Twelve long years. That’s how long it’s been since I’ve followed baseball seriously.
Even though I was born and raised in Indiana, baseball was my favorite sport for most of my youth. It was the sport at which my dad played and excelled. I didn’t own a basketball hoop yet, so it was the sport I played the most. Every year, my parents bought me more and more books about America’s Pastime. If it had to do with baseball, I soaked it up like a sponge.
Cooperstown was the first Hall of Fame my parents ever took me to visit. Just in case you were wondering how obsessed I was, I saved the bag from the bookstore that held my mementos from the day.
I was the annoying kid on the block that knew all the stats. Whether it was playing, watching, or studying, I was obsessed with the sport.
Then, something happened. Well, actually, a few things:
First, I realized that the Cubs would probably never be good.
Secondly, and more importantly, I outgrew it.
When I turned 13, I entered Junior High, and my school didn’t have a baseball team. In order to continue to pursue baseball, my parents would’ve had to pay a lot of money to get me onto one of those travel teams. Since I could play soccer and basketball for free, baseball ended up taking a backseat.
My parents bought me a basketball hoop, sent me to basketball and soccer camps, and the rest was history.
As I grew older, I started to becoming antagonistic towards baseball.
It’s too slow.
It’s unfair when the Yankees and Red Sox can spend so much more than everyone.
It’s unfair that the Cubs will never be good.
Etc… (every cliche imaginable)
I lost track of everything that made me love the game. Until this past Saturday.
If you know anything about me, you know that I absolutely love the game of basketball – especially the NBA. I am constantly crusading for people to “give the NBA a chance.”
I have especially spent a ton of time trying to convince one of my friends, Ari Kaufman (co-editor for MSF), of the beauties of the game. Finally, during this past June, he somewhat begrudgingly admitted that the NBA was in a much better place than it has been for years. Dirk and the Mavericks broke through, LeBron lost, and beautiful, team-oriented basketball was showcased for two straight months. While he still likes the college game more, he eventually came around…a little.
Meanwhile, Ari started chipping away at my disinterest in baseball. I decided since he was so patient with me, I would humor him a little bit and pretend to be interested in baseball again. I even started participating in MSF’s Trivia Challenge and listening to all of the podcasts – which I actually enjoyed quite a bit. Finally, he convinced me to attend a game with him.
We arrived a Jacobs Field on Saturday just in time to watch the Indians battle it out against the Blue Jays. I’m not a die-hard Indians fan like Ari, but considering my wife is from Cleveland, I have sort of “adopted” them as my American League team.
I went to the game, expecting to argue with Ari about why basketball (and football…and soccer…and maybe even hockey for that matter) were far superior sports. I never in a million years expected to fall in love with the game again.
Maybe you are like me and have lost a little bit of your love for the game. Maybe you think the game is too slow and boring. Maybe you are sick of the horrible umpiring. Maybe you lost interest because you had to stop playing like I did. Maybe you think that steroids killed the game. Maybe you just think that football is better. Maybe you think all of the above, and are like me of five days ago.
Well, here are five reasons why, just maybe, you should give the sport one more chance.
1. It’s the perfect game to watch in today’s world.
For the longest time, I have been anti-baseball because it just takes too long.
“Four hours? Are you kidding me? Who has that kind of time?”
In all actuality, most games don’t take anywhere near that long. While it’s true that Yankees/Red Sox games often last for an eternity, the average baseball game lasts for only 2 hours and 53 minutes. That’s shorter than an NFL game, much shorter than an NCAA Football game, and only slightly longer than the average NBA game (Soccer games are done in less than two hours and don’t have commercials…but I understand that America will never be ready for that…unless the NFL and NBA both lock out…in which case…I have a lot to write…and you will all hate me…I’ll just move out before I run out of ellipses).
All that to say, length of time is really not a good excuse. But you were already ahead of me on that one because I can hear you saying right now, “It’s not the length, it’s the boredom! The game just seems to drag on and on!” Well, if you think about it, that’s exactly true either. More time elapses between plays on the football field than pitches on the baseball diamond. Also, there are no fifteen-minute-long halftimes to break up the flow of play.
Instead, baseball is full of several half-innings that are five to ten minutes long, followed by brief, 2 minute intermissions. You know what that is perfect for? TODAY’S WORLD!
Be honest…when was the last time you sat down to watch a sporting event without your cell-phone, laptop, or remote control (to flip channels) close by. It’s hard for me to watch five minutes of a basketball/football game without wanting to tweet about it, or see what others are saying about the game. Unfortunately, those sports happen so quickly that it’s often much too tough to watch the game intelligently and do anything else.
That’s actually the beauty of baseball. As Ari and I sat there watching the game, we were able to carry on normal conversations, make fun of Ryan Howard, tweet our thoughts to our followers, and still watch the game at the same time.
I know a lot of the old-timers out there will probably hate what I’m saying, and may disagree with most of this. They will say I’m not a true baseball fan, and possibly that people like me that represent what is wrong with our country.
But for the rest of you Americans that live everyday doing three or four things at once, baseball is the perfect sport for you.
