America’s pastime baseball may be changing, but every March it serves as a harbinger of Spring, the smell of freshly mown lawns, and crowds of fans watching men living the dreams of little boys.
I’m not a sports fanatic. I can’t quote chapter and verse of statistics. I can’t wax poetic on baseball strategy. Truth be told, I would be hard-pressed to name more than a couple of players on my favorite team, The New York Yankees. For me, it is the occasional game at a ballpark, checking the scores periodically, often losing interest once the Yankees don’t make the playoffs.
But I still enjoy the game, even if I’m not glued to Sports Center or the Baseball Channel.
Like many things in life, my being a fan of the Yankees is a legacy passed on from my grandfather to my father to me. And like my father, I sometimes get more enjoyment out of torturing Red Sox fans than I do from a more traditional appreciation of the game.
The rivalry between these two teams is legendary. Most of the time it is played out on the field, resolved by the final score and end of season standing. Sometimes, it breaks out in bench-clearing brawls which, while immature and silly, remind us it is a game most often played by little boys.
(I know girls play sports. I know that there are likely quite a few woman who could play at the professional level. But that’s a different subject. For now, this a game played by little boys in the bodies of grown men. I also know baseball, like all pro-sports, is a business. Again another subject.)
I admit I miss the once consistent history of the baseball seasons of my youth where I could watch the Yankees in the playoffs and tease my Red Sox fans with the slightly mocking, and not the least bit consoling, “there’s always next year.”
Oh, how things have changed.
The rivalry remains. The gap between World Series won by each team is closing. Well sort of, Yankees have 27 Red Sox have 8. And I know my Red Sox fan friends will point out they have won more this century than the Yankees. True. And it is also true if the Red Sox win 19 World Series in a row, they will tie the Yankees in 2037.
Something to look forward to.
One thing baseball can do is provide a valuable lesson about the realities of life. A good season is when a team plays above .500 ball. Think about that. If a team wins just a few more games than it loses, it’s successful.
Even more dramatic with a batter. Hit consistently above .300 and you’re a star. Teams are anxious to acquire players who get a hit one out three times at bat. In other words, failure isn’t an indication of poor performance. It is the ability to persevere in the face of failure that is the mark of success.
One of the greatest players of all time, Ted Williams (see I can appreciate Red Sox achievements), had a lifetime batting average of .344. Williams didn’t get a hit more often than he did, and he is the benchmark.
Baseball is proof positive that life’s not fair. We all will fail, often as much as we succeed. The best players understand this. They must ignore failure and learn from their mistakes in pursuit of success.
Baseball is a roadmap to success in life.
In the immortal words of the great New York Yankee Existential Philosopher, Yogi Berra. “It ain’t over, ’til it’s over.”
Just like life.