Of the many annual events on my calendar, one stands out – “Opening Day” – the day in April when professional baseball leagues begin their regular season.
Nearly all of my friends, relatives and other human beings with whom I come into regular contact are big baseball fans.
And I am not. Never have been. May never be.
For me “Opening Day” marks the beginning of my lonely season. The season when most people I spend time with in the DC area talk incessantly about baseball – and I am unable to join in.
A conversation in which I cannot participate is very difficult for me. As you may have gathered, I have opinions on all topics and like to offer them to others, whether requested to do so or not.
My unwelcome opinion is that watching baseball is both boring and tedious, two cardinal (oh, wait, isn’t that the name of a team?) sins. I prefer to watch sports that move more quickly. And have more transparent rules.
- Like college football. Every ten yards = a first down.
- And college basketball = the ball goes in the basket and the score board changes.
- Add in rowing, in which my daughter participated in high school (she was a coxswain). When the first crew boat goes over the line = that team wins the race.
- All action, speed and easy to follow.
Just as the cherry blossom trees on the mall make their annual appearance so does my early spring willingness to try to learn why I should like baseball.
Last week I recruited two of my most fervent baseball fan friends to help me to overcome my dislike of America’s Pastime.
What is it, I asked my old college pals, Martha and Paula, that makes you so hot about the sport that leaves me so cold?
Martha traces her love of baseball to her New England childhood, recalling summer afternoons in her backyard “slathered in baby oil and listening to the Red Sox on the radio.”” And years later as a Mom, Martha kept up with her teen son’s favorite team finding it “a great conversation starter when every other topic elicited mostly grunts.”
Then she tells me about how much she loves debating baseball strategy and understanding its’ legalistic complexities.
(Have I mentioned that Martha also is a lawyer?)
I have heard this many times before. Allegedly, as a lawyer, now a semi-retired one, I should find baseball fascinating because of its intricate rules.
(Can I state here, for the record, just to allay your fears, that I do have many friends who are not lawyers? Although it is not easy to have non-legal companions in DC, I work at it.)
My friend Paula, yes, also a lawyer, came to love baseball later in life.
“As an adult, the minute I started practicing law, I needed something major to distract me. Reading, my other primary form of entertainment, didn’t demand the same level of anger, joy and mastery of arcane facts.”
O.K., I get it. You don’t need to keep hitting me over the head to prove that baseball and the law share an affinity. But when I practiced communications law, as that technology rapidly changed, so did the laws and rules that went with it.
Unlike in baseball. Where nothing ever seems to move with alacrity.
Martha gets a tad testy when I complain to her about the s-l-o-w pace of a baseball game.
“Are you kidding me? Is the pace of a Mozart concerto too slow? The game is poetic. It’s a thinking person’s game.”
Ignoring the part where Martha implies I am not a thinker, I remind her that even those at baseball corporate agree with me on the pace problem.
When Major League Baseball adopted changes this February intended to speed up the games, I cheered. A new rule will require hitters (a/k/a the ones with the bats) to keep one foot in the batter’s box (self-explanatory, although I don’t really see it as a box, more of a semi-circle maybe?) between pitches with several exceptions.
And pitchers and batters will only have up to 40 seconds from the announcement of the batter’s name (how long can it take to pronounce someone’s name?) to the time the first pitch is thrown.
Will the game of baseball finally become sufficiently fast to retain my wandering attention?
Probably not, the experts say. So I throw out one last wild pitch to my pals:
“Why can’t I love baseball the way that you do?”
Martha. “Because of your constant need for speed? Maybe you just haven’t learned enough about the game to appreciate it? Or maybe you are just WRONG?”
I prefer Paula’s more measured response.
Paula: “Frankly, Nancy, I can’t explain it. You are otherwise a woman of intelligence and taste.”
Yes, Paula, I am – and I am also a good closer. Call me the Drew Storen of the essay world. (get it, Nats’ fans?)