2. Jose Bautista.
The dude is just ridiculous.
I think that Babe Ruth is the greatest baseball player of all time, and I don’t think it’s even close…the guy had more home runs than the entire rest of the American League one season. (How would you react if A-Rod hit 1400 homers this season?)
I can’t even imagine what it must have felt like to watch him in person. According to the legends, he basically beat the Cubbies by himself in the 1932 World Series when he “called his shot.” Fans of the opposing teams must have felt completely helpless when cheering against him.
Jose Bautista will never be Babe Ruth, but right now, he is causing a lot of similar feelings among fans across the American League. He’s turned into Barry Bonds of 2001, minus the suspicion of PEDs.
Bautista hit not one, but two dingers in Saturday Night’s game, and I have never seen something quite like his tenth-inning blast.
After battling back to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, Cleveland had all the momentum. The Jake was rocking and their All Star closer Chris Perez had just entered the game. All the guy had to do was get Jose Bautista out. As I sat in my seat, trying to get a sense of the emotion of the crowd, I realized something. Everyone was scared to death. I even tweeted, “Let’s be honest. Everyone around me is scared to death right now of Jose Bautista…”
Before the tweet had even been sent, the ball was in the left field bleachers.
I’ve watched a lot of baseball games in my life, but I’ve never legitimately called someone’s shot.
Bautista is just on a whole other level right now. He just set the Blue Jays record for “Most home runs in a two-year span” with 85. And oh by the way, he did that in one and a half years.
3. The fans are real, knowledgeable, and know how and when to cheer.
Anyone who has watched an NBA game recently knows that most of its fans are hypnotized by the jumbo-tron. Even in football, it’s hard not to be distracted by how your fantasy team is doing and the endlessly updating replays of other games throughout the day (I think this has something to do with the fact that most of its games are on Sunday…its like taking a drink of water out of a fire hydrant…we go six long days with no football, and then we try to suck it all in on Sundays, even though we know that there is no real way to actually process it all…it can’t be healthy).
But Saturday, I saw old men at the game holding radios to their ears and keeping their own score at their seat. Did I feel a slight urge to make fun of them? NO!!!! It was awesome! Baseball fans, especially those in Cleveland, are one of a kind. How many other sports can you say the following about:
So yeah, there’s this crazy guy that has gone to like 24,000 straight home games and he brings a drum to every single game and beats it to death during every big moment as the entire rest of the 27,000 people in the crowd clap along with him and get in the head of the opposing pitcher in the most important moments of the game!
4. Nothing beats a good old-fashioned baseball announcer.
Again, this one doesn’t need much explanation. Vin Scully. Ernie Harwell. Jack Buck. Bob Uecker. The Legendary Harry Caray. Besides Marv Albert calling NBA games, it simply doesn’t get any better.
5. It lends itself to the best debates.
To me, this one is my favorite. In my opinion, the best part of sports is the fact that it lends itself to conversations (read: arguing and debating) with friends. Sure, we love watching the game, but we love talking about it later just as much.
When it comes to football, most of us just quite frankly don’t understand the game enough. I mean, I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of Peyton Manning, but ask me to explain what the right guard is doing on a given play and I’m a lost cause.
Basketball is fun, but most of the arguments are settled. Jordan is the greatest. Russell was the fiercest. Shaq is the funniest. Etc… It’s so cut and dry, that writers have to create incredibly ridiculous and specific scenarios just to come up with a unique angle on something (like, say, if a guy was picking the best players of all time as a GM that was able to look at everyone’s entire career as a whole and not just pick people at their peak).
But baseball? My, the possibilities.
- How do you feel about the DH? (I think it’s fantastic.)
- Is Jeter a Top-Five Yankee of All-Time? (I say no. Ruth, Gehrig, Joe-D, Mickey, and Yogi. Jeter will have to settle for a tie for sixth with Mariano.)
- How many home runs would Griffey Jr. have hit if he stayed healthy? (He would be the “Home Run King” right now.)
- Is Ichiro incredibly overrated, underrated, or properly-rated? (Underrated. He could very well be the best hitter of All-Time, and nobody has even noticed.)
- Why do managers pull pitchers that are pitching well in order to get to a reliever with a better matchup? (I have no idea! This ticks me off more than anything. Why not send the starter back in to start the inning? You can still take him out if he gets in trouble…but if your reliever walks the first two guys, then what do you do? I hate baseball managers…)
The best part about all of the previous subjects is that the other side can be argued logically, coherently, and intelligently. If you hate the DH because it ruins the “purity” of the game, that’s a legitimate gripe. We could talk about that for days!
Look, I don’t know if I’ll ever like a sport as much as I care about basketball. But this past weekend, I gave an old love a chance, and it didn’t let me down.
If you are one of the thousands of fans across the country who has given up a little on baseball, I encourage you to give it another shot.
It’s possible that you just have just “matured” as a sports fan, and have moved on from your childish ways. But maybe, just maybe, you will revisit a little piece of your past, and rekindle a love for the sport you once had.
Give America’s Pastime one more chance. You just might like what you see.