CHARLOTTE, NC, October 2, 2016 – Decades ago when baseball was the king of American sports, World Series games were played in the daytime in October. There was something magical about the long thin shadows of the players spreading across the carpet of green grass.
The darkness of winter would soon follow and the Hot Stove League would fill the inky days with talk of spring and the new season to follow.
No other sport parallels the day to day rhythms of our lives like baseball. Basketball was invented to keep us indoors and out of the elements. Football doesn’t get exciting until the leaves change colors and fall from the trees.
But baseball brings the promise of spring. It represents a rebirth, a fresh start that foretells of warm freshly mowed grass, summer cricket-chirping nights, hot dogs and beer.
“The game is too slow,” say the experts. “It’s no longer relevant” in our fast paced, anxious world that thrives on violence rather than the ballet of perfect double play; a runner diving head first in a cloud of dust, stretching for second base as a shortstop leaps and throws in midair to beat the batter to first by a fraction of a second.
“Too many games,” they say. “Season is just too long.”
How sad to misunderstand the poetry of a game that so perfectly reflects the cadence of our lives. Saying the baseball season is too long is like saying “life is too long.”
Baseball fans can slip in and out of the season like sliding your foot into an old slipper. Baseball is always comfortable. You can pick it up any time. Every team faces it ups and downs. There are winning streaks and losing streaks; good days, bad days and mostly days filled with some good and some bad.
A baseball season is not about any single game. Lose one game in an NFL season and it is a major defeat. Four losses in 16 games in pro football represents 25-percent of the season.
And yet, the ratio for the playoffs in football and baseball is pretty much the same. Win 90 games in baseball and you have a shot for the post-season. That’s no different than winning nine games in the NFL.
Football is a game that is planned for. It’s a social event, a tailgate party. Baseball can be a spur of the moment decision.
Truth be told, there is as much real-time action in a baseball game as there is in football. Football can be slow too, thanks to an abundance of commercials that add at least a half hour to a game.
But this is not intended as a comparison between sports. Rather it is an attempt to reflect upon the romance of a great American game which follows the seasons much like the seasons of our personal lives.
When the shadows of fall lengthen a baseball game sounds different than it does in the summer. The air is crisp. Days shorten. Balls pop into gloves with a different music than they do in summer. The crack of the bat is clean and sharp.
There is frost on the pumpkins and leaves turn to earth tones of amber and gold and rust. The season is nearing its end, but there is always that hopeful promise that spring will soon return and, in the meantime, a champion will be chosen.
In baseball, the ball has nothing to do with the score other than setting human beings into motion. It doesn’t have to fall through a hoop or cross a line. People do that. The ball is nothing more than a catalyst in baseball to get the game going.
Take away the walls of any ball park and the diamond spreads out forever. The boundaries are endless and infinite.
Baseball is a game that hearkens back to a simpler time. It’s a game that some might call an anachronism. But for the baseball purist, it is a game with its own unique rhythms that cannot be duplicated.
It is a human game played on a human scale. Short, tall, fat, thin. It does not require 7-foot giants or massive bodies to compete.
Most of all, baseball is timeless. For more than a century its rules have remained pretty much the same as they were at the beginning. There have been a few modifications along the way. But, for the most part, someone could watch the same game today that they watched 100 years ago.
October baseball is a thing of beauty that gift wraps six months of daily presents; stolen bases, diving catches, bunt singles and long home runs.
For a baseball fan, diamonds truly are forever.
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Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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