BY OWEN SANBORN
I know, I know. Baseball is a boring game. It’s a game in which its most prestigious offensive forces are considered elite when they fail seven out of ten times. It’s a game in which a seventh-inning stretch is instituted to make sure that the audience is still conscious. Outside of the occasional outburst from the younger statesman, only rarely is there a showcase of athletic excellence. (Unless you count Bartolo Colon‘s gut as a showcase of athleticism at its highest form. In case you were wondering, I would certainly count it.)
It’s also a game that has no time limit, and with today’s instantly-gratified sports fan, that is a problem. Games on average last upwards of three to four hours on a daily basis and there is a firm belief amongst the media that baseball must find a way to speed itself up or cut itself short. It’s no secret that America’s (perhaps former) pastime is beginning to lose out on the millennial generation from an interest standpoint. Sports like soccer are beginning to nip at baseball’s heels with its set time limit and aesthetically pleasing game structure that allows their players to showcase an awe-inspiring array of athleticism and kick-butt video game (FIFA).
Despite all of the naysaying baseball endures from the mass media, there is a key point that many choose to neglect when they talk about baseball’s future. If you choose to focus strictly on the game being played then you are looking in the wrong spot. Why is that? Take a trip with me to Yankee Stadium…
Two years ago, I accompanied my dad to Yankee Stadium in order to watch the Yankees take on the Detroit Tigers. I went into the stadium knowing that it would be my last opportunity to see Derek Jeter, my hero — yeah, like he’s not everyone’s hero —, play in front of a home crowd. After the uncontrollable sobs came and went, I decided to soak in as much of the experience as I could.
As I marveled at the fact that I was sitting in Yankee Stadium, I began to notice the unique fan and player interaction bestowing before my very eyes. In between long tossing with a fellow teammate in front of the Yankee dugout, Jeter would smile and wave to the fans, knowing that most of them were there to see him. At the conclusion of this illustrious game of catch, Jeter turned and tossed the ball to a little girl in the stands. A lifelong memory had just been made. Do I wish I was the one making that memory instead of that little girl? No…
As the game went on, the atmosphere oozed with signature ballpark nuances. The crack of the bat, the smell of relish, that fat guy behind you that constantly yells at the umpires; everything you could possibly ever ask for. My personal favorite tradition is when Yankee fans take part in their routine “role-call” where they chant the name of every starting fielder in the first inning until that player acknowledges them. There is a special connection with baseball that is invisible yet entirely present.
By the time the game had concluded, I tallied a flock of twenty ladies ranging from ages ten to seventy-five holding signs proclaiming their love for the Yankee captain, ten near mutinies as ambitious fans attempted to recover a foul ball, and forty thousand-plus patrons croaking out Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York in unison. How could you not love this game?
The NFL may have their brash band of stars and the gut-wrenchingly addictive source of pain fun with fantasy football, but it lacks the “boys of summer” feel that baseball so strongly exhibits. Added bonus: the players do not have to collide with each other’s heads in order to provide the proper entertainment value!
Although the general consensus would have you believe that baseball is slowly deteriorating, please refrain from falling for the noise. Instead, stuff your face with a hot dog, grab a family member or friend, trade some jabs with the beer vendor and soak in the intricacies of America’s pastime. (That’s right, I said it!)
Cheers to the 2016 season and beyond!