Despite the ridiculous weather that finds my local forecast for this Wednesday March the 26th calling for wind chills in the 20’s all day, baseball’s opening day is right around the corner. Yes, I am aware that the Dodgers and Diamondbacks have already played two games in Australia, and no, I refuse to count that as opening day. Bud Selig is an octogenarian idiot.
This time of year always produces within me a desire to defend baseball from all of its distracters, since it has so many. Honestly, this blog isn’t written to persuade any of you, just to get a few things off my chest. What follows are the most popular complaints about my favorite sport and my pithy retorts:
- Baseball is too slow. Compared to what? The length of a baseball game is like a snowflake, no two are exactly the same. A 1-0 pitcher’s duel might be over in 2 hours, while a 9-8 slugfest might take 4, and don’t get me started on extra innings! The point is that baseball is a game played outside of time. There is no clock. Outside of the distances between the bases and the distance between the pitcher’s mound and home plate, there aren’t even any uniform dimensions in baseball, making baseball the most individualized sport in history. Do some games take too long? Yes. Are some players annoyingly deliberate? Yes. But that just means that they are more fun to boo! Baseball is a game where you can actually relax while watching, have a casual beer and talk about life with a friend. Why is everybody in such a hurry to get back to the stresses of their lives? Chill out.
- Baseball has lost its popularity. True, so have marital fidelity, manners and the Protestant work ethic, so baseball is in good company. I freely admit that baseball is no longer the National pastime, having long ago lost that honor to reality television. Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, and I still hate it. Besides, popularity is fleeting. In 50 years, after the NFL has been sued into oblivion by all of its former players for turning them all into drooling paraplegics, baseball will still be here to pick up the pieces.
- Baseball doesn’t attract the best athletes. True. Dustin Pedroia looks like some guy who should be bagging groceries at Walmart. What is he, 5’7” 160 soaking wet? He would have to put on 30 pounds just to get a job as a water boy in football. But, so what? He’s a terrific second baseman and hits .300 every year. It bothers me not at all that Usain Bolt would lap him in the 100 meter dash. It’s baseball, not the freaking decathlon.
- Baseball doesn’t have enough black players. Yeah, well…we have a ton of Latin players. When was the last time you saw an All-Dominican backfield in the NFL? How come nobody complains about the relative lack of Hispanic players in the NFL? Yes, I’m aware that any list of the finest baseball players in history would have many, many African American players on it. And honestly, I think it is a shame that for whatever reason blacks seem to have abandoned baseball for basketball and football. But, there is no such thing as affirmative action in sports, no requirement that a roster reflect the racial diversity of the community. If there were such a thing, we would have to insist on more white guys in basketball, and who wants that??
- The baseball season is too long. Compared to what? A Presidential election campaign? 162 games is a long season, but baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a game that rewards long term consistency. The grind of the season exposes teams that are only good in spurts. The best teams in baseball lose 40% of their games. It takes awhile to separate the wheat from the chaff.
So, there you have it. Both America and baseball have gotten slow, lost popularity and have a problem with minorities.