Why we need baseball in these trying times - Michael's essay
These troubled days, it's dangerous for an old guy in a trench coat to spend too much time staring at school kids in a playground. They had brought their mitts and a bat to school hoping they might get in a little practice even if it was close to freezing. These are true fans. They are not even teenagers yet and they have found their game. I would wager heavily that their fathers, perhaps even their grandfathers, play catch with them. I still do with my sons, now all grown up.
Early spring when the teams head north, is the time when diehard and even occasional fans begin thinking about the coming summer. It is also the time when baseball writers, novelists, poets, and winter-wearied political reporters begin to craft eloquent prose about spring, renewal and baseball as a metaphor for life. Some of it is good, some is pure cheese, little of it memorable. Which will bring out the baseball haters who say the game is slow, dull, boring. To which I say - hooray! Every once in awhile we could do with a little slow, dull, boring.
Terror attacks, weather from hell, bubble gum movies, suicide bombers, a stalled economy, hyperactive media, Donald Trump, Rob Ford, voicemail, world tensions - things we trust, generally falling apart. Boring old baseball represents relief, a retreat from a world too much with us. A baseball game can shift our attention and freeze it for a moment in a way no other sport can. It can, as the late commissioner Bart Giamatti wrote, slow down time even capture it. "Keep hitting," he said, "keep the rally going and you have defeated time."
Yes, I know all about how big money and drugs have despoiled the essence of the game. I know it is a business like any other where owners want to make healthy profits. I realize all that. But when you see ten and twelve-year old boys and girls playing a ball and bat game that hasn't changed much in a hundred and fifty years, old loyalties get dusted off, old rivalries take on new life.
We may be in the bleachers watching grownups play a child's game, but in our heads we are all back in the playground in the spring of our lives.
Click 'listen' above to hear Michael's essay.