A Passionate Defense of Our National Pastime

*The following is an essay I wrote for an online writing workshop.  The assignment was to sit down and write whatever came to your mind for 20 minutes.  The purpose was to practice overcoming writer’s block.  Nothing else mattered.  This is what I came up with…

I’ve had this argument countless times.  There is always someone that will try to convince me that I am wrong.  There is always someone that will roll their eyes at me and tell me that I’m crazy.  But no matter how much criticism I face nobody will be able to convince me otherwise.  It’s plain and simple for everyone to see:  Baseball is the greatest sport ever.

Sure, the hard hits and deep passes in football are exciting.  The dunks in the NBA can be spectacular.  The thrill of a Stanley Cup Playoff game is undeniable.  But, to me, none of these sports bring the excitement, the drama, or the history of baseball.

How many times are you laid out on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon watching a football game,  the home team is up by 2 scores with five minutes left in the game and they run the ball and try to ice the clock?  The game is essentially over at that point.  Sure, there are times when the other team can make an epic comeback and keep our hearts pounding, but in baseball the winning team doesn’t have the option to ice the clock.  No matter how much they are winning by they must continue to pitch, catch, and hit until both teams have completed 27 outs.  It is entirely possible that a team could get hot and keep a rally going for days, or even weeks.  Some might find this boring, but this is part of the excitement of baseball.  The game is never over until it’s over.

Baseball is the only sport that the defense holds the ball.  The chess match the occurs between the pitcher and hitter can sometimes provide more drama than a high school cafeteria.  If the pitcher is ineffective the manager marches out to the mound, hook in hand, and yanks him out there in front of thousands of screaming fans.  But when two pitchers are battling each other, not allowing the opposition to break through with a hit, the batters doing everything they can to close the holes in their swing until finally the pitcher makes a mistake or loses some velocity on his fastball so that he can jump on the mistake, send the crowd into an uproar and be the hero for the day.

The baseball All-Star game is the only game All-Star game worth watching.  Since baseball is largely an individual sport you can take the best players from each team, put them on another team together, and they can still perform at an exceptionally high level.  They don’t need to practice for weeks or months together to be able to perfect their craft.  They just go up there and see the ball and hit the ball.  It’s as simple as that.

Let’s face it.  Baseball is the hardest game to play.  I get it, hitting a golf ball is difficult.  But it’s on a tee.  In baseball five year olds hit off of tees, men hit 90 mph fastballs with movement.  Other people tell me that basketball is difficult.  Sure, shooting the ball over a 7 footer from 30 feet away is difficult, but if basketball is so hard how come the greatest basketball player ever couldn’t hit a curveball?

My personal reason for loving baseball more than any other sport is the one thing that every other sport shares in common.  Statistics.  No sport relies on its statistics more than baseball.  Baseball statistics are kept in such high regard that when a record is broken there is almost always an outcry for an asterisk to be included with it.  When Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run record in 1961 there was outcry among baseball traditionalists who declared that Maris’ record should include an asterisk because he broke the record in 162 games whereas Ruth set the record in just 154.  We have seen this asterisk claim numerous in the 50+ years since Maris hit 61, most of these claims are a result of outcry over the records set during the steroid era.

If I start rattling off numbers most casual baseball  fans are able to relay their significance back to me.

56. 61. 2131. 511. 755.

No other sport has the history or stories that come with the game of baseball.  Baseball is America’s national pastime for good reason.  Does baseball have big hits like football and hockey?  No.  But do you need big hits when there are guys that have the audacity to try to steal the next base?  Is baseball a fast paced game?  No.  But do you need non-stop action when you have two managers trying to outwit each in opposing dugouts?  Even football only has action once every 40 seconds, and that action rarely lasts longer than a few seconds.

You can argue with me.  You can call me names.  But no matter what you do, you cannot convince me that there is a better sport than baseball.

 

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