THERE’S TOO MUCH going on in our world that makes us sad, angry, upset, so I thought you might appreciate a bit of levity:
I AM NOT a fan of writers comparing baseball to life or anything else. I think strikes, balls, home runs and balks are enough; we don’t need to add metaphors to the game. However, several years ago, after listening to my haughty French teacher in DC put down baseball in favor of “football” (soccer), and after getting tired of her questioning why anyone would love baseball, I sat down to write this essay, then translated it into very bad French. I did not change her mind, of course, but she did appreciate my effort and my attempt at humor.
I had forgotten about that essay until I came upon it a few days ago. I’ve fixed the bad French and I may have the courage to show it to my current French teacher, who couldn’t understand why I would rather go to the Astros game when I could have joined her at a bar to watch the European Cup final.
(To my soccer-loving, basketball-loving, American-football-loving friends: this is not an attack on your sport. This is just a light-hearted writing assignment in which I express my love for the sport I love.)
AMERICANS LOVE BASEBALL because it is complicated, like a good chess match. It requires intelligence, strategy and perception.
We love it because it is as subtle as a fine bottle of wine: it needs time to mature, and you cannot properly enjoy it unless you take it in at a leisurely pace. You need time to savor every move, and even more time to appreciate it and share your experience with friends and family. Baseball is generous: it gives you that time.
We love it because it has a beauty that is as deep and challenging and rewarding as those of well-crafted verse. We treat it with the same respect we afford a time-tested poem: we do not hurry it, we pause when it wants to pause and hurry when it chooses to quicken the pace, and we do not scream it out.
We love baseball because it is like a good Almodóvar film. It entertains you, yes, but it also requires that you too do some work to fully appreciate its message. There are no cheap thrills in baseball.
We love baseball because it is like a romantic ballet. It requires poise and balance, artistic expression and unceasing emotion, and an unparalleled physical dexterity.
We love this game because it is like good sex. It is not all furious and mindless automatic pleasure, but rather a series of deliberate hills and valleys, serene lulls and earth-shattering earthquakes and a sense of fulfillment, of having given of ourselves as much as we received from the interaction.
AND, FINALLY, WE love baseball because it is like life itself. It appreciates and makes use of the contributions of players with different talents and capabilities. And, as with life, the game ends when it ends, not when a clock says it must.