Baseball. Many people can’t stand to watch it, with the completely unoriginal argument – “it is just too boring”. People argue that the game isn’t exciting enough to keep their attention (at least not unless they have a few pints in them). As one of the few Canadian baseball fans out there, I feel that it is my duty to defend the sport, and help people to understand why I watch it, and explain why it is “America’s past time”.
What stands out to me as the most engaging aspect of baseball is the level of pure skill that a player needs to have to play the game. People may argue to the contrary, but it is a well established rhetorical fact that there is nothing more difficult in professional sports than trying to hit a major league fastball. As a former player (nowhere near the professional level), I can attest to the fact that when you make contact with a fastball it’s better than any feeling you’ve ever had in your life! As such, being able to watch guys like Jose Bautista or Alex Rodriguez blast a ball outside of a major league field still gives me goose bumps each time. As a side point to that, watching a pitcher like Curt Schilling or Roy Halliday paint the corners of the plate with such accuracy behind a ball that is going close to 100 mph engenders nothing less than complete and utter respect.
Another factor that compels me to watch the game on a regular basis is the anticipation involved. There is no better sports analogy used to describe a do-or-die moment than “bottom of the 9th, 2 outs, with the bases loaded”. Watching a team fall behind by four runs, and knowing that with one swing of the bat the game can be tied up keeps me on the edge of my seat every time it happens.
The sport is a mind game the whole way through. Very few understand the dynamics that occur between a hitter and pitcher (and catcher). A pitcher is making a call with every pitch he throws, and changes his style with every pitch he releases; he customizes and adapts to every hitter he faces. Likewise, a good hitter is trying to play the pitcher to his strengths. A solid hitter is not always batting pitches behind him because he can’t make proper contact with the ball – often times he is doing it to wear the pitcher down and goad him into throwing a perfect pitch down the pipe. There is no time limit that pushes a player to make a snap decision like many other sports, as everything is well planned out and strategic.
One other aspect that makes baseball so great (for now) is the lack of the instant replay. What this means is that when you get a player out, you need to be definitive. Rarely do umpires ever overturn calls – and there have been A LOT of bad ones in the history of the game. Sometimes it swings your way, sometimes it doesn’t. Most important to this fact, is that the game is slowed down or argued over the replay – the call is made, you live with it. Players and coaches will at times complain, but they are just having their voice heard. The show goes on!
The excitement in the sport is there, but you need to read between the lines. Baseball is not in your face like hockey or football, it’s precise and planned. I do have to admit that I am often more engrossed in a game once I’ve put a few drinks back, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate and fall in love with the sport every time in a sober state of mind. On the contrary, I’d rather go into a game with all of my wits – so, I can detect all of the little interactions between player-and-player, coach-and-player and fan-and-player. Love the game, or hate it – you have to appreciate it!
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