Clash of the Titans LVI: Is Baseball Boring?

October 26, 2007, 11:30 am; posted by
Filed under David, Debate, Erin  | No Comments

In this corner, calling baseball boring, is David!

And in this corner, disagreeing, is Erin!

Baseball revolves around 18 players, guaranteed a minimum of 3 “at-bats”. These “at-bats” comprise all of the “action” in the game. Upon leaving the “on-deck circle,” the player initiates an “at-bat” by performing a series of rituals, which include spitting, scratching, adjusting his athletic supporter, clearing his nasal passages using either digital extraction or single nostril compression, adjusting the Velcro straps on his batting gloves, rubbing dirt on his gloves, inspecting his bat, and swinging the bat several times to assure it is operating properly (no one wants to get “caught looking” at a third strike because their bat jammed).

The manager of the team then uses a series of hand gestures and body contortions to relay his “score” for the rituals to the third base coach. Once at the plate, the player has only seconds to read the score as it is relayed by the third base coach. He can then either accept the score, or call time, step out of the “batter’s box,” and begin the rituals over again in the hope of getting a better score. These ratings can account for up to 65% of his “slugging percentage,” so they are extremely helpful during “arbitration hearings.”

Once the score is settled, the “catcher” then calls for the “pitch,” using a combination of hand signals and Morse code. Due to the noise of the snoring crowd, this information is sometimes garbled, requiring a conference where the “catcher” jogs to the “mound,” while the “pitcher” stares in confusion.

“What’s a fart ball?”
“What?”
“A fart ball? I’ve never heard of that!”
“It was FAST ball! FAST ball!”
“No, dude, that was an R. An S is dot DOT dot!”

Boring as this is to watch, it often leads to the most exciting play in baseball — “the brawl.” This is not to be confused with a hockey brawl, in which people actually fight — but sometimes while the catcher and pitcher are getting their signals right, the batter falls asleep, and the catcher calls for a “brushback pitch” to wake him. He usually awakens angry and confused, and lurches onto the field, yelling unintelligibly. This awakens the crowd, which in turn awakens the players on the bench, who stumble around, groggy and puzzled, shouting and gesturing in an attempt to find out whether the game is over and, if so, who won.

Once order is restored, the batter takes a mandatory 17 pitches, is declared either out or safe, and leaves. The broadcast crew, a team of sociopaths skilled in torture, replay all 17 pitches with a computer, to show the audience what they missed while they were fixing a sandwich.

All of us have been to a basketball game. They are fast-paced, whirling dervishes of action: high scoring, adrenaline-carried affairs that, wouldn’t you know, capture the attention of millions upon millions of ADHD-leaning Americans. Much of the time, when thinking of baseball, people look instead to a sport such as basketball, and they expect baseball to be roughly the same, except with a square field, a stick and a smaller spherical projectile.

But baseball is different. It is slower, more careful, but at the same time, it contains all the enthralling moments that make sport so very addicting. It takes concentration and precision to play, and (horror of horrors!) attention and patience to watch, but these just make it even more enjoyable.

I remember the first home run I ever saw. It was at a West Michigan Whitecaps game in their old stadium outside of Grand Rapids, and I think they were playing Ludington. No, I can’t recall the player or the inning or even the final score, but knowing that one person sent the ball flying that far had a magical quality about it that demanded respect for the players and the game.

And who can deny the tee-ball culture in which so many of our youths take part — often “encouraged” by a slightly overzealous parent — which keeps them active and out of trouble, teaches them to work and play as a team, shows them to listen to worthy authority, and coaches them to improvise. All of these are parts of baseball. Though calling it “the American pastime” may be a cliché, to some degree it is quite true.

So say the children who played tee-ball in their community leagues, their city parks, or their sandlots eventually grow up and become adult baseball fans. They know the calls and the punishments, and they can shout (righteously angered) at an ump who is clearly calling the game in favor of the other team (crooked cheaters!). They can tell when a pitcher is tiring or a shortstop is oblivious or a runner without fail is going to steal third base. In short: the fans love the game. They aren’t fair-weather; they aren’t in it for the adrenaline: they are in it for the team.

Baseball is skill. Baseball is style. Baseball is patience. And as long as there are people who eat Cracker Jack, buy nosebleed seats, and take their kids to buy their first real baseball glove, when you flip through the radio channels on hot summer evenings, you will hear:

Steeeeeeeee — rike three! And he’s outta there!

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