the nearest market and get things that same list of things that needs to be gotten. Deep down, you depressingly know that the same insanity that ensued last week will happen again this week before the clock tips noon.
But guess what, it won’t stop you. And baseball will do the same thing to you. Day-in and day-out, you’ll follow the same routine, witness the highs and lows, become exuberant after the walk-off win on Tuesday, only to cry yourself to sleep on Wednesday when your just-traded-for closer blows a three-run lead in the ninth. We crave that failure time and time again only because the success then tastes so much better (kind of like those second helpings of pizza). We find ourselves beating ourselves up over nuances we cannot control, but for some odd reason, the satisfaction that overwhelms our bodies is a craving that we can’t ignore. And maybe we’re all just a little barbaric.
Something “boring” would not give you that relatable gut-wrenching feeling. But you won’t even begin to understand until you open your eyes to all that baseball has to offer. Enough with the “WOW, did you see that Chris Davis home run?!” Let’s see more of “Can you believe Francisco Liriano had a better xFIP than the $206 million man Zack Greinke, last season?!”
Until then, baseball doesn’t bore you, you bore baseball.