Sunday, October 2, 2011

Through Tommy Davis Eyes: Part II


“…All boys and many girls are born into this world with either baseball eyes or football eyes…. And there is little that parents can do about it…                       
  - Dr, Benjamin Spock, from The Unexpurgated Baby And Child Care

Or, as The Bard or some Bard said: "To kick is human, to homer is divine."

Football appeals to our inner corporate side and might even have been created by a corporate strategy team. There are four quarters, a CEO-like quarterback, 100-yard field, 10-yard first down, meeting after meeting called “huddles,” binders full of plays (strategies).

And, there's that college draft thing, where football team HR departments hire players; and thereafter their college is mentioned just about every time they introduces themselves, touch the ball, make a tackle, or just plain run out of bounds. Why should we care about which college these guys didn't graduate from after failing Introduction To Parks & Rec four times?

Baseball drives upright corporate-types nuts, which is why MLB’s own suits try and fail to straighten it out all the time. Why nine innings, when eight or ten would have been so much more sensible? Bases are ninety-feet apart, not 100. The pitcher's mound stands 60 ft. 6 inches from home plate.; that final 6 inches is perhaps the most important piece of real estate on the field, since it is the most critical part of every pitch’s path to home plate. How did we know to do that?

And, what about the fact that after the proper infield has been laid out and the correct foul line angles set, every ballpark's outfield can be different, like Central Park is different from Boston Common. Think of the magnificent Wrigley, the Fenway Monster, or the Mets’ new loony-bin, Citi Field, a homer-less child if there ever was one.

Central Park
Time is notably less significant in baseball than in football. Football’s clock is an integral part of just about every play, is constantly mentioned by announcers, and, indeed, can even decide what plays to run. Baseball has no clock, needs no clock, answers to no clock; a game meanders, players wait in the field, on deck, in the dugout and bullpen. Baseball is a game of waiting and patience, while football is frenetic; hence the work for a run…rush.

Can football’s most exciting plays, a long run or a pass for a touchdown rival the home run? Like many corporations, far too often football teams stall when nearing the goal (unlike them, teams can’t lie about this) and have to settle for a field goal. In baseball, as in life, we call that “Getting To Third Base,” which is not the real thing at all. There is no substitute for a home run, no such thing as settling for half-a homer.

We are entering a season in which two local football teams around the country will face each other in rivalries that have recurred for decades, even a century, as in the case of my own high school and its bumbling rival*. Some fans’ whole year will be made or broken by the outcome of these games. Many valiant or silly things might happen during the game on the field or in the stands. This is fine stuff as far as it goes.

But, if you were brought into this world with baseball eyes, these will be incidental events, emotionally- heightened at times to be sure, but, in the end, merely human, with only very few exceptions for miracle finishes, immaculate receptions.

October baseball and its new cousin, an MLB corporate invention if there ever was one, November baseball, is much more likely to show you something that might never have happened before and which will have no rational purpose for happening when it does, causing you to look to the heavens in search of understanding....

...Until next season...

  Ed Note: *Fordham Prep. The Xavier-Fordham Prep Thanksgiving Day rivalry began in 1883. Xavier, founded in 1847, numbers among its graduates Justice Antonin Scalia, Times sportswriter Dave Anderson, and weatherman al Roker. Nobody is sure what FP's L'il Rams do after they graduate.


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