Finally, after months of desperation and violence, it has returned.
Morning has broken! Dawn lights the sky once more! Life can begin again! Baseball’s back!
The winter months brought us basketball, a nice indoor game. They also brought us football, a not-nice, violent, outdoor game. Now the world can breathe again. Baseball slows life into a rhythm that ebbs and flows, but never overwhelms. Football fans need to find another excuse to drink beer and keep from fixing the bathroom faucet. They can no longer watch four hours of gladiators slamming into one another while a director in a booth in some faraway city drools at the thought of screaming, “Go to commercial!”
Football can be fun to watch for forty-five minutes to an hour, during which the viewers will see about five minutes of actual play, preceding about twenty-five to thirty-five minutes of commercials. They will also see, however, another five minutes of superbly conditioned, unbelievably strong, totally courageous athletes strutting, beating their chests, and dancing as if they were inhabited by Satan himself.
Our capitalistic system, one of the pillars of our society even with its abuses, demands money to bring to you and me the great programming we are privileged to see on our 435 inch television sets. We get to see, without leaving the comfort of our homes and at our choice: opera, pop music, blues, jazz, and any other sounds we enjoy; magnificent or banal comedies and dramas; and any other of a hundred different types of programming. The money to fund sports, of course, comes from commercials, but there is a time when necessary commercialization becomes pure and simple greed.
There is a time to be born, and a time to die:
A time for war, and a time for peace;
A time for profit, and a time to PLAY BALL!
In baseball that time comes at normal, built-in intervals, namely at the end of each half inning or when there is a break in the action. In football it comes whenever the man in the booth signals the referees that it is commercial time. The worst abuse comes after a touchdown. A team scores/ commercials/ attempted conversion/ commercials/ kick off, usually with no run back/ commercials/ now we play a few downs before we get more you know whats. Four hours of television to watch sixty minutes on the clock?
In baseball an almost infinite number of things can happen on each of the 300+ / – pitches in a game: a ball or a strike; a foul ball; a fly or grounder; a hit batsman; an out, a hit or an error; infield or outfield; etc. Football, on the other hand, is totally predictable. If you have watched five or more games in your entire life, you probably know whether it will be a run, a pass, or a kick.
In one game near the end of the 2015 season, on a fourth and long situation, the coach called for a fake punt with the ball being centered to a back. The back ran for about twenty yards and a first down. The announcers and fans went bonkers praising and saluting the coach as if he had brought about world peace or cured cancer. If the play had not worked, the coach probably would have been fired before the start of the third quarter.
The biggest difference between the gentle and the brutal sports occurs when a player makes a good play, and he then feels the urge to make certain everyone knows it was he, not someone else, who made it. When a player scores a touchdown, he begins a dance that indicates that he has hot coals lodged in his trousers. Can you imagine what would happen to a baseball player who made an excellent defensive catch or hit a home run if he acted that way? His next time at bat, or perhaps the second time, he would have “Rawlings” imprinted on his left ear (right ear for a left-handed batter) while the pitcher exclaimed, “Oops! Sorry it got away from me. Oh, by the way, duck!”
The gladiators who act like three year olds remind me of a Woody Guthrie children’s song:
I waked up in dry bed, Mommy, I did.
I waked up in dry bed, Daddy, come see.
I waked up in dry bed, dry feet and dry head. I am a big boy now.
We need, in my opinion, some peace and gentility in our lives after a winter of rain and wind, plus the constant question of which of the 213 Arab factions will we line up with next, and, this year, listening to a plethora of presidential candidates (one or two of whom may even be qualified to hold that office) bellowing about what they will do on their first day as chief. (Do they plan to do anything during the remaining four years other than prepare for re-election?)
April traditionally brings us the rain that engenders May’s flowers. (All right, in California it brings relief from El Nino.) It brings to Christians throughout the world the holiday of Easter, and it brings to Jews, Passover. Both of those holidays represent renewal and rebirth and both use the egg as a vital symbol. It also brings us baseball and its slower pace and gentler attitudes. (The most common number on a baseball scoreboard is the zero or “goose egg. “) For those who need it, you can rest assured, even in April there will be violence enough.
So, let us welcome back our old friend baseball, and remember the last line of the old, standard song: I’ll remember April, and I’ll smile.
One serious note for April: On April 23, 1616, a fellow from Stratford upon Avon, England died. You may have heard of him—William Shakespeare. This year will mark the 400th anniversary of his death, but if anyone who lived four centuries ago still has a profound influence on our lives and especially our language, it’s the Bard. Hope you’re resting in peace, Will.