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Life Arts    H4'ed 6/11/15

Loving the glorious relic that is baseball

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Message Allan Goldstein
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Willie Mays and fans at the Polo Grounds NYC
Willie Mays and fans at the Polo Grounds NYC
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seball is showing its age. And when you get old, you slow down.

This, apparently, is a problem. The kids aren't watching, baseball needs to get young again, hip and fast.

The new commissioner has a plan to speed things up. Put a timer on the pitchers, make the batter stay in the box, maybe even--oh, blasphemy!--cut out a few commercials between innings.

I wouldn't mind a little less dawdling, and anything that reduces my exposure to shysters hawking mesothelioma lawsuits would be welcome.

But you can't put a hundred-year-old man on a treadmill and expect him to turn into Justin Bieber. I don't think we'll get kids interested in the grand old game by shaving a few pounds of fat off nine innings.

No, baseball is a game you fall in love with, or you don't. It happens when you're five and daddy takes you out to play catch. It happens when you're a 75-year-old widow looking to fill your empty nights. You see them all around AT&T park, wearing Giants hats and big orange shawls over puffy down coats, keeping score.

When a guy is in love he's kind of goofy about it. All attempts at explaining it are futile, even trying can make you look foolish. But love makes you want to shout it from the rooftops. So here goes nothing.

Why do I love this timeless game? Baseball in the 21st century is pretty much the same as baseball in the 19th century. I don't see a thing wrong with that. It's an antiquated game, played by eternal youth. It's old geezers, legends in their 80's and 90's, coming to Cooperstown year after year, with all their marbles and more stories than Dostoyevsky.

Baseball has a low jackass quotient. You don't have to be a genius to be a big leaguer, but you almost can't be an idiot. A thousand bus rides in the bushes gives you maturity, and humility too. And, like real life, you're not done at 30. Sometimes, you're just getting started.

I love baseball because it's the most difficult game in the world. I think I can prove that bold statement.

I can catch a football. Give me a few tries and I'll make a free throw. I can kick the soccer ball into the net. I can do none of those things at a professional level, but I can do them and so can you. But I cannot hit a home run. Not if my mother was pitching.

Let's try another baseball skill. Find a flat field somewhere. Put down a square of cardboard and pace off sixty feet, six inches. Now throw a strike.

Good luck. You're going to need it. We've all seen the celebrities try to do it when they throw out the first pitch.

And, speaking of reasons I love baseball: the first pitch. What other sport does that? "And now, to knock down the first quarterback, ladies and gentlemen, welcome Miley Cyrus!"

A baseball love is not unrequited. Baseball will love you back. It's there for you, every day, on TV, radio and app, for six months or more. You can go to a baseball game. You can get tickets and it won't put a dent in your FICO score.

I don't think baseball's slippage in popularity has much to do with the length of the games. I think it's all about tension.

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San Francisco based columnist, author, gym rat and novelist. My book, "The Confessions of a Catnip Junkie" is the best memoir ever written by a cat. Available on Amazon.com, or wherever fine literature is sold with no sales tax collected. For (more...)
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