I seem to still be off the reservation when it comes to my given blog topics, but since this is on my mind – and since it baseball playoff season – I gotta comment of something.
One Jonathan Mahler wrote an op-ed piece in this past Sunday’s NY Times Sunday Review titled, “Is The Game Over?” His thesis: baseball is past its prime. Why? The game, according to Mahler, has been over mythologized, and can’t live up to the Mount Olympus-esque status it seems to have assumed. And anyway, says Mahler, we have football, so what do we need baseball for?
While I still bemoan the seasonal expansion to 162 games (which was a lifetime ago), the game really hasn’t suffered for it. Crowds are still flocking to the MLB parks, and that’s while many have to compete with nearby minor league franchises. In fact, according to this article, they are still coming at near-record levels.
Baseball is an old sport as American gamesmanship goes, so it does seem mythologized. But do so many people keep writing such high-flown things about baseball,? Because it represents in game form so much that lives in our real life Life is long, and so is the season. Success comes to those who seek it in bits and pieces that, artfully put together, allows certain ones to rise above the others. Persistence. Skill. Strategy. This is the stuff of fulfillment in life and in baseball.
Football? C’mon! Sadly, we’re an over-stimulated society, fed on copious amounts of caffeine, cocaine, and chasing cash (that’s 3 “c”s or four, however you want to count them), and this is turning us inside out. When the football players association, the officials, doctors, and owners are all asking for restrictions on collisions, particularly the kind that cause concussions, the fans keeps screaming, “MORE! MORE! GIMME BLOOD! While football requires many talents, physical and mental, the fans appreciate little more than injurious hits and spectacular, bomb-throwing scoring plays.
Baseball, however, gives us little of this. Yes, it has the occasional dust-back headshot and the ensuing rhubarb, but such things aren’t the driving forces of the game. To the contrary, most scoring in baseball is done, at least by the teams that succeed the most over the span of a season, hit by hit, pitch by pitch, which in the aggregate indicate which players and teams are the most proficient at playing the game.
And I do admit, unlike so many players in The Show, that drugs are there. But mine is a minority opinion in that I don’t think these drugs affect the games’ outcomes very much. Drugs are there because a few players are bat-crap crazy with competitive drive, and they want an edge, any edge, no matter how minuscule and irrelevant.
The baseball is clearly more lively now, so the adrenalin junkies among baseball’s fans get to wet their pants regularly from a drive arcing over Fenway’s big green wall, or the Rangers’ centerfield fence. But the strike zone has been shrunken commensurately to compensate, and so the game remains one of incremental success, not the “one big score.”
Our junkie mentality, though, keeps all too many of us many looking for that “one (or ONE MORE) big score,” whether it’s on American Idol, on Wall Street, in a rock band (yes, Glenn Frey and Don Henley, you’re ever on my mind in that regard these days, you greedy bleeps), in the courtroom, the operating arena, the oil field, or the battlefield. Such societies can’t get their cookies off with subtlety any more because their addictive impulses dehumanize them, keep them looking for more and more, as they become satisfied with less and less.
There are things that could improve baseball, I think. Lose the DH. Shorten the regular and playoff seasons. Perhaps there are other things. But baseball isn’t meant to be spectacular. People play it all over the world now, which should tell Jonathan Mahler to chill a bit. To sit through at least one twi-night double header first pitch to last. To pay attention to the game, and not the Big Screen, the fireworks, and the over-amplified guy who tries to raise a fever pitch every couple of minutes. Then maybe Mahler and his kind will learn to enjoy life more. Real life.
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