Saturday, December 15, 2007

Baseball: Who We Used to Be

Jacques Barzun and Tim Rutten on America's Past National PastimeThe historian Jacques Barzun once remarked,
Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball, the rules and realities of the game.
SNIP (a big one)

Barzun is right about baseball's intimacy with the American spirit. What other game could have coaxed poetic sentiment from both Walt Whitman and Calvin Coolidge? The game of baseball speaks to us of that idyllic national past we imagine in common. It is played in a green and open space -- as if such things were not now the luxury they are for so many. Every baseball game -- not match or contest, but game -- is rich with infinite promise, just as we believe American lives once were. We chalk the diamond's boundaries and we allocate each game nine innings, but -- theoretically -- once the first pitch is thrown, every baseball game could go on indefinitely and every ball once hit could, if it stayed between the foul lines, remain in play forever, pursued through all eternity by some tireless fielder.

Alone among the games we play, baseball records -- and rewards -- individual effort, team play . . . and sacrifice.

Baseball's seasonal rhythms are those of our own rural paradise lost -- hopeful promise in springtime; diligent toil through summer; harvest and reward in autumn; the warmth of well-earned rest in winter. So it was in that long ago America of our collectively imagined past. So, somehow, it seems it might be still -- or, perhaps, again -- as we sit in the sunlight and pass a couple of hours of time that stands apart from normal time, watching the young, the strong and the fleet play our game.

It would be lovely to believe that honest, sober, fearless George Mitchell -- having done the impossible by bringing peace to Northern Ireland -- might now work a domestic miracle, and somehow recall us all to the memory of our better sporting nature.
There's a lot more to read from Rutten's column, in its original. I just couldn't go deep, down and dirty on the negatives.