A professor at Duke Divinity School, Richard Lischer, observes that attendance at professional baseball games appears to be on the decline. However, “tailgating” before and during the game is still holding its own.
Why has attendance at our baseball games declined? Without a doubt, television has reduced our interest in going to the ballpark. That would involve getting up from the couch, catching a MARTA train or finding a parking place at the stadium and paying a substantial amount for tickets and refreshments.
Why go when we can get a closer, more comprehensive view at home?
Granted, the atmosphere is not the same – we miss the Cracker Jacks, the enthusiasm of the fans, the popcorn, the smell of hot dogs and the taste of the cold drinks. You just can’t experience this anywhere other than the baseball stadium!
There are some fans and contemporary writers who perceive a unique wholeness in watching baseball that they find in few other sports.
In John Sexton’s book, “Baseball as a Road to God,” he declares there is an attempt to erase the memory of baseball from our minds. Beyond baseball, he says we have lost the memory of the smell of the land, the sudden breeze cooling us on a hot summer afternoon and the gentle rain refreshing us.
Until very recently, I was somewhat vexed watching professional baseball – it was just too slow for me. The pitcher eyes the mound with a deliberate, intense stare; he seems to be searching for something on the mound, or around it. Then he places his feet on it until he is finally comfortable with his stance. Finally, he looks to his catcher for a sign, but if he doesn’t like it, he’ll shake it off until he gets one that suits him. He slowly winds up and pitches the ball.
The entire exercise takes three minutes!
But perhaps this is one of the troubles with our lives. Maybe there are instructive lessons in baseball that can help the pace of our living. Maybe we move too fast and miss some valuable, lovely lessons.
John Sexton suggests that we slow down and notice the simple things. What’s on your list of simple things? Here is mine:
- The grasp of a baby’s little hand
- The thrill of a baby’s first spoken word
- Teaching our children to ride a two-wheeler, taking them fishing for the first time, playing sandlot ball
- Spending a day with the adult we love, placing our arms around them, holding them close to us and letting them know we really love them.
John Sexton claims that if we will allow it to do so, baseball may help us slow down, rediscover our focus and make some decisions that will lead us to higher ground.
Stay tuned, in my next blog, I will deal with two challenges that I faced in evolving from this reflection.
Joseph L. Roberts, Jr.
October 3, 2013