The Idea of Baseball

There has always been a block in the road for my passion and interest in baseball. I should love it, and I routinely get excited about it around February. Since the NBA and NHL are not really my thing, the big show should take the mantle for my sports consumption once football ends. But I never get there with the MLB. Without question, the most passion for baseball that ever sparks with me is in February and March at the dawn of the new season. Credit where credit is due, Olivia Craighead on the For Love of the Game episode of Blank Check could not have hit it out of the park harder than with this point. Suddenly, on May 8th, 2022, the day when the podcast dropped, I was forever enlightened by this passage from Craighead.

“I like the idea of baseball… What I love is going to a baseball game and drinking a beer with my pals. Watching a baseball game on TV…no, not for me.”

This notion on its surface is not that groundbreaking. Just the simple framing of liking the idea of baseball rings is so true to me. The sport evokes a sense of nature and the American frontier, similar to that of watching a classic western. Perfect match for me! It has value as both background noise and a source for deep concentration. What is wrong with this equation? Well, as much as I am a sucker for statistics, analytics have undoubtedly ruined the game. Sheer fun has been stripped away over the last 10 years (some would say even longer). This is the genius of Moneyball: in a cruel twist of irony, Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta struck gold, but it would ultimately lead to the demise of the sport’s romanticism. As an aside, baseball truthers: the film is telling its own isolated story. It’s not the film’s job to be a textbook. As I was saying, the moment when computers could process sabermetrics, the sport’s beauty was forever compromised.

In fairness, if I force myself to take personal inventory and avert from excuses, baseball solely becomes just a great concept due to my lack of appreciation of the moment. I’m always thinking about how great something is going to be days, weeks, months, and years down the line. When the time comes, though, the moment never fulfills me, and then I’m off hyping myself up about what’s coming up. For instance, during the fall, I look forward to the summer. During the summer, I look forward to the fall. Do you know why so many of the things I look forward to never live up to my self-promoted hype? Loneliness. Because when push comes to shove, I find that much of my free leisure time consists of me being worked up over the fact that I’m not doing anything fun, exciting, or worthwhile. This is why I resort to watching new films all the time. Logging things on Letterboxd is the closest thing I have as “important,” and not watching a baseball game. Ultimately, baseball is hollow without the aspect of personal bonding.

This took an unforeseen melancholy turn, but these feelings have become inseparable from baseball. I hate that my personal bullshit gets in the way of enjoying simple things. In reality, I am low-key. I’m content with spending my free time entertaining myself alone. However, there has to be an inexplicable voice inside me that says that I am wasting precious time. I start caring about what other people are doing. So-and-so hangs out often, and so-and-so habitually travels. I’m sitting here like a lump watching a movie that I will most likely never converse about with anyone in my life.

As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted by my obnoxious angst and insecurities, baseball never follow through with its great idea. The glossy depiction of baseball through its idea sucks me in every year, even right now, as I actively deconstruct the unsatisfactory feelings of the sport. I will watch highlights of an old game on YouTube in February and March, but by the 5th inning of opening day, I wish I was doing just about anything else besides watching baseball. From there on out, I continue my relentless spree of watching movies. It feels like it’s all I do, and yet it still always seems as if I’m never watching enough. All in all, why can’t you deliver on your promise, baseball?

It is stimulating to say the least when I read these passages that were written in a fragile mental state. Currently writing this section from the perspective of three days removed and in a clearer state of mind, I can’t imagine anything above is substantive or coherent at any level. But, in any instance, I think I have found a rational solution to end this session of proverbially banging my head against the wall. Maybe I just…don’t really like baseball that much. Stick to watching Don Siegel movies over the summer instead.

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