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Baseball: The Last Refuge from What Divides Us

We are all just Americans at the MLB All Star Game

by
Paula Bolyard

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July 17, 2013 - 12:00 pm
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Baseball may just be one of the last remaining apolitical spaces left in American life. Americans are divided by political party, race, religion, and culture more than any time I can remember in my lifetime, but baseball has blessedly remained a refuge, a place where everyone leaves those differences at the turnstile and simply enjoys America’s favorite pastime.

Tuesday’s All Star Game was no exception. Americans from all walks of life gathered for the annual event and immersed themselves in baseball’s time-honored traditions for a few hours.

I am a lifelong baseball fan. I grew up listening to the legendary Joe Tait calling the Indians games, beginning each game with “it’s a beautiful day for baseball!” — even during the most frigid spring games in Cleveland. My parents used to load the family into the Chevy Impala (and later the Chevette when gas prices soared) for the trip to the old Cleveland Stadium back in the days when you could buy tickets for a few bucks. Though I was still in elementary school, I still vividly recall the streakers and the near-riot during the infamous Ten Cent Beer Night game in 1974 (my dad grabbed the binoculars away from me during the streakers). I learned to keep score during long, sweaty Saturday afternoons at the stadium—a skill I would put to good use during the many years our sons played baseball (and “official scorekeeper for the Indians” remains my unrequited dream job).

Compared to other sports, with their time clocks and hurried pace, baseball is almost indulgent. There is time for long conversations, hot dog breaks, and leisurely strolls around the stadium. The traditions and rituals abound, beginning with the national anthem and proceeding through the obligatory ceremonial first pitch and 7th inning stretch. An unwritten rule of baseball etiquette dictates that political discussion only occur in hushed tones so as not to disrupt the jovial atmosphere.  When we’re at a game together, I don’t care if you’re a Republican, a Democrat, or a Socialist. As long as we’re wearing the same team colors, we are compatriots on this day.

The 2013 All Star Game kicked off with American Idol winner Candice Glover (donning a National League jersey) belting out the national anthem as a giant flag, held by members of the military, covered nearly the entire outfield. I always smile as I watch the players lined up during the song, shifting and wiggling, trying to contain some combination of energy and adrenaline rush. These grown men are just larger versions of the wiggly boys we see on the tee ball field. During Glover’s perfect performance, soldiers and veterans saluted and the crowd stood in respectful solidarity, erupting into a cheer when the soldiers made the flag wave during, “Oh say! Does that star-spangled banner yet wave?” No Republicans. No Democrats. Go America! Play ball!

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All Comments   (19)
All Comments   (19)
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as Joshua explained I'm surprised that a stay at home mom able to earn $4414 in a few weeks on the internet. did you read this web site... www.Can99.com
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
The thing about sports, whether you care or not, is that sports is one of the very last public arenas where what matters, and the only thing that matters, is how well you do what you do when you do it while competing against the people who are the best at doing what they do while people immediately near you want to take your job from you.

I can think of nowhere else in society where having to do something very difficult to do right (and in front of thousands or even millions of people) is all that matters. Imagine if that were the circumstance of public service. Or doctors doing your surgery. Or lawyers, or teachers, or ...

Baseball qua baseball doesn't matter. But young men striving and doing something very, very well does.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
"I can think of nowhere else in society where having to do something very difficult to do right (and in front of thousands or even millions of people) is all that matters."

Disagree with this as well. You see, it doesn't matter whether one fails or not, one still gets paid the millions. There is zero pressure on the established professional athlete. The absolute worst case is he costs his team a ballgame and still receives his 1,000x median-income salary. He is surely not as brave as you make him out to be is he? He is not a "soldier" engaging in "battle" and the war metaphors used when discussing players and their games is a tragedy.

I believe our current fixation on professional athletes, much like the focus we grant celebrities, is corroding our culture. Read Flaubert or Checkhov in lieu of attending a gawkfest.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
"...sports is one of the very last public arenas where what matter...is how well you do what you do when you do it..."

I most fervently disagree with this. Professional sports is generally the arena where mediocrity is awarded with multi millions. Remember that a left-handed reliever for X makes roughly 10x what a pediatric cardiovascular surgeon makes...how can we take part in such a cultural abomination? Not me.

Most sports, baseball the most prominent example, have built into player contracts the fact that the player gets paid regardless of future performance or even whether he plays again or not. Sure, that player had to have a past that supported the contract, but he is by no means thrown to the wolves as you elude.

I played for 7 years in the Minor Leagues, reach the Major League Roster for 3 of them, though never made it on the field in the regular reason. I know first hand the general feeling of contempt most players have for the fans, the general level of immorality and barbarity that occurs, and the general level of apathy most players have about the outcome of the game. Why on earth would anyone care to promote this other than fathers wishing to relive the glory days?

38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well said.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Doing business is my refuge from what divides "us." I find that as long as people are working and, while working, paying attention to their work, they don't suffer from political or racial paranoia.

