Opening Day

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.

7 Responses “Opening Day”

  1. I have to agree about Ken Burns’ documentary. I did the same thing last year to prepare for the 2009 season and my love for the game only increased.

  2. Greg says:

    I couldn’t agree more about how blah spring training is. Bring on the regular season, and go Dodgers!

  3. Marc Schneider says:

    Agree with you, JC, about the talking heads on “Baseball” except I don’t like the show as much as you. I find it a bit pretentious, especially George Will. I think Burns did great work on his shows about the Civil War and WWII, but I think “Baseball” is not as good.

  4. Donald A. Coffin says:

    I’ve been to spring training once in my life–five years ago–and enjoyed it a lot. Not because the games mattered, because they clearly don’t. Not because I was in Florida, because I really don’t like Florida. But because my wife and I got to sit in the sun for a couple of hours and see baseball played in March. Even unserious baseball. (When you live in Chicago, I grant, a lot of the available baseball is unserious, but that’s life.) Also, serendipitously, we ran into a college friend (from the 1960s, so we’re not talking last week) who just happened to be at the same game we were.

    Not serious baseball. But baseball in the sunshine in March.

    To me, the real problem is how expensive spring training baseball has become.

  5. Mary O says:

    Spring Training is great if you go and visit the teams. It doesn’t hold a lot of my attention when I’m not in AZ, but seeing both the guys who will make the team and the guys who will be working on making the team over the next years is great.

    And thanks JC for your commentary – I look forward to each one.

  6. Marc Schneider says:

    I saw the Braves last year (2009) in Orlando. Saw Jason Hayward hit a rope for a double.

  7. Alain says:

    I just started watching the series this weekend, had never seen it before, a colleague at work mentioned it to me and I really enjoyed it. I need to agree with Spring Training, although I did follow it when the games were free on Mlb.Tv. These archaic blackouts are what deter me from purchasing for the season because I can’t watch the team that I want.

    Anyways thumbs up in agreement from a fan of the game up in Canada.