Baseball and Apple Pie

I like baseball. I also spend a lot of time thinking about politics, which includes ruminating on what being American really means. A few years ago, I think I had a revelation about why baseball is the quintessentially American sport. Then yesterday, a friend said to me,

It was good to scull knowing someone else was on the river, or back at the boathouse, but to be on your own at the same time. It's hard to explain - rowing is, as they say, the ultimate teamsport and individualsport.

... which is exactly how I feel about baseball. The separation isn't the same from player to player, certainly; they're all on the field at the same time. But it's very much an individualist sport.

Consider: as a baseball player, everything that you do is entirely up to you. When you are at bat, it is just you, with the pitcher; when you are pitching, it is just you against the batter. When the ball is hit, it is up to a single fielder to catch and throw the ball. But at the same time, it is a team sport; if you make a perfect throw but the first baseman blows the catch, you still lose. But the catch is entirely up to him; if he screws up, the scorekeeper will issue a big E-3.

And to me, there's something very American about that. We're all on the same team; we all coöperate in various aspects of life, from families to social circles to business transactions. But at the same time, we like to feel that we're operating as individuals, succeeding or failing on our own.

Now, it's true that there are coaches and such. But they're advising you, not directly helping you; it's still up to the batter to actually hit the ball. In football, the rusher has blockers, and in basketball, your teammates can set up a pick. But in baseball, all eyes are focused at any one moment on one player, or maybe one from each team, and it's entirely up to them what happens next.

Or at least that's how I feel America was and ought to be; things are changing. I've said elsewhere (though perhaps not in writing) that I feel there's been a gradual abdication of individual responsibility over our history, but that's for another rant. But I get worried when I see baseball threatened, because it seems kind of symbolic. When Congress holds hearings to consider special regulations for Major League Baseball, something is very wrong...

<self-analysis>That came out kind of trite... but I am trying to write more, so hey. And it's probably been said better by someone like George Will, but I wouldn't really know.</self-analysis>

<sluggy>And that's it... I'm going back to bed.</sluggy>