I’ve been watching a lot of baseball lately. I was never much of a fan but something about it has grabbed me now that I’m older.
I started watching last season. It was a way to connect with my Mom who is a Braves fan. It was a way to find some grounds on which to connect with random people in my life who are fans. It was about connection.
Now that I’ve been watching for a year or so, my appreciation has deepened. There are a few things about baseball that have hooked me.
The pace means you can have a conversation or flip through a magazine or other stuff while it’s on. Not that the game is background but it’s a pace that lets the humanity of the game breathe out. There’s no breathless constant commentary. There’s often a silence broken only by the pop of the ball in the catchers mitt.
The storylines that continue from game to game and series to series are a drama amidst the larger story of success or defeat for the team. Each player has an ebb and flow to their season, their series, their game, or even their at bat. The announcers have their stories. Even the stadiums are full of history and ghosts whispering beneath the bleachers.
The strategy that exists in all the corners of the game often lies hidden. The small nod of a manager to tell a batter to swing away is like the thumbs up of a Roman emperor. The merest flinch of the base runner to tip off that he might steal is a ruse or not. A decision to let a pitcher move past 100 pitches into the 8th inning might bring the game to its knees. Everything that happens has multiple layers of meaning.
It’s the numbers, my god, the numbers.
There are layers upon layers of narrative that combined resemble something more like an epic novel than anything else.
This what I have come to love about baseball. It can be something you detest in one moment, cry at in another, and clutch to your chest in hope or despair.
I’m certainly not saying anything about baseball that hasn’t been said by much better writers than I. But, baseball has an answer for that because the story it tells each of us is unique. It can be ours alone and yet connect us to the multitude at the same time. What a bit of magic in this fractured world.