15 June 2008

Major League Baseball is something of an anomaly in American sports. It is by far the most pastoral of games. This has obvious roots in the summer time game being played in fields when the ground was not rock hard, but goes beyond that.

Sports like football and basketball, which are the only other two that actually matter here (hockey used to but the NHL shot itself in the foot again and again and again…), are by far more physical. If you ever jogged to meet a pass in football you would be met by a safety that will drive his shoulder through your chest cavity. Basketball, as much of a non-contact sport as it is supposed to be, takes incredible strength to block out the other team on rebounds and band with jumping bodies as they drive toward the lane. Yes, baseball players run toward grounders and after fly balls, but apart from an occasional collision with a wall, the sport is quite contact free and includes an awful lot of standing around.

There is nothing wrong with baseball. The sport is part of the national landscape. The stands are still filled with fanatics who might harm another human being for Yankees tickets, but the game itself is more complex of a fascination than any other game. The fields are all different shapes and sizes. We may not have the ruins of Greece, the overpowering palaces of Louis XIV, or even the historic Globe Theatre of London, but we have our ballparks.

The Red Sox play with the Green Monster in left field because the park was built in an extremely confined space. The ingenuity that went into designing one of the most recognizable parks in the league is amazing. The Green Monster sits 310 feet from home plate and center field extends to 420 feet because of the odd geometry of the park. Half the reason many go to the park at sometime in their lifetime is to go a classic American structure.

Wrigley Field is not as much an oddity as Fenway, but the field itself is noted for its ivy covered outfield wall and its basket making that deep shot just that much more likely to go out of the park. It also discourages outfielders from running and jumping into the brick wall. Cubs tickets are purchased as much for the game as for the experience. The field evokes an escape to years before when people think of things as being less complicated (even though in reality they were…got to love nostalgia), from the small seats to the trough in the men’s room.

The game of baseball offers Americans and fans all over the world a chance to relax with play that is much skill play as much as it is a display of athletic prowess. Baseball builds slowly through the hot summers giving fans a chance to relax and remain competitive at the same time. Things begin to heat up in the fall as the few teams that are worthy advance closer to the World Series. This also allows things to cool off at parks where teams are out of it, of course then they have football season to keep them preoccupied.

- Guest written by David

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