It’s spring again and the cherry trees have blossomed. Like underclassmen picking the most skip-worthy of lectures or seniors looking forward to their parents’ couch after a long career of academic mediocrity, America has slowly turned its head from the blunders of winter and refocused its energy on the national pastime: baseball—or, more properly, going to baseball games. There’s really nothing better.
There’s something about a baseball game, beginning with—I don’t know—the sun, wind, the smell of the grass, ball boys in tight pants, which you just don’t get watching ten Canadians chase a rubberized disk or Shaquille O’Neal smiling goofily as he tweets from the bench. “Football has drives,” wrote sports journalist Dave Kindred, “basketball has runs … baseball has moments.”
So while many spent the winter satisfying their most base impulses with rink jobs and random dome, a few of us have sat at our computers refreshing ESPN.com over and over again, obsessing over signing bonuses, rehab progress, and the difference between VORP and WAR. In a nation where most of us would rather receive regular enemas from a veterinarian than do a little mental math, thousands of grown men spend sunny afternoons filling out sheet after sheet of diamond diagrams, recording every strike, ball, and run. If boxing is the sweet science, baseball is the awesome astrophysics. Not even Joe Buck’s condescending monotone can turn us away.
I have a theory about all of this love for baseball, and it has to do with relatability. We look at a basketball player like Lebron “I <3 New York” James or Geico spokesman Ed “Too Tall” Jones and we’re awed by their sheer physical presence. I don’t know how many of you saw the ESPN the Magazine Body Issue featuring athletes in various shades of undress, but, as a straight man with a firm belief in the explanatory powers of science, Adrian Peterson is better proof of God’s plan than any YouTube video of a man holding a banana could ever be. Baseball players, on the other hand, are more like you and me. We all have friends who look like John Kruk. We see Dustin Pedroia and think, “Yeah, I could totally take that guy in a fight.”
The boys of summer wear pajama pants all day and (as far as I know) rarely, if ever, bring loaded guns into the locker room. Feeling fat and lazy? A new study found that fifty-five percent of baseball players are overweight. Ever had an embarrassing drunken fall? David Wells once earned a spot on the 15-day disabled list after kicking a bar stool, falling down, and cutting his hand on his glass (which was presumably filled with pure ethanol). Yes, baseball players, like Sarah Palin, are just like you and me, and that’s why we love them.
On a recent sunny day, a group of about 40 intrepid Georgetowners boarded a chartered bus bound for downtown. They spent the early evening grilling and drinking smooth Keystone Light, and as the sun went down, they headed over to the park. As for the game itself, a choice showdown between the hometown disappointments formerly known as the Expos and the defending also-ran Phillies, I have no idea who won or what the score was. But one friend ended up spending the night in jail and another threw out his back. Yes, he threw out his back watching baseball. That’s how much we suffer for the national pastime.