Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Some (More) Peanuts and Crackerjack

Modern professional baseball players, even if they’re the sons of CFOs from Walnut Creek, California, are required to act as though they’re country boys from Analsex, Georgia, and that it’s 1933, except they don’t get to be overt racists, as Ty Cobb was. Even those with the sense not to chew tobacco strive to be seen as chewing lots of it, as witness the constant spitting and slobbering. If they are struck in the elbow by a 95-mph fastball, they are not allowed to rub the injured area, as that would be seen as unmanly, though they are allowed, under special circumstances, to bellow at the pitcher who threw it, whereupon both teams run onto the field and scowl menacingly at each other. Every couple of seasons or so, someone throws an actual punch.

In football and basketball, a player who’s done something marvellous will pound his chest and roar exultantly.  In football, he may even perform a little dance routine. Baseball, though, can’t abide an ungracious winner. Should a baserunner for a team with a five-run lead in the top of the ninth inning attempt to steal a base, for instance, the other team’s feelings will be so grievously bruised as to inspire them to run en masse onto the field, scowling censoriously. 

I would venture to guess that Donald Trump is favoured by a far higher percentage of professional baseball players than basketball or football players. I suspect, further, that the incidence of professed Christian piety is far higher in baseball. A batter who hits a home run is pretty much required to point gratefully heavenward as he rounds third base, acknowledging the role of The Lord Thy God in his wonderful feat.

I could never believe in a God who has the bandwidth to help a ball player hit a home run, but not to eradicate childhood leukemia or birth defects.

I grew up loving the Los Angeles Dodgers, and, upon my return to Los Angeles in 2013, resumed being a fan, as I remained last year. I looked at the team’s roster on line last night, and saw that around two-thirds of the team was different from last season. How, in this age of free agency, is one supposed to make an emotional connection with a team that’s barely recognisable from one season to the next?

Though baseball is the only one of the four major team sports (hockey’s the fourth) in which the players are encouraged to touch each other’s asses, I would venture to guess that it has by far the highest incidence of homophobia. When a team wins dramatically — as in the case of a walkoff (that is, game-ending) home run — all the players are expected to run on to the field and simulate jubilation in a highly prescribed way. Those in the eye of the storm must jostle the author of the home run roughly — manfully! — as he crosses home plate. Those on the periphery must content themselves with jumping up and down like little girls who’ve just glimpsed the pony they were given for Xmas. If a high school debate team were to behave similarly at the end of a debate, every last jock and auto shop major in the audience would reflexively growl, “Faggots!”

This might amuse you. Indeed, it is almost certain to do so!

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