Gauntlet Sportspinions

By Derek Neumeier

Baseball is a game for the brave–or rock stars, if you take into account the drugs. There are few other major North American sports–except, maybe, boxing, if that is still considered as such–that pitch its heroes so lonesomely into individual battle with one another.

The batter risks taking an errant, sometimes intentional pitch to the body or, devastatingly, to the head. The pitcher is at risk of nearly the same thing, because the ball is even more unpredictable coming off the bat, not to mention that his follow-through can mean he has his back turned at the critical moment. It takes balls to play this game and some serious cojones too.

Baseball has a hero for everyone. Contrary to my friends’ beliefs that I flock to money like that ugliest pigeon in the world does to bread crumbs underneath the Eiffel Tower, my favourite is not A-Rod. It’s Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett. No, this isn’t because he was the only Major League pitcher to win twenty games this season. And no, it isn’t because he performed a fucking miracle and pitched both games three and six with a meagre three days rest between, to help the Marlins win the World Series in 2003, at only 23 years of age. It’s because of an article I read the following summer in a magazine that I won’t admit to reading. The article related a story from his days of high school baseball where a dad from the opposition apparently forgot his copy of Plato’s Republic–and thus his sense of justice–and stood behind the backstop calling out the pitch that was coming. The pitcher receives a signal from the catcher which the batter can’t see, but as long as the dad knew the signals, he would be able to easily determine what pitch was to be thrown. Nobody did anything, so Beckett took that matter into his own hands. Instead of throwing the pitch that was called by both the catcher and the asshole in attendance, he sped the ball into the backstop right in front of the guy’s face. I can’t remember if the story mentioned whether or not the man peed himself, but he definitely wasn’t flouting the game’s honesty anymore. That move required the same type of confidence and skill usually credited to Kanye West on Kanye West albums. Though, if Beckett missed, he would have looked absolutely ridiculous.

The principal gripe I hear is that baseball, although fun to play, is boring to watch. When someone says this to me, I know they have never given it a chance. The beauty of baseball is that, even if it threatens to lull you to sleep, you know it has something in store. Perhaps the preposterously ponderous people preaching such a pernickety point don’t realize they are perched on the precipice of perceiving a piece of physical poetry performed with the same perfect precision as peanuts and popcorn are peddled in the park. And yes, I know that the magazine I refused to name earlier would fit in that sentence. You never know when a ball game will get weird.

Truthfully, the reason I like baseball is that it allows me time to sit and contemplate things without stressing out. The action crops up in time to keep me from dropping too far into my worries, where I fret about acquiring the money for the new Mikhail Bulgakov novel. Yes, I realize that he died in 1940, but Penguin Classics is reissuing a couple of his books. Not all of us can be that concerned with Halo 3. When it comes to baseball, playing is conducive to drinking and watching to thinking.

This cigarette has left an awful taste in my mouth. I’m off to kill it with some Big League Chew.

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