You know, I was going to do a running diary of the All Star Game tonight, like the one I did a few years ago, but I was tired, lazy, or some combination of the two, so the potentially 10,000 word post that would have been nothing more than stale punchlines and jokes about Joe Buck is neatly condensed for your reading pleasure. Or displeasure. Whatever.
As I sit here, watching the All Star game, I am reminded of my own experiences playing baseball as a child, and most recently, on a beer league softball team. Winning and losing didn’t matter. It never really did, because we were just kids. Even if we did win, big deal. When I was about eight, my Little League team crushed just about everyone else. We finished with a 19-5 record or something, and didn’t lose more than once to a single opponent. But I was eight, so first place in Little League didn’t really matter.
The older I got, the more winning mattered. By the time I was ten or 11, winning was everything, even though it didn’t mean anything at all. It was all about having fun on the field. Throwing, catching, hitting, all that. I was never really bothered by a loss, and an oh-fer at the plate (there were several) stayed with me for all of 45 minutes. I just didn’t care. And why should I? Even at a young age, I could see how competition could bring out the absolute worst in some people. The ones who were so caught up in winning, even if they were the best players on the field, never actually looked happy.
Even now, as a member of a beer league softball team who has yet to win a game, I find myself at peace with the fact that we aren’t that good. I’m more concerned with enjoying myself and having fun with my teammates who are similarly not affected by not having one in the win column. And to be honest, the last hour of work on days that we have a game are some of the best of the week, just because I get to play baseball.
Conversely, some of the most miserable people in our league are the ones who are routinely part of winning efforts or have the ability to mash the ball at will. Case in point: A couple weeks back, our team was short a man, so we borrowed a guy from another team to fill the roster spot. Having played against this guy a handful of times, I knew what to expect: A big bat and a piss-poor attitude. This guy can hit the ball a mile, but he pitches a fit when it doesn’t go over the fence, because triples are not good enough for this guy. And if you strike out to end the inning? You better watch your head, because a bat or some other object is sure to be tossed about, because that sort of thing is just plain unacceptable to the him. Then guy was miserable the entire game. It didn’t matter if we lost by five or won by ten, he’d have been a pisser just the same. Guy was the best player on the team, but was absolutely not having an ounce of fun. What’s the point? None of it matters, and you are only making yourself look like a massive tool (I mean, assuming the six arm and writs bands didn’t already do that.)
Point is, baseball is about fun. Especially when it’s a rather meaningless game on a random Tuesday night in the middle of summer. For an hour or so, we get to leave it on the field before going home to our crappy jobs and lives of unfulfilled potential. It’s an hour of escape, once a week. What’s the point of being miserable and not enjoying yourself? Hitting three homers won’t make your night any better, but actually having fun just might.
How, exactly, does this tie into the All Star Game? I’m not really sure, except for maybe that those players are similarly having a good time on the field, even though the game “matters.” They are smiling, they are playfully jawing with the other team, and so on and so on. And really, I just wanted to write something about baseball.