During his sermon the other night at church, our pastor, Eric, made quite an observation. He said “Baseball is boring” and he said it with me sitting in the audience. It was good I was on hand to help set him on the straight-and-narrow path of what isn’t boring (baseball) fortunately, I was on hand and (I don’t believe in ‘coincidence’) I was wearing my favorite baseball-print shirt, so I had the street-cred when setting him and a few others straight.
“Baseball is boring” he said. This from a man who sometimes plans ahead to watch…basketball.
Basketball. Is. Boring. Basketball is played on uniform wooden courts; painted rectangles augmented with a couple of painted arcs and two free-throw lines. Basketball consists of a bunch of people in shorts and ugly tank-tops jogging up-and-down the length and confines of aforementioned rectangular wood where they do the same thing over and over and over. They go down the floor, throw a large, leather ball into an orange steel hoop, retrieve said ball, go back the other direction, throw the ball into the orange steel hoop at the other end, retrieve said ball, go back down to where they just were, throw the ball back into the orange steel hoop… etcetera, etcetera, etcetera ad nauseum.
Unless of course their attempt to get the bloated leather ball into the orange steel hoop fails, in which case the other team grabs the ball and heads back to the other end of the court, to try to throw the ball back into their-end orange steel hoop, where the other team again retrieves the ball, then goes back down to where they just were, throws the ball back into the orange steel hoop again….
The only real variable here is getting the ball into the hoop or missing the hoop – in which case the trip back down the court to where they just were is expedited because a rebound of a missed shot at an orange steel hoop is quicker than having to start all over again every time someone makes a shot into the orange steel hoop requiring everyone to stop and retrieve the ball and then begin another trip back down (up? across?) the shiny rectangular floor.One key caveat here: all ‘basketball is boring’ talk needs to include ‘except for the Harlem Globetrotters.’
Baseball is not played on a court. And aside from the infield diamond portion, a baseball field is not symmetrical and is not artificially confined to painted parameters; baseball action can (literally and figuratively) cross the line at any time, hence part of its unboringness.
Tennis is yet another, similar, boring sporting example of Freudian repression.
On yet another sort of rectangular, painted line court (this one usually green, but sometimes made of red clay – pottery class, anyone?) an individual or a ‘team’ of just two uses a round racquet with a handle to strike a small, fuzzy ball over a net, where the individual or team on the other end of the court/other side of the net uses his/her/their racquet(s) to hit the ball back over the net, where the other individual/team uses its/their racquet(s) to hit the little fuzzy ball back over the net, where the other individual/team uses its/their racquet(s) to hit said fuzzy ball back over the net to the other individual/team….unless the fuzzy little ball hits outside of the painted limits of the playing surface or hits the net it is supposed to go over.
In basketball, ‘nothing but net’ is a good thing; in tennis, ‘nothing but net’ is a bad thing. Nets come in handy in a fishing boat (not boring). Baseball has no net, unless you count the screen behind home plate that keeps spectators safe from foul balls.
Even more boring than basketball or tennis is NASCAR racing. People race cars around a usually/mostly symmetrical track where, at 200 miles per hour, they drive straight for a few seconds, then start a wide, gradual left turn that culminates in going straight again for just a few seconds before they start another wide, gradual left turn that culminates in going straight again for just another few seconds before they start another wide, gradual left hand turn…
And they sometimes do this 200 times or more in a single race!
Baseball players are also noted for making mostly left hand turns, but there is a fair amount of variety in how they do it and when – plus a lot of suspense as to when they do it and strategy to how they do it – unless somebody has just hit a home run, in which case they get to circle bases laid out in a diamond formation to the cheers of the crowd.
NASCAR is high blood pressure-inducing road rage; baseball is a leisurely drive through a friendly town where people stop and wave to you when you are at a stop sign (base).
Baseball is boring? Basketball, tennis and NASCAR have all the spontaneity and unpredictability of properly operating windshield wipers.
Unless, of course, you are an inherently violent person hoping for a ‘worst case’ scenario and bodily injury. But aside from a Three Stooges short, when was the last time you saw someone actually flip over the net during a tennis match?
After the service I was explaining to Pastor Eric and a small crowd of fellow congregants the error of his ‘baseball is boring’ ways. (For the record, we all agreed to keep football out of the equation, as we all agreed football is good. Hockey wasn’t brought up, and as I currently live in New Orleans; ‘puckishness’ only comes up during Mardi Gras. Hockey is good, too.)
In Eric’s defense and still grasping to the suspect agreement of ‘baseball is boring’, our youth pastor, Erik-with-a-K, proffered up this desperate pleading for the ‘baseball is boring, basketball isn’t’ argument: “But…basketball has the slam-dunk!”
I grabbed a nearby trash can and an empty cookie package and coffee cup from the coffee area, walked back to the assembled throng, and placed the trash can on the floor in front of me, then with both hands, slam-dunked the cookie package and cup into the garbage.
“Yeah” I noted dryly, “That’s exciting.” as the crowd laughed, some nodding in agreement, and the pendulum lid of the garbage can slowly swung to a stop
In a vain, last-ditch effort to salvage his original argument, Pastor Eric (with a ‘c’) added a plaintive, “Baseball on T.V.is boring! It’s like watching bowling on t.v.!”
Sometimes desperation makes people say strange things.
Somebody in the crowd offered up that ‘In baseball, all you need to do is wait for the ball to be hit and then go to where it is and catch it’ – which couldn’t be further from the truth. As I explained to Eric-with-a-C and Erik-with-a-K, et al, baseball is a thinking person’s game; you always have to be looking ahead a few steps, taking into account all of the variables that could occur with every single pitch.
Anticipating where the ball may or may not be hit on any given pitch is a graceful and delicate art form based on the varietal factors -not the least of which of who is doing the pitching and who is doing the hitting. You also need (on every single pitch) be cognizant of what sort of pitch may be thrown, what kind of hitter is at the plate, what sort of pitch the catcher calls for, what sort of pitch the hitter might be looking for, Don’t forget to take into account how many balls and strikes the hitters has as the pitch is made; is he two strikes in the hole or is the pitcher about to walk him with a fourth ball, or is it the first pitch of the at bat? Who else is on base? How many outs are there? All of these factors and more need to be taken into account, and they all change from pitch-to-pitch, thus negating any of the ‘you just react when the ball is hit’ malarkey.
And that all happens before the pitch is even thrown or hit. The options increase exponentially from there. Every pitch in baseball is an ‘if this/then that’ flow chart; basketball, tennis and NASCAR are flat-lines on an EKG monitor. I hope that helps set the record straight. Good thing I was on hand to preach the baseball gospel.
Now as long as in future homilies Eric doesn’t come up with something crazy like ‘blog reading is boring’.
Then we’d have to have an even more serious post-sermon discussion.