Friday, March 18, 2005

Why I still like Baseball.

Doesn’t it feel like ages since the Boston Red Sox won the World Series? I know it was only last October but with all the talk of steroids and congressional investigations, it is like the world has forgotten. I was lucky enough to get tickets for my dad and me for game 4 of the World Series. It was an experience I would never forget. There was a tension in the air. It was in St. Louis and all the Cardinals fans were hoping for a win to prolong the series but there was also an excitement of possibly seeing history in the making. All of us who were in Busch Stadium got to see live and in person something that has not been seen since 1918. It was amazing!

It was not long for all the good feelings that came out of the Red Sox win to quickly dissipate for me. Soon after talk about which multi-million dollar player deserved another multi-million dollar contract and which player may or may not have used steroids. Why do I like this sport of over paid, self absorbed, juiced up little boys who hit a ball with a stick?

About two weeks ago, I was on my lunch break between classes. I was sitting in my favorite Sports Bar, when on one of the big screens was a Spring Training game between the New York Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates. As much as I tried to resist I could not stop myself from watching. The sound was off but the closed captioning was on. I swear between every at bat the commentators spoke of nothing else but Jason Giambi and steroids. I hate what this scandal has done to the sport because baseball is a great sport. It is our American Pastime. This is the sport of my childhood. I can not even tell you how many games I saw the summers we had season tickets to the Kansas City Royals. I saw George Brett’s last big league game. I’ve seen a game winning walk-off grand slam in the ninth inning and a triple play, two of the rarest feats in baseball. I did go through a period of disinterest in baseball but I have always loved the game.

But why? In my lifetime, baseball has gone on strike, raised ticket prices so high that it is almost impossible to go to a game without going into debt and now the player that is about to break the most cherished record in baseball may be a cheater. As I was watching the game this question kept running through my head. Why do I keep watching? No matter what happens in baseball, I still get excited for opening day and the play-offs and then it hit me. I watch because I can relate to baseball. Baseball is basically a game of failure.

If you really think about it, what we think is a good batting average is around .300. So that means a player only gets a hit 3 out of 10 times he is at the plate and that is if the player is good. Majority of players are happy to hit around .250. In most cases, we would look at this as a failure but in baseball we reward it. We cheer it! It makes hitting a homerun even more wonderful, a Grand slam even more spectacular. When a player finally does succeed and gets a hit, it makes that hit even more significant. Personally, if I knew going into work everyday that I would only succeed 30% of the time, I do not know if I would even bother but baseball players come in each day and try.

And that is why Baseball is our American pastime. It is the American dream. If first you don’t succeed then try, try again. Just like the Brooklyn Dodgers used to say. “Wait til next year!”. In real life, we may fail more then we succeed but we continue on. If something does not work out the way we wanted it to then we try something different. Who knows, we may strike out on our first at bat but we might hit a home run on our second. There is a hope in baseball, that we will break the odds and bat in the game winning run or pitch a perfect game or hit for the cycle. That is why I keep watching. With all of baseball’s faults, I can see a little bit of myself in it. I may not be a Barry Bonds or a Curt Schilling. I probably more of a utility player that makes the league minimum but I still have a chance to do something great.

This brings me back to last October and the Boston Red Sox. They were almost out in the ALCS but rallied past the Yankees and then swept the Cardinals to win their first World Series in 87 years. It took them almost a century to achieve it but they did and in a single moment, it was like all the failures of the past just went away.