Baseball is not very popular in China. It needs too much space and equipment to capture a grassroots following amongst children I suppose, unlike Basketball, which is wildly popular (China probably has more NBA fans then there are stadium seats in the US) and can be played just about anywhere. So Baseball remains kind of a solitary pursuit for us die-hard fans, a secret calling we find hard to explain to others.
My introduction to baseball in the early 1980’s was at a Giants home game, which they lost, but what they won that night was my heart and mind, for the wonderfully complex and unpredictable sport that Baseball is, and for the so-called second-rate team they were then and now.
Just a sorry bunch of has-beens who defy the odds often enough to keep me hanging-on, and good season or bad, they get my back.
Love-letters after the jump.
Some sports are pretty simple. In Basketball (which I also love) the basic principle is to take possession of the ball, run it past the opposing team’s defense and score a goal. Certainly, a fair amount of strategy comes into play but the simplicity and speed of the game make it essentially a tactical sport where the skill and finesse of key players is usually the deciding factor of the game.
What makes it great is the fluidity and continuous motion involved, the split-second decision making and seizing of fleeting opportunities to sink that basket. Never a dull moment, unless someone is running out the clock for 20 or 30 seconds.
Baseball is nearly the opposite; structured and complex in concept and rules, with more time spent waiting than doing, it’s kind of like gazing at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel waiting for the fingers to meet – the whole picture is laid out in freeze-frame for all to see, but it’s the negative space between outstretched hands that make it so intriguing. Mysterious - or downright boring, if you hate the game.
If you are impatient, if you don’t get excited by the tension of something waiting to happen, if you need to get that adrenaline rush to keep awake, Baseball is definitely not for you.
What makes this slow-motion ballet interesting is that it can be so unpredictable. The genius of Baseball is it’s possibilities; one pitch, one hit or a high jump at the outfield wall to grab a flying missile out of the heavens can flip the table and turn the game around. It can grind on in slow motion for innings with no score (or a lop-sided score) and suddenly – BAM – the crowd is on their feet screaming in excitement or agony at the unexpected or impossible happening.
Field of dreams, lost and found. Just like life.
How long have I waited for this moment, longing for what I felt in my heart was our destiny?
How many years has it been since we met on that warm summer evening, when I sat up on high where the noses bleed, entranced and excited by a strange new feeling I could not quite explain?
As I gazed upon you I realized you didn’t even notice me, just another face in the crowd, and yet, I felt at that moment, we connected in some strange way, and would meet again in the twilight under twinkling stars.
At first, I was confused – it was all so new and I didn’t understand “The Rules of the Game” that would come to define our relationship. But somehow I felt this was meant to be, that you and I would share something special. I left in a fog – the fog, actually, but I did not forget and did not give up hope that someday we would share that special moment together.
Ah, life. So much has happened since that fateful day when a moment of magic was frozen in time. So much to do and so little time – fortunes are made and lost, (evil) empires come and go, and although circumstances cast us apart, I never forgot you; my hopes and dreams lived on in my heart if not the in the stats.
Despite the distance between us, I have thought of you often, in quiet moments alone or lost in the crowd of sports bars and internet cafes.
I must confess it hasn’t always been easy; sometimes I have cursed you and wished we never had met. “Why?”, thought I, must I be so faithful and true when my loyalty went unrewarded and my so-called friends laughed in my face as they slammed back beers and left me with the tab as the point-spread took a left hook into the stands. Some things cannot be explained; you just follow your heart.
And now look at us, like old friends, on opposite sides of the globe, living our separate lives, but never forgetting each other and knowing that sometimes, if you keep your eye on the ball and keep swinging, you can hit the ball out of the park.
Sometimes, dreams can come true, and it great to share this moment even if it won’t last for eternity
So here we are.
How can it be that this unlikely collection of cast-off second-string players, long haired pot smokers and young punks no one took seriously could pull a miracle out of a bag and win the World Series with the second best record in the history of the game?
I was no miracle. As Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post astutely observes in Are the world champion San Francisco Giants a lesson for the rest of baseball?, they earned it the old-fashioned way, by pulling together behind a good coach with a little luck, a lot of heart and some teamwork.
That and some faithful fans that shared the dream and stood behind them pushed them over the top, but if you look closely at the stats, it wasn’t a last minute fluke, but a season where they consistently played good ball, so that they won shouldn’t really come as a surprise.
So here we are, at the end of another season and looking toward the next.