By Bob Hiller –
Ah, October has arrived! And with the changing of the seasons comes the greatest of all American sports’ traditions: post-season baseball. If you are not already a baseball fan, the post-season (especially this year) just might convert you. Very often, baseball gets a bad rap for being too slow and too nuanced of a sport. I will grant (especially as a Colorado Rockies fan) that excitement is elusive when your team is muddling through game 97 of a losing season. The dog days of summer have a way of draining the energy when the playoff picture doesn’t really start taking shape until late August. The casual fan will certainly have a hard time following America’s pastime day in and day out. As a guy who loves the sport, I must admit, my attention span usually lasts through the first month of the season and then loses focus until early September.
But then, that September focus opens my eyes to one of the greatest contests in all sport: the race to the World Series. Dear casual fan, this is the time of year to pay attention. The best teams in each division show up playing at an incredibly high level. The 2015 New York Yankees notwithstanding, playoff teams are usually red hot, that is, winning consistently and decisively. Quite frankly, there is nothing more fun to watch than competitive, high-stakes baseball.
If you don’t like baseball, or if you are just a casual fan, let this blog serve as an evangelistic tract which invites you to give your time this Fall, just a few hours a day friend, to become a follower of Major League Baseball. Won’t you open your heart to this most blessed of all games, even just during the playoffs? Might I offer you three reasons why you should commit your life to the Fall Classic?
1) You Get to Participate in America’s Greatest Pastime at the Best Time.-There is nothing more American than baseball. Gerald Early considered it one of America’s most significant contributions to history when he said, “There are only three things that America will be remembered for 2000 years from now when they study this civilization: The Constitution, Jazz music, and Baseball. These are the three most beautiful things this culture’s ever created.” Now, it is hard to simply decide to take up your cross and commit to a full 162 game season. But don’t feel guilty if you just want to show up for the playoffs. It’s like the upside of being one of those Christmas and Easter church-goers. You may only be there on the high holy days, but you’ll be getting the best stuff! Watch the game when played at its finest and you will begin to appreciate why Early can sing baseball’s praises in such exalted terms.
2) Baseball Trains You for Ritual and Rest. Getting caught up in the thrill of the crowd, holding your breath in anticipation between pitches, sitting and standing in exaltation or lament or rage, chanting at the umpire, clapping to the organ, all of this contributes to the almost liturgical rhythm that one enters into when taken out to the ballgame (even if that ballgame is enjoyed on TV or radio). Baseball has the remarkable ability to take you out of the frustrations and stresses of everyday life by bringing you to participate in something that ultimately and wonderfully doesn’t matter. It teaches you to enjoy a game for no other reason than just enjoying a game. This is a good thing. Some may say that taking three or four hours out of a day to watch a game is a waste of time, that getting worked up over balls and strikes is to unnecessarily expend emotion on the insignificant, that we should be focusing on the far more important things taking place in our world. I say: Meh. Watching playoff baseball, entering the ritual, and resting your brain has the Sabbath-like quality of reminding you to not take yourself so seriously, that God will take care of the world, and that you are free to relax and enjoy something beautiful and fun for once.
3) The Chicago Cubs-Three blood moons, Russia in the Middle East, and the Chicago Cubs in the playoffs: friends, the Second Coming is imminent! There are precious few days before all the baseball fields will be burned up in fiery wrath. So watch now, before it is too late! The fact that the Cubs are in the playoffs and the fact that they look really good, is no small matter. I have written before on the curse of the Cubs, but things are looking up this season. The Cubs winning the World Series may be the last great sports story we have. Overcoming a 107 year Championship drought (the last time the Cubbies won the Series was 1908) would be miraculous. If winning their first playoff series at Wrigley Field this past week against the rival Cardinals wasn’t thrilling enough, they looked poised to go all the way. Even if you don’t care for the team, you have to cheer for the sake of their fans. After this sort of drought, you’d think they’d all have grown cynical and become White Sox fans by now. But, no fans prove to more faithfully loyal than Cubs fans. Their patience may pay off this year because the Cubs are really, really good and really, really hot. And, they are really, really fun to watch. Unless you have a dog in the fight, it is hard not to pull for one of America’s most beloved franchises. The sainted Harry Carey is driving this bandwagon, you should consider riding all the way to the Promised Land!
Friends, won’t you accept baseball into your Fall schedule? Put down your guard, cast your cares to the wind, and commit your heart to the Major League Playoffs! Joe Buck stands at the door and knocks! But will you let his sweet, pretentious voice into your ears and homes? Only you can decide, friends. Say “Yes!” to baseball!
+If you feel you are ready to accept baseball into your life, just watch this video, sing the song, and write a response below to let me know you are in.+