Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Perfect Game

"There's nothing wrong with a one-hitter, there, Barbie. In fact, it's miraculous. And I won't have you of all people cheapen what should be an endless pursuit of perfection just because you want the world to laugh with you tonight."
-- Dr. Cox, Season 1 Episode 12 of Scrubs "My Blind Date"

Baseball is my favorite sport. I've been told lately that I toss around the word "Favorite" a lot, but baseball really truly is my favorite. Has been since I was but a tot. For some reason it's always spoken to me on a deeper level than any other sports.

There are a lot of reasons... I'm hopelessly sentimental, and I have dozens of warm memories from my childhood that revolve around baseball. I love arguing, and there's no better sport to debate (Barry Larkin vs. Greg Maddux for 1995 MVP... GO!). I love history, and what sport has a richer, more colorful history than baseball?

Those are all big reasons for me... but maybe the biggest correlates to this gut feeling that baseball just makes sense on a cosmic level. I've stated, probably entirely unoriginally, that I believe baseball is a beautiful allegory for life in microcosm. I was discussing this recently with the Decidedly-UnBeefy Muchacha (I'm working on a cooler nickname for her), and she suggested that I get it down on pixel here in the blog. So here it is...

Baseball as Life.

Despite the claims to the contrary, life IS fair.
Everyone says that life's not fair, but I totally disagree. Life often sucks. Life is rarely balanced. When you look at life's individual moments, many of them are unfair. However, when you look at life as a whole... the WHOLE fucking thing, it all pans out exactly the way it should. I'm not saying that it's always good, because, let's be honest here... people often equate "fair" and "good for them", and that's just wrong, but it's exactly how things SHOULD be. Same with baseball. It's not a sprint, but a marathon. You NEVER see a team win the World Series without earning it. I'll use this year as an example... The Kansas City Royals and The Florida Marlins both started the season super hot. We're now about 60 games into the season and they are both currently in 4th place in their respective divisions... There are no pretenders in baseball... Sure you'll occasionally get a really weak division where a bad team makes the playoffs, but you don't see them winning.
The overall point is that Life is long like a 162 game baseball season. There are peaks and valleys, streaks and slumps... but in the end you always end up right where you should.

Everybody gets the same chance.
I said it. I know that on the surface this seems patently false. People are born in slums or mansions. People have phyisical advantages. People have genetic advantages. That's all true, and that's not at all what I'm talking about. On a spiritual level we're all given the same chance to be a good person. To make smart choices. To be upstanding. That's a pretty twee things to say... I know. I acknowledge that everyone has different obstacles in their way. I would contend, though, that everyone HAS obstacles. In baseball, these same issues arrise. Each team has the same number of innings. The same number of outs. Each batter has the same number of strikes and balls. And as with life, there are obstacles. A home team bats second. Certain ball parks are better suited to different styles of play. Some players are naturally better than others. The more important factor, though, is that every game is played by the same defined standards. It doesn't end in a tie (except for one dumb All Star game). I know if I'm going to the ball park, I'm gonna see 9 Innings. Every time.

Everyone has a style.
Earl Weaver, famous baseball manager, is associated with the game style philosophy of "Pitching, Defense, and the Three Run Homer". On the other hand Whitey Herzog won a World Series without a real power hitter (sorry Keith Hernandez fans) playing nothing but small ball. The point is, there are more ways to win than there are stars in the sky. Just like life. Some people toil and chip away and work every day of their life. Hitting singles and doubles and taking their walks and stolen bases. This works for them...they end up with a lot of successes based on small movements. Other people build up for the big score (the home run). They put all of their eggs in one basket and sometimes it works out, and when it does it's HUGE. Sometimes it doesn't, and they have nothing to fall back on.
The quote I listed at the top of this entry is from one of the best episodes of the first season of Scrubs... Dr. Cox has 27 patients on his watch, and he's trying to get through the whole night without one of them dying (likening it to a perfect game in baseball). He makes it to the very end of the shift... five minutes to go, and one does. Elliott, trying to help, wants him to just wait 5 minutes before calling the death, and he shoots her down using the beautiful words above.

For me, it more than anything, perfectly sums up why I love baseball, and why baseball and life are one and the same.

You always, in life as well as baseball, aim for the absolute top. Batting .400... Pitching a perfect game...Whatever personal achievement that equates in your life. And rarely will you achieve those goals. Only one guy in the last 70 years has hit .400. Only 17 perfect games have been thrown in Major League history. If you measure success in such black and white terms... "I'm only a success if I can purchase my own jet." You're going to be pretty miserable. However, if you can look at the little successes.... Turning a beautiful double play or lining a double into the gap. Throwing a one hitter.... Those are small things that contain trememdous beauty. If you can savor the minor successes, you're going to be happy. Life will be fair and balanced. Maybe not always good, but fair.

No comments: