Sunday, April 25, 2010

What baseball is

Baseball is the perfection of a 9o-foot baseline, the 60 1/2-foot distance between rubber and plate and the symmetry of a diamond, all mocking the imperfection of those who attempt to conquer the geometry.

It is the wonderful, delicious overdose of green that intoxicates our eyes and soothes our life-worn souls upon entering the stadium; the unmistakable and riveting crack of bat on ball; the smell of a leather glove; the peaceful sensation of summer sun beating on your forehead as you lean back in your seat during the anticipatory quarter-hour between the reading of lineups and the first pitch.

Baseball is America's metaphor for existence, from our birth in spring to our workaday struggles in summer to our demise in fall; and, if you roll that way, the promise of resurrection in spring.

It is the seabirds hovering over an emptying stadium in the late-afternoon chill, waiting to pounce on the game's carrion before the cleaning crew sweeps every memory of that day's existence into oblivion.

Baseball is numbers -- the absolute need to have them and the absolute need to ignore them.

It is a card game of "casino" in the Latin quarter of the clubhouse; the wonderful and nauseating uncertainty of a one-run lead in the ninth; the balletic beauty of a diving catch; the endearing optimism of a child with glove in hand waiting for a foul ball; the eight-dollar beer you cannot do without.

It is the debate and the commentary and the game story and the box score and the announcer's call. Good lord, how Buck and Greenwald and Scully have made us weep.

Baseball is the stifle of August at Busch and the numbness of Wrigley in April; the can't-miss prospect in the minors who almost always misses; the joy of those tickets resting on the dining room table awaiting tomorrow; the three seconds of orgasmic joy or paralytic panic, depending on your hometown, as the home run ball soars toward its final destination.

Most of all, baseball is a friend whose loss we could not abide.