I work with liberals, conservatives, blacks, whites, Indian-indians, Muslims, Christians, hispanics - everybody. My office is a cross-section of 21st century America. Mostly, we all get along. When animus exists, it's usually for personality or business reasons.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah, I remember those citizens of Buffalo who supported OJ. I mean, the guy played in their city -- how could all the evidence against him mean anything? Different sport, but it still applies.

It astonishes me that people in one city or another think that a businessman feels some sort of affinity for the people and the land where he's spotted the best opportunity for making money.

I don't get the thing for professional sports. You watch a game, you're watching a bunch of millionaires running around making money. It may be interesting to see professional athletes doing a good job, but who cares about the outcome? How do fans get these wild attachments to teams that are assembled in nothing but the self-interest of the members? I don't have anything against self-interest, but I don't get where the affection and loyalty of the fans comes from.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
FC: I think there are a variety of reasons people enjoy professional sports. Some do follow it for the celebrities, for example, those who follow Tim Tebow, though they don't really have an interest in football, or kids who make their sports "idols" into their role models.

There are others who appreciate the team spirit -- rooting for your hometown. Though Cleveland teams rarely have winning seasons in any sports, their fans are some of the most loyal. The Cleveland sports culture (like that in other cities) brings people together for the "joy of victory and the agony of defeat." The individual athletes (and salaries and venues) are secondary to that culture and feeling of community.

Still others watch for true love of the game. Avid baseball fans, for example, appreciate all the tiny nuances that can make or break a game -- the hundreds of rule variations and strategic decisions that make each game unique.

(I'm mostly in the third category, but with a good helping of the second.)
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
No way this is correct. It is from baseball that my hatred of Los Angeles springs (like everyone else I grew up with). I didn't even know what economics, politics, or con law were, and couldn't have spelled most of them. But I knew the Dodgers were Satan's team.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
You are on dangerous grounds with those Mo comments.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
I thought they were quite restrained. As a die hard Indians fan, I'm legally required to take a swipe at the Yankees anytime I get the opportunity. :)
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Mo is a saint to us. And a minister to boot.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
If you watched the Braves v. the Marlins when Greg Maddox' strike zone was the size of thimble and Livon Hernandez' strike zone was the size of a refrigerator, you don't believe that baseball doesn't divide us.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
I also remember watching the grueling inspections of Gaylord Perry's balls (and hat, and hair, and clothing) looking for "spit." But those are the kinds of divisions people leave at the ballpark (for the most part).
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
I haven't watched an MLB game since; it was clear that the League had decided that the multi-culti meme was more important than good ball. They had a story with multi-culti Miami and the Cuban defector pitcher so they weren't going to let white-bread Atlanta win that series. If you've been around ball a bit you know the home plate ump can decide who wins.

That said, and somewhat in defense of the League, which is, after all, a business, the Bobby Cox Braves in the days of Maddox, Glavin, Smoltz et. al. were boring as Hell to the casual baseball watcher. The people who watch the Playoffs and the Series think a 21-17 game is fun, just like the football fans who like 54-48 games. A real baseball fan likes 1-0 after 13.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
It seems the whining never stops when "America's Team" doesn't win every game. The Braves have at times been a good team, but they've also at times been not so good (I remember the days of Dale Murphy, when he was good but the rest of the team sucked out loud). That being said, sometimes the best players are from overseas, and sometimes the best pitchers or even the good umpires have an off day. This season started on opening day with one game finished on a strike out pitch that even the home team's announcers thought was about a foot outside and in the dirt.

The multi-culti foolishness in your comment just makes you look silly.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Just go find the video and watch that series for balls and strikes. My oldest stepson was a starting pitcher from Little League into college ball, so I've watched a LOT of balls and strikes, and I know that good pitchers work the edges of the strike zone and there is some room for judgement. All the games were bad, and the Maddox-Henandez matchup was disgusting. Greg Maddox wasn't having a bad day throwing, and yes he did ocassionally have those, he simply could get any pitch called a strike. Hernandez could have stitched the ump's forehead and it would have been called a strike. Terrible, terrible series simply manipulated by the League.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was just reacting to your conspiracy/persecution complex about baseball, and the idea that the league would somehow manipulate a series for some wider overarching racial preference. A bit ago the flavor of the month was a white Mormon kid so straight he doesn't even drink; right now it's a Cuban defector who drives a Rolls to work. Maddux was a great pitcher (the Dodgers had him for a bit at the end of his career, and he was impressive even then) and Smoltz and Glavine were good also. It may even have been a badly umpired series (I didn't watch), but I seriously doubt there was a conspiracy as you allege. And my original comment stands: the Braves are a good team with a fan base that can be very very annoying. Only thing worse is a Giants fan (if you're from LA there's the added snobbery that SF has always had towards LA). Oh, and you should go and look at that last pitch on the 1st day (I think the game was the Texas Rangers, and pretty much everyone lost their minds watching it. It happens, even more than it used to. Earlier this year the umps actually got fined for screwing up the rules so badly that it cost one team a game.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
So what are your feelings about instant replay, DWN?
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
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