Monday, March 14, 2011

Play Ball!

I've spent every other night this week freezing my butt off at baseball games. My son (10) is playing little league, so we've been attending his preseason tournament. (Game is starting; he's on the bench as I write this. Go Pirates!) This is about the only way you'll catch me watching a baseball game.

I also watched the World Series this year- no wait, wrong sport- we watched the Super Bowl this year, at my in-laws' house. (What in the world were they wearing at half-time? It was cool to see Slash rising up onto the stage, though.) It was a very momentous occasion, for it was the first ever, and probably the last, Superbowl I've watched.

I don't dislike sports. (Oh no, my son just missed a long fly to left field, and the other team, the Nationals, scored two runs.) I played in the student-vs-faculty softball game last year, and in the student-vs-faculty volleyball game this past fall. I've got the scar on my nose to prove it! I like to play sports; I just don't like to watch them.

(Bottom of the 1st: 3-0 'Nats' in the lead.) I've never comprehended the appeal of watching someone else have fun. Let's compare: the fan is sitting on a hard, wooden/metal bench, often in less-than-ideal temperatures. (Yes! First run of the game for the Pirates! Way to go, kids.) The Player, on the other hand, is running around, part of a team, enjoying the sunshine if warm, warming up through activity if cool, confronting and surmounting challenges. It just seems like that's a better deal to me. I don't see the fun in sitting on an uncomfortable bench for a couple of hours watching other people run around and play.

(Top of the 2nd inning done: 3-2 Nats in the lead.) Think about this: when you were a little kid and had recess, one of the most horrible punishments available was sitting on the bench beside the teacher watching the other kids play. That was absolutely cruel and inhumane torture. (No! NO! Argh! Nationals just turned a single into homerun through a series of Pirate errors!) How dare they prevent your from playing with your friends! Can you even imagine a kid sitting on the bench beside the teacher, watching recess: "Come on, Bobby, go for the jungle gym. Yeah, yeah! Swing, Susie, Swing! Run for it, Johnny! Oh no, Smelly Johnson tagged him! It's ok, next time, Johnny. Way to go, 4th grade, way to go! Whoop, whoop! Hey Teach, can you get me a Dodger Dog?" He'd be in the counselor's office for the rest of the day.

And yet, (9-2 Nats, Pirates are up to bat.) we grow up and not only do we sit on the bench and cheer for the ones playing, but we PAY for the privilege to do so! (Oh, the umpire reversed a call. Score is 8-2 Nationals.) To top that off, we don't even know the people playing. They aren't our friends, or coworkers, or family. (My boy's up to bat!
-Ouch, he struck out. He's having a rough night.) So we pay to watch people we don't even know play a game. When did this go from being punishment to a national past-time? What is the appeal of being a spectator? You get none of the glory, none of the exercise, none of the team camaraderie, although that one apparently, people grab onto anyway, despite not being on the team. (Phew! Pirates are fighting back! Top of the third: 8-7, Nats only leading by one run!)

Looking at our society, sports are a major part of it. Mostly, however, watching it, not playing it. We have a culture of spectators instead of players. (Wow! Pirates back at bat, and no runs for the Nats! Great job, boys!) Why do we prefer to sit on our collective backsides and cheer on other people being alive? Why do so many choose to pay big bucks to eat hot dogs and peanuts watching a game instead of playing one of their own? (My son just got walked to 1st base. Good eye, son! Now the bases are loaded, no outs, score is 8-9 and the Pirates are in the lead!)

Then, on top of that, we have people making their living telling the spectators what they are watching! Sports Commentators have become huge. I'm not talking about the size of their very useful rear ends. The public is sitting on the bench, watching the game. They aren't doing anything else, and they are fans of the game, presumably, so why do they need someone to explain the action? (Top of the 4th, 8-12 Pirates!)

Apparently, the public is in too poor shape to play, and too stupid to understand what they are watching. Thus we need professional players for people to live vicariously, and announcers to help explain who is winning. Whatever happened to the simple, childhood joy of just playing ball? Of getting out in the sun and being active, of playing for yourself and the joy of the game?

Game over! 10-12 Pirates WIN! Time to go home and celebrate the exciting game I just watched. I don't object to the joys of spectators; I just don't understand them. Maybe I'll try to work a sports fan into my writing, just for the challenge. And maybe my character will teach me something.

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