Friday, February 18, 2011

What a Game!

If there has been one constant in my argument about why I don’t care that the football team I root for is from out of state, it’s that football is not my favorite sport; baseball is.  (Other arguments for me not caring include: Football is only played on weekends, and if I had to, I could go over to Green Bay for every home game, excluding those games in the Gold Package, ‘cause we can’t get tickets to those, stupid Milwaukeeans. And that I have maintained a vehement dislike for the rest of the state, not Green Bay.)  For those of you, then, who argue that I cannot be a Packers fan and a Twins fan, the biggest flaw in that argument is that I was a Twins fan even before I was a Packers fan.  Question that loyalty if you must, but the Twins were my first team.
But baseball just makes more sense to me as a game than most other sports.  Of all the major sports in this country, it’s the only one in which A) both teams are not entirely on the field at the same time, and B) game play isn’t primarily back and forth across one playing surface.  It’s also the only sport in which there is no game clock, because the game isn’t over until the last out has been recorded.  I have rarely ever been convinced to leave a baseball game early, which is to say, I’m not sure I have left a ball game early since before I even understood what was going on in the game.
What strikes me as the difference between baseball and a sport like football is how for me the latter makes you feel as if you can practically will your team to victory by screaming harder at them.  The guys who are bigger and stronger will usually win, because in large part it’s a game of brute force.  And the fans become part of that force.  But just as baseball is a thinking man’s game, I find that the teams with the smarter crowds are often those who win.  And no doubt, Minnesota fans are very smart.  (Not like those stupid Johnny-come-lately’s in Anaheim.)  Baseball fans want to be able to out-think their opponents fans, because there’s so much that’s a part of the game which wouldn’t seem inherent to just watching the given men in that position on that surface.  “So that guy standing over there wants to run in a circle before the other team can do what?  Tag him with the white thing?  And why does that guy in the middle keep throwing?”
And so if they can out-think their opponents fans, so can their team.  This feeds directly in to why it’s such a superstitious sport.  In 162 games, a lot can happen.  And there are so many individual acts that can go so differently with such minute differences.  Didn’t one of the Rangers relief pitchers throw eleven balls in a row at one point during the World Series?  And the same can be said for a batter in a slump.  It’s almost never a matter of just willing yourself to win.  More than just about any other sport, it’s about concentration.
My biggest pet peeve in athletics as a whole, is a lack of concentration, both in others and in myself.  When I’m playing disc and I make a poor decision on a throw, I dislike that way more than if I simply cannot jump high enough or run fast enough to keep up with the player I’m defending.  Since baseball, then, takes more concentration than any other sport, that’s why I see it as the hardest to win at.  You have to better your opponent in so many different things, over such a long stretch of time, without losing your edge.  A division championship is hard enough to get.  Playoffs are even more ridiculous.  But the Twins just signed Jim Thome to another contract, about 1 mil per year.  This guy is an old-fashioned ball player, and someone you want on your team.  He’s only paid to do one thing: hit the ball and hit it far.  But if he can do that as well as anyone, we’ve gained a big advantage.

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