Baseball, as it’s said, is our national pastime. It’s part of the story of America. Its history is our history. And to that end, baseball permeates beyond the lines and into our culture. From time to time here at STT, we’ll cover baseball as a social phenomenon through television, movies, music, and literature.
To leadoff the series, I thought I’d discuss one of my favorite baseball quotations.
“You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out it was the other way around all the time.”
-Jim Bouton, Ball Four (1970)
Ball Four is best known for its description of the less than glamorous side of our athletic heroes, but this line should be viewed apart from that controversy.
Bouton’s words here best capture the romanticism of the game. You quite literally grip a baseball, but the game grips you. It holds onto you. A baseball season is frequently Oscar worthy drama and Emmy worthy comedy. The characters are vivid, but also mysterious. It’s like a really long episode of Homeland.
For six months we’re hopeful, optimistic, joyful, and in love. We’re scared and beaten, depressed and anxious.
We just can’t look away.
There’s so much packed into a single game. A single inning. A single pitch.
For true fans, there isn’t anything quite like the fraction of a second between the pitcher letting go of the pitch until the batter makes contact, or doesn’t. Everything hangs in the balance. We subconsciously lean forward like we’re willing our guy to win the battle. Our reward is a satisfying “pop” or an endorphin generating “crack.”
The game has a hold over you, one that you can never really shake. It’s a microcosm of our lives. Of everything. A million tiny moments building to one amazing finish. It’s a story of coming of age and a story of growing old. It’s about love and heartbreak, pride and disappointment.
It’s just, gripping. It’s a game about everything, and we just can’t look away.