November 04, 2010

Of Baseball and Bowties

On game nights, I used to be able to see Fenway Park from my apartment. The floodlights and the blimp were unmistakeable signs that Americans were playing baseball. I used to pass the ballpark on my way to work sometimes, but that was as close as I came to entering that hallowed arena. You see, despite baseball’s storied past and its penchant for the poetic, most Europeans simply don’t get it. The standard questions – I can imagine a continent getting set to roll its eyes – go like this: why are these so called athletes overweight and chewing tobacco? When does something happen? Why does the atmosphere have to be manufactured by an old woman with an organ? And what’s with the ‘World’ Series anyway? I don’t see too many non-American teams taking part.

So much for the clichés. The real reason I didn’t much take to the thing – and I have tried, mind you – is that its men didn’t strike me as being particularly worthy of emulation. The sport’s leading lights do tend to carry too much weight in the gut; the spitting is ugly; there are rumblings about drug abuse and cheating; and the game is not rich in articulate speakers. In the main, there is not a lot of obvious joy in the game, and what grim determination there is tends to be concealed beneath an arrogant nonchalance. Whereas the game itself will richly reward the devotee in its surprising complexity, the playing staff simply do not reach comparable depths.


I am always, as I have oft noted, open to change, given a convincing enough argument. It strikes me that famous sportsmen are, first and foremost, role models. When I was a child I did not want to be like my heroes; I wanted to be my heroes. Since I don’t count myself as being particularly unusual in this regard, it ought perhaps to make all parents alive to the question of who it is their children wish to be. In baseball’s recent past, are there heroes that, without qualms, we would introduce to our offspring? Well, perhaps now there might be. I was really taken by the image of Tim Lincecum arriving for the final game of the World Series besuited and bowtied. That is a most welcome change. Having done a little digging, I found he had this to say:

But who doesn't want to believe their kid is amazing? I'm going to be hoping the same thing for my kid when I get older. What better feeling can parents have than when they brag about their own kids?
So, a man with an eye on the future; a man with an eye on being the best at his job; and a man with style. Oh, and he also does Sinatra. Baseball, I’m interested.

3 comments:

  1. I've never been a big baseball fan. I'll take college basketball, thank you. :) But, I totally agree with your assessment of holding these ball players up in high esteem and the problem of this when said players are, in some cases, criminals. That's not who I want my kids to look up to. It's nice to see Mr. Tim arriving for the game in full style. Good for him!

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  2. I, also, have never liked baseball, and I am an American. But when I visited England I discovered something I like less: Cricket. Mind you, intellectually I believe cricket is a fine game, and its players worthy of the hero-worship that young men heap upon them. And as I am a fan of some other English favorites—association and rugby football—I fully expected to enjoy it. But I don't and that's okay, I think. I'm no worse for not being able to sit through a cricket match.

    My point is, maybe you were never meant to love baseball. If you can find some respect for the players, maybe that's enough.

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  3. My dear Hatchet, thank you for this. I think you take a very evenhanded view of the thing. Nevertheless, should the opportunity ever arise, I will take you to a cricket match and reveal its wonders.
    All best,
    VB

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