Baseball Is Life

Two Kinds of Swings

Maybe it’s because we like what’s on the receiving end of the smack to be smaller and paler, but the longer I follow baseball, the more I notice its similarities to golf. I’ve never plied a club on any course that doesn’t involve plywood on the sides of a long narrow green and aiming at the bottom of a windmill–but then I’ve never played nine innings of actual baseball, either, so I guess I’m as much of an expert on one subject as I am the other.

Perhaps the more slender profile of the baseball player lends itself more easily to golf in retirement. Players and even broadcasters seem to migrate directly from the diamond to the front nine. It is fitting that one of Joe Nuxhall’s last public acts was to participate in a charity golf game. Jockeys tend to wander this direction as well, possibly because it allows an outlet for competition while still allowing for the fact that one is, you know, ollllllllllllld. My baseball-playing grandfather, an avid Reds fan who died in his 90s, was golfing into the last year of his life, having made the sole concession of splashing out for a cart every once in a while when he felt tired.

Golf is graspable even for those of us who would sooner drink directly from the Mill Creek than sit still for eighteen whole entire holes of it. And for those who don’t grow up with the sport, baseball can be initially difficult to understand, but when compared with the absolute logistical nightmare that is football and the web of sooper-secrit passing plays that clog up basketball, baseball is relatively simple.

It’s fair to say that golf and baseball are enduringly popular both for watching and participating in this nation because they plunge the participants in the core of the American dream:  Being left alone. A culture of denial does not sit well with Americans, who hate being told what to do so much we formed our own country over it.

NFL ratings are in a freefall largely due to its foray into political commentary, an incredibly bad idea which baseball flirts with every now and then and a zone which golf has largely avoided. As matters of blue and red states creep into every aspect of life from which social media platform we use to the kinds of coffee and chicken sandwiches we consume, we just want to take in a game for 2-4 hours on a Saturday. Seeing what we wanted to get away from in the first place smugly sashaying its way onto the field tends to negate a sport’s stress-relieving abilities.

Baseball is, like golf, a game of positives. There are far more “dos” than “don’ts.” Anyone who has attained an elderly age trying to muscle through the final two minutes of any NFL game will attest to this. Stopping the game for bad behavior happens every few seconds in football; in baseball, if the umpire is up in your grill, you have screwed up, and even then your buddies will roar in from the dugout to help convince the umpire that he’s wrong for saying you were wrong. While golf at its highest levels is a regular War and Peace of do’s and don’t’s in matters of etiquette, the game itself consists, at its element, of hitting a ball with a stick.

Which sounds familiar.

36 thoughts on “Two Kinds of Swings

  1. I’ve never understood the lure of golf. It’s got to be one of the boringest sports out there. I tried to watch just a teeny tiny part of a golf match on TV a very long time ago and the announcers had to, at times, speak very softly. I’m convinced that if I had watched more than a few minutes of it I’d of fallen asleep. I mean, what is this…a sport or a lullaby? Anyway, I’m not dumping on golf, I just don’t understand the lure of it. I’m sure for some of you that’s unimaginable just like I find it unimaginable how someone don’t like baseball, football & basketball (the only 3 sports I like, in that order, bcuz they’re fun…to me. Both to play and to watch). All other sports I just find boring. Not that you asked or even care but I’m gonna tell you anyway…so gather round the fire kiddos. But, the other 2 sports I rank right up there with golf for the most boring are soccer and hockey. Those 2 sports are similar imo bcuz there’s a lot of going back and forth with very little scoring. Now, before you jump my case, I do realize that some might consider low-scoring baseball games in the same category as hockey & soccer but the difference, for me anyway, is that while some baseball games may be low-scoring, most (if not every) game of hockey & soccer are low-scoring. Car racing, BTW, is another sport that doesn’t appeal to me. It’s just a bunch of cars going around in a giant circle or oval for a seemingly endless number of hours. In my opinion (again) people have no right to complain about how long some baseball games go when NASCAR races can be just as long or longer if things go just wrong (or right… depending upon your preferences) enough. Anyway, these are indeed just my opinions and I know not everybody is gonna agree with them. Sorry if I offended anyone…wasn’t trying to. It all boils down to taste I guess. Everybody’s different.

    • I don’t think anyone will take offense to you voicing your opinion. To each his/her own when it comes to what we like as far as our sports. I love baseball and hockey, in that order. I can watch good soccer. I will watch some NCAA football or basketball from time to time but it’s pretty rare and I watch to pass time. I usually don’t have a rooting interest. Baseball is far and away my #1 love. For my father, it’s golf. He loves it. He used to be very good at it and still is fair for a guy getting ready to be 70.

  2. The science on head injuries makes football less appealing to the casual fan as well. Personally, it’s the main reason I don’t watch it anymore.

    • I still watch college football. particularly the Buckeyes. So far I’m succeeding at convincing myself that the CFB stops short of the point where the CTE threshold is endemic.

    • Sultanofswaff, I’m not a casual fan. The NFL is trying to combat the problem by eliminating head shots and the helmets are getting better and better and I think there are even concussion protocols. That’s enough for me. I realize though that there’s only so much that can be done in this area bcuz the brain just kinda floats in our heads but does that mean the sport should be outlawed…no. People love football and love to play football. There are efforts and awareness now and like I said earlier…that’s good enough for me.

        • Look at you with “informed consent” … Knew you were bright on things aside from the baseballs

          • Once upon a time for 15 years, I ran the IT system at a community care facility. Drew short straw when they were looking for a client rights officer from among the nonclinical ranks. Also had to learn about HIPAA etc

        • Jim, if everybody was so afraid of injuries or the unknown, then nobody would have any fun. Can’t live life scared. I respect your feelings on this but people are gonna have fun and not some watered down version of fun just bcuz we’re scared of some injuries.

