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Childhood & the All-American Pastime

Ever since baseball swam across the Atlantic Ocean and grew legs to walk upon the Hoboken shore it has been a fiery All-American Pastime.  If you don’t like love baseball you are either a Communist or you’re not a true [red, white, and] blue American.  Or you weren’t an athletic child.

Little League baseball has been the scourge and triumph of young boys for seventy years.  I remember my first years as they were divided into four major categories: tee-ball, farm, minors, majors.  Those years were not good to me.  I would have rather read a book or have built something out of LEGO.  I was afraid of the ball and of human interaction, both of which are key elements of baseball.  Only to add to the torment, at some point I gained weight and achieved the status of ‘husky’.  But, fortunately for me, upon my entrance into high school I grew six inches almost instantly and—for the first time in my life—demonstrated athletic prowess.  Sure soccer (otherwise known as football) is extremely fun, but baseball was and is my true athletic passion, which is attributed to the unique challenges it presents to a player, for instance: you need a sprint and a mind, a glove and a bat, an arm and an eye.

Even throughout my awkward years I still loved the concept of baseball.  I certainly had my aversions: ‘cups’, practising, fastballs near my face while I was at bat, striking out, sitting the bench, etc.—but I also had my passions:  cleats, sunflower seeds, getting on base, making a great catch, the Detroit Tigers, going to watch a professional game, guessing what was going to happen next, etc.  But with my well-rounded appreciation and disdain for the sport nothing could have never prepared me for what the Major League sport seems to have become.

In the golden years an alcoholic could be a magnificent baseball player and even though everyone knew his vice was the bottle, his glory was the bat.  Maybe the fall of this idealism of Major League Baseball came with the Information Age.  Soon everyone knew that the Straw used the straw for other things, beat his wife and the list goes on.  How could a fan love to watch someone with such moral failings play the All-American Pastime?  But the slugfest of 1998 would soon bring back the spirit of the game, at least until performance-enhancing drugs became a hot topic.

That’s where baseball is today, tarnished by unethical behaviour of which performance-enhancing drugs are the crowning glory.  There are massive amounts of illegal drugs administered to willing athletes and recently professional baseball has been front-page news.  Who would’ve thought the highest paid baseball player in history would get caught up in this mess?  He did, as well as the player with the most career home runs in history.  And even the virtuous alliance of brotherhood can get a man mixed up in this heartbreaking moral defeat.

Some people have passionate hatred for baseball.  They might suggest that we adopt basketball, American football, ice hockey, anything over this boring and morally corrupt money pit called Major League Baseball.  But the sport cannot be to blame for the poor decisions of some players.  And this bad judgement is all that we can fault players for.  If baseball fans have a problem with the size of players’ salaries then we can turn off the televised game and not buy the baseball cap or the season tickets.  Fans can make baseball players demigods and when we learn that they are not so perfect it is devastating.

In the end there is something profoundly redemptive about baseball, something honourable and magical that I cannot fully explain (watch Field of Dreams).  And if our remembrances of Joltin’ Joe and Derek Jeter remain free from steroid use the sport will always remain alive—even if you detest the Yankees as I do.

UPDATE:  Thanks to The Onion,

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