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Savoring the Game

I wrote this in 2010, and I think it's quite good if I say so myself. Next week we'll take a look at the final games of the season and try to gauge post-season possibilities.

How do you think about the game? I don’t mean any particular game, so I guess I should say, “How do you think about The Game?” The Big Picture. The Long View. Not one season, or one game, or one player, or one team. As a German philosopher might put it, Das Ding an Sich sebst (The Thing in Itself)

If you’re new to being a baseball fan, it means being comprehensive in your views, and catholic (small “c”) in your tastes. It means that you appreciate a well-played game, a good pitch, a solid at-bat, a nice play in the field or on the base paths. It is not unlike being a connoisseur of wine, or a gourmet, or an aficionado of the opera or symphony. An appreciation and understanding of the finer points will enhance your enjoyment and enrich your experience.

None of this might be news to you if you’re a baseball fan such as I’ve described. A few years ago there was an advertising campaign by Major League Baseball to get fans of teams not in the post-season to take interest, to watch, to boost, of course, the ratings. In the middle of the last century, many teams were long out of the running by August, and attendance at most parks would dwindle and slow, especially once school began. Yet, when the World Series finally began, the nation as a whole would come to a virtual stop for a week or so as that year’s Champion would be crowned. Today, while the post-season games are nationally broadcast, and the World Series is a major media event, it must compete with many other sports and entertainment vehicles that in some respects it does get left to the true fans. The good news is there are lots of true fans.

You get that way by appreciating the great players, and the great plays. As a boy I got to see some truly bad Philadelphia Phillies teams with great players in their dotage or forgettable players in their unfortunate primes. Yet I got hooked, and in part because I would go to see Willie Mays make an unbelievable catch in the cavernous, 442-foot center field at Connie Mack Stadium, or see Hank Aaron hit a grand slam over the roof in left field, or see Stan Musial drill doubles off the Tin Monster in right field. They were virtuosos of their craft, and when my mother would take me to the Academy of Music to see Isaac Stern or Arthur Rubinstein, I recognized that same greatness in a different field of endeavor. An appreciation of the best performances enriches our lives, no matter the activity.

So no matter how your team is doing, whether they’re in the thick of it or woebegone, there are pleasures in our enjoyment of the Game that are to be anticipated, savored, and treasured.

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