  3. I quit watching US professional football over a decade ago and have never been more than remotely interested in golf beyond the Putt Putt variety. Now I lump the two together as the irritation that ruins 60 Minutes nearly every Sunday evening because they can’t get their games/ matches concluded by 700PM eastern time.

    They ought to take a cue from the Brits who virtually without fail run Premier League games inside a two hour window.

    • Very strict timing and extra time is really only added for injuries. That helps.

      • Look at NHL in comparison. 60 clock minutes, 2 “half times”. Numerous stoppages for face offs and sorting out penalties. Yet they fit the the game into a 3 hour window even with a full OT including shootout unless there were also multiple fighting events along the way,

  4. I am loving watching the free fall demise of ESPN, the former world wide leader in sports. Now all they are is the world wide leader in hate rhetoric. I gave up watching MLB on Sunday nights on ESPN early last year.
    And the free fall of the NFL. I won’t watch one minute of Monday Night Football on ESPN tonight or any other Monday night. The NFL and ESPN, two plummeting entities mainly because of their colossal failure at social engineering and for pushing a bankrupt social agenda.
    There aren’t two more deserving entities that deserve such plummeting ratings as the NFL and ESPN. They both deserve their death spiral falling ratings.

    • …aaaand before everyone piles on WVRedlegs for being a this and a that and whatever-whatever, let’s just remind ourselves that had the NFL and ESPN swung to the complete opposite end of the political spectrum, it would be just as bad. MBE is correct: all we wanted to do is get away from things for a while. The fact that MLB has not decided not to participate in this happy game of Let’s Alienate Over Half Of Our Fan Base only makes me love the game even more.

      Besides…we’ve got plenty of other things to argue back-and-forth about! Y’know, Pete Ro…..no, wait, MBE already discussed that… 🙂

      • Now there are some who say that the MLB is becoming political as well because it has begun establishing ties with the military; the Reds aren’t the only team who have camo uniforms and Hometown Hero moments. There are those with the opinion that this is an endorsement of right-wing politics. Personally, I think thanking troops/vets is a bipartisan thing we should all be doing, but it’s a slippery slope discussion worth having.

        • I see what you’re saying, but…A.) those who are upset by that are likely part of a perpetually unhappy lot who are looking for something to be upset about; and B.) I agree with you – actually, I’ll take it further – it’s not ‘bipartisan,’ it’s American, as the United States Armed Forces are not the Red State Militia – they serve and protect us all.

          • Yes, exactly. I think it’s insulting to leftists and Democrat-voting veterans and troops to suggests that such things are only for the right.

  5. Fantastic read as always Mary Beth… Thanks for your pieces. They often make the day a bit less stressful.

  6. I’ll watch maybe an hour or two total of NFL games in any given season up until the playoffs. Just doesn’t draw me anymore. I won’t watch 10 minutes of the NBA. College football (wife is a rabid Notre Dame fan) and basketball (I bleed Syracuse Orange) are still a draw. But, as James Earl Jones said in “Field of Dreams” …

    “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.”

    And that is why I watch our Reds and other games … because it is Baseball and as MBE has so aptly directed us … Baseball is Life!

    • College basketball was second only to baseball with me well into my adulthood. Then they changed the game from being 2x 20 minutes halves with no artificial breaks to a game of 10x 4 minute tenthers for lack of a better word. On top of that, they let the coaches hoard timeouts to the point it takes 20 minutes to play the last 2 clock minutes of a close game.

      As a result, though I’ve lived no more than 10 minutes from my alma mater’s home court for the last 20+ years I’ve attended at most a dozen games in person. I can’t recall the last time I sat thru watching a game on TV.

    • See, people just need to listen to me. Thanks for the reminder of that great FoD quote.

  7. Baseball and golf are very similar, not only do you swing a stick at a ball but the pace and rhythm are similar, and both provide a competitive atmosphere for those of us who like that. Baseball has always been my first love but after high school, I was not good enough to play anywhere, so I gravitated to softball but even there the body gives out on you, I had to give that up at 52, but golf I am hoping to play just like your grandfather. I still love watching baseball but golf is something I can continue to actually play.

      • “Golf ain’t even a sport. Anything that an 88-year-old man can whip me at…is a game!” — Tim Wilson

  8. I can understand the difficulty for some to watch golf. But if you’ve tried to play, like i have, and still am, you can appreciate just how special pro golfers are, not just physically, but mentally. I mean, it can’t be that hard to hit the golf ball straight when its just sitting there…right?! P.S. When I was young (and even a little when I was older) I played alot of baseball and so am also very impressed watching the skills of major league baseball players.

    • Golf is a tough game that takes lot of skill plus practice as well as dollars for fees. I enjoyed the many years struggle to be an average golfer along with being an intermediate skier. But all that ended many years ago when I was struck by a hit and run driver while on a bicycle. Now, as an old man, I try to get at least 20 minutes a day walking with the aid of crutches.

  9. The demise of football by the viewing public has been greatly exaggerated my dear! Viewership for the first Sunday night football telecast was several percentage points higher compared to the same 2016 SNF game. 2015 may have been a peak year and 2016 was down due to disruptions by the election, it’s cyclical.

    If politics were truly a huge issue than basketball viewing would be in sharp decline but that isn’t the case.

    Football may ultimately decline in the long long run once the overwhelming evidence of head trauma finds the light against the NFL’s attempts to bury the story but for the near term football viewership will do just fine.

    That said, always enjoy your writing…

    • Parts of it may also be regional as well. USC drew more than the Rams and Chargers combined. But I’ve followed figure skating more closely than football since grad school, so maybe I’m not the best authority here.

Comments are closed.