If you like sports, America is a great place to live. There’s some sort of game going on somewhere pretty much all the time. Football has kind of taken over Baseball as “America’s Pastime”, and I’m okay with that because I love them both. I always wanted to be a wide receiver, but I wasn’t allowed to play tackle football as a kid so that never panned out. I was determined to play basketball, but hurt my back so that never panned out. And as a kid I learned to hate baseball because I couldn’t hit the ball and my own team booed me when I was up to bat because I was the automatic out (I had eye problems and couldn’t see/judge the ball very well). I even threw the bat at an umpire once for making a bad call. One of the 2 times in my life my dad really really yelled at me.
Many of my students roll their eyes when I get talking about baseball. We have this fun, ongoing banter about which is more boring to watch–soccer or baseball. Most people agree that it’s soccer. For some reason, the rest of the world loves soccer. I’ve tried. Blah. Whether you’re a fan of soccer or baseball, I think both audiences can enjoy watching the sport the more they understand it. That may be the case for every sport (especially curling…I’m hooked by the way) but it’s especially true for these two extremely patient sports. (From here on out, I’m only talking baseball. Who cares about soccer, really?)
Yes, baseball is a patient sport. It’s a chess match, where the manager has to choose which type of hitters should face the opposing pitcher, which pitcher should replace the starter and face the upcoming batters, infield and outfield shifts, etc. Patience doesn’t seem to be important in our society anymore, but it’s there if you look for it. Some of the best movies are patient–they take the time to develop and actually have depth to the story. Think Rear Window, Good Fellas, Meet Joe Black, Brazil. Often times these types of movies take a while to get into. I remember looking at the clock an hour into Good Fellas and thinking, “Oy, we’re not even half way.” The next thing I remember, the movie was over (no, I didn’t fall asleep this time) and I had a lot to think about. Patient movies. I like them.
A few years ago, I scoffed at the notion that baseball was still America’s pastime. It’s not. But it’s a better representation of what American stands for than football…or what America used to stand for. In baseball, there’s a need for all sorts of skill sets–speed, power, throwing, catching, thinking, fielding, running. Not every baseball player has to be a muscular monster, nor does each have to be a fleet-footed flier. Baseball requires a field (or at least a little open space) and requires a team. Bad team-play and weak defense will most likely lead to losing the game. There are so many opportunities for education and work in the United States (despite our crumbling educational institutions) that people from all over the world can plug in and contribute. Baseball also allows for longevity as there are many many players in their late 30′s to early 40′s. For a professional sport, that’s kind of big deal.
Unfortunately, baseball just isn’t as popular as it used to be. You have to wait for that amazing play (i.e. Dexter Fowler’s catch to save a no-hitter, the first in Rockies history!), that home run, that stolen base, that huge strike out. Football provides much more instant gratification, with the violent hit possible on every play. Don’t get me wrong, I love football, but you don’t have to be very patient to watch it. I wonder if there’s a correlation between poetry and baseball. Poetry demands patience, and when you can’t figure it out, a team! The more a reader understands the more value he/she can find in poetry. Statistics show that poetry is read by less than 8% of the population. Poetry ain’t popular in our greater culture.
I think we can call it the Steroid Era of Poetry. There is only so much poetry pie to go around (in terms of recognition, acknowledgment, accolades, and jobs) and, according to some, there are over 50,000 Americans scrapping for their crumb. In order to get noticed then, one must do little juicing–blog, critique, interview, get a degree, etc. I’m not sure the majority of those 50,000 swing a heavy bat (in terms of poetry), and it’s almost too much to sift through. Poets create good conversations, but often times it isn’t about poetry, it’s about status. Eventually, some cosmic poetic umpire is going to call a balk and the whole things will come caving in. What then? Will there be anyone to stand up amongst the rubble?