Thursday, June 3, 2010

Loving Baseball

People ask me a lot if I love baseball - pronounce it, often, that I must love baseball - say that anyone who wrote a book on baseball would have to love it. My answer is usually awkward. Well yes, I say, I do enjoy the sport... which sounds like I'm making something up...

Football? Unhesitatingly yes, I love football. Baseball? Well, yes but...

I don't actually love a particular baseball team, or even the game itself - not in a consistent, methodical way. It's the moments in baseball that I love. The heart of a moment. Not of every single moment, perhaps, but the moments themselves. The ones we remember. Can remember.

I missed a moment last night - a moment that is breaking the hearts of Detroit Tigers fans - a team that I loved a couple years ago when they were the underdog favorites to win the World Series (but didn't).

The moment last night - there was a game, and a pitcher - Armando Galarraga - a near-perfect game, in fact - when suddenly the 27th out was called safe at first and a moment in time crashed upon the rocks. So now there's a lot of talk about how to fix the tragedy - every sportswriter in the country has an opinion - it just may be that instant replay in baseball will change for the better because of last night - the umpire who made the wrong call has been in tears, so bad he feels... there may be a way to fix it...

But then last night, there was another moment as well (thanks to Mike Lupica for spelling it out here). It was the moment that the pitcher turned to the ump who made the wrong call and - smiled at him. It was an awkward smile, followed by a pulling of the cap and a return to the mound, to finish a game that ought to have been finished already. But that smile - that grace, to react with a smile and not a shout - was a moment in time that makes baseball something else - reminds me that baseball is a game of moments, of opportunities to play above and beyond just the mechanics of the game.

All sports, I think, carry the opportunity for such moments. But baseball? Somehow, baseball has the opportunity to be full of them. And so yes, I love baseball - not every game, not a particular team... but there are moments in baseball that sparkle with magic. And I love to watch the game just in case one of those moments appears.

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