I realized something about myself this spring: I don’t like Spring Training. I’ve been fooling myself that it interests me for years. It’s not that I’m opposed to Spring Training—players have to practice to get ready for the upcoming season—I just don’t like to watch it. The games don’t matter, the stats don’t matter, and the chatter about it is mostly a waste. What? His swing looks better, he’s got a new training regimen, he’s lost a bunch of weight; I don’t care. I’d rather watch a little-league game, because the outcome matters.
So this year, instead of following the exhibition games in the evening, I checked out Ken Burns’s Baseball from the library. I remember watching the series when it came on originally, and I haven’t seen it since. It is a fun documentary film that is well done. It’s not perfect, and I didn’t agree with the interpretation of some of the reported history, but it was nothing worth complaining about. Every night, I watched a little bit to satisfy my desire for baseball, but I wanted to pace myself through the spring. It was much more enjoyable than any Spring Training game that I could have followed, because the film does such a good job of focusing on the things in baseball that matter. Because the outcomes are known, the uncertainty isn’t there, but Burns is able to keep the drama alive for historic moments with interviews, images, music, and sound effects .
The only time I became annoyed with the documentary is when baseball becomes more than a game in the eyes of the participants. These metaphors for life in baseball just drive me nuts. You could only talk about baseball with your dad? See a psychiatrist. You learned about accepting failure from baseball? You weren’t looking hard enough elsewhere. Home plate is shaped like a house, and the goal of the game is to make it “home”…how beautiful? Alright, THAT’S IT!
I watch baseball because baseball is awesome. Do you need some pretentious excuse to justify devoting 3-4 hours a day watching games? I don’t. Baseball has strategy, baseball has emotion, baseball is entertainment. You don’t need any metaphors. Watch the games, watch the sub-games, and root for your team. Baseball is fun to watch, and some people like it. Let’s leave it at that and watch the games that matter. Enough talk, let’s play ball.