By Duke Harten
Yes, baseball can be boring. Orchestras can be boring, too. Or superhero movies, or art exhibits, or the new video game that Chris made you buy for $59.99 because it had online co-op and sick graphics but then when you download it you’re like: thanks but no thanks, Chris.
It’s all up to the beholder, what’s boring and what isn’t. For example, I’ve undergone enough amateur stabs at Madeline Meets the Nutcracker to render me immune to the potential charm of choreographed dance. That doesn’t mean all ballet is a two-point-five hour snoozefest where you wish you’d grown up in the Great Depression so your biggest problem was how you and your siblings were going to divide one piece of fried baloney that your father (washed-up boxer Russell Crowe) had bought for you. It just means some ballet has you fretting about how best to play Pokemon Yellow Version under your blazer while your sisters flail about onstage in an abortive mimicry of Tchaikovsky’s Christmas classic.
(On the other hand, there’s very spicy stuff in Black Swan that had me second guessing my initial diagnosis of ballet, but this is a family show so let’s keep things above the belt, shall we.)
Some might say knowing a sport’s rules are enough to enjoy it. How wrong they are, O my brothers. Witness my ill-advised attempt last summer at introducing Messrs. Da Silva and Murphy to the joy of live baseball via our impromptu stop at Newport’s Cardines Field, one of the oldest ballparks in the nation. “Let’s go in for a few innings,” I said. Alejandro scoffed and coughed, tossing aside the illegal drugs he was doing at the time. (I have not changed his name here for anonymity because I believe in taking responsibility for your actions, even if those actions are smoking pot in public.) “Fuck that, dude,” he said.
It was a varsity high school game, free to the public, and eventually I convinced the boys to go in for a minute. All they did was moan about how boring the thing was, so finally I acquiesced and off we went to play ping pong at the Fastnet.
My point? Sometimes baseball is boring. Sometimes even the spectacle of a live game isn’t enough to engender American good will among the tried and true footsoldiers of the pot-smoking intelligentsia. Sometimes people just don’t like baseball. Which is fine. And look, I don’t want to invoke syllogisms or anything, but if you like sports, and baseball is a sport, then it must follow…
But all of that is preamble to the meat of the matter. Which is this: Baseball is the national pastime. Not football.
Look, football’s great. It is. It’s never boring. It’s violent, and dramatic, and I know when I had a Nokia phone my ringtone was the Monday Night Football tune same as everybody else. But football is not the national pastime. It happens just sixteen times a year (plus playoffs), and people grocery shop specifically for it every single time. That’s not a pastime—that’s a cult.
A pastime is something you can waste an afternoon doing. Lounge at the park, eat a hot dog, spend nine dollars on a brown club soda with a Coors logo. It doesn’t matter—there are 161 more of these afternoons where that came from. Smoke a joint in Newport, catch a few innings, play some ping pong. It doesn’t matter—there are 161 more of these afternoons where that came from. Sit on your couch, pound off to Black Swan during the Red Sox’ commercial break. It doesn’t matter—there are 161 more of these afternoons where that came from.
Maybe baseball is one of those things you have to know to enjoy. Like backgammon, or your hometown’s radio stations. Or maybe it’s just something you turn to when you’re like, why the fuck did they trade Jimmy Garoppolo?