A playful utopia
“Baseball is a harbor, a seclusion from failure that really matters, a playful utopia in which virtuosity can be savored to the third decimal place of a batting average.”
— Mark Kramer
“Baseball is reassuring. It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.”
— Sharon Olds
To borrow the phrasing of Tolstoy’s famous quote about families, it’s my impression that football fans are all alike, but each baseball fan loves baseball in his or her own way. Some, such as my older son, have an encyclopedic knowledge of the game, its history, and its endless statistics, coupled with cherished memories of years spent playing the game. Some, such as my husband, also have fond memories of years of playing, but are more focused on baseball in the present moment, watching when possible, checking scores daily when other priorities prevail.
Others such as my mother and I love the game for reasons we can’t quite define. We don’t completely understand it, or even know all that much about it, compared to the die-hard fans, and we don’t follow many teams. But loyalty to our home team (the Atlanta Braves) and the many human stories behind the amazing plays draw us in, and the cracking of the bats in springtime is music in our ears.
I divide my time between far too many interests and obligations, so most of my fascinations wax and wane, going dormant for long stretches of time, obscured by distractions that are more important or urgent. Baseball is no exception. But for me, there’s nothing quite like walking into a baseball stadium and seeing the field stretched out beneath me, promising an evening when the clock is strangely suspended in a contest that could theoretically go on forever. No matter how long I’ve been away from the game, the magic is always there.
Though I mostly forsake baseball nowadays for things that rightly take precedence in my life, my deep love for it never quite leaves me. As Olds so perfectly describes, baseball banishes my larger anxieties by taking me briefly to a parallel universe that feels as reliable as the sunset, as old as America and as young as every springtime.