A former love rekindled with Harlequin-esque
Don't read this column
My name is Ben and I'm a recovering baseball-aholic.
I'm also a huge hypocrite, seeing as this time last year I was
professing my hatred for America's pastime in the very pages
of this fine rag... er... newspaper. But like the leaves of the
oak tree on University College Hill, I've changed.
I used to bitch about how the players are fat and lazy; how
there's no clock; how there are too many games and too many
stats; why George Steinbrenner is like Mike Illitch to the
power 50; why Bud Selig is more evil than Satan, Harry Frazee
and Stalin combined and probably a cornucopia of other complaints,
which I cannot recall due to several years of alcohol and drug
abuse. But I digress.
This summer I watched more baseball than Bill James. I was
reluctant at first, but cupid's arrow would soon find a target
and like a spurned lover trying to rekindle the passion with
an old paramour, I embraced my friend with loins burning and
arms outstretched... take that Harlequin!
What on Earth is harder than hitting a ball no bigger than
your fist with a stick no thicker than your forearm? Not only
that, but the ball is whizzing by your belt at 90 miles per
hour, hurled by a man who'd take your head off if you even
think of moving a couple of inches closer to the plate. To
test this out, go to a batting cage and try the "Danger: Fast
Pitch" as opposed to the usual "All-Over-The-Plate-I-Suck-Pitch" and
a lesson in humility will ensue.
I know from experience.
Another knock against baseball is that players are fat drunks
that chew tobacco and are over-paid. Over-paid, yes. But the
fat drunk label is totally wrong (omit David Wells). Baseball
players are closer to your "Everyday Joe" than any other professional
athlete - they cater to the fans before and after the game,
they appear to be more human than a 300 lb. lineman or a 7'
centre and they have vices just like many non-athletes. In
what other sport (other than hockey up to the '60s) do the
players smoke and drink after the game? To a lot of people,
a beer and a cigarette is something to look forward to after
a hard day of work (note: I am not promoting alcoholism and
smoking, so don't bother writing a complaint letter because
I'll only laugh at it then use it to wipe the barbecue sauce
off my face).
The personalities of baseball also get me. For every Ty Cobb
or Pacer Smith, you'll find ten Cal Ripken's or Roberto Clemente's;
people who give back to both the sport they love and to the
communities from which they were born.
Baseball is also home to some of the most memorable calls
in sporting history. One that comes to mind is "Touch 'em all,
Joe," when Joe Carter homered off Mitch Williams in the 1993
But a personal favorite is Chicago White Sox play-by-play
man Ken "The Hawk" Harellson's, "Gas, He Gone," signifying
a White Sox strike out. In a day and age when sports analogies
are getting as far-fetched as me having a threesome with Britney
and Christina, the Hawk cuts through the bullshit and gets
straight to the point.