Warm weather is shambling toward Pittsburgh. And as we ease our way outside again to shop for mulch and various seeds, many of us will meander across the Clemente Bridge to PNC Park for another year of baseball. Some will mill around the off-brand merch dealers. Others will pause halfway across to take in the blerps and bleeps of the Sax Man. But we’ll all end up at the game at some point.
Recently, Major League Baseball and many of its fans have been discussing ways to make the individual games faster. And while many fans would love to see a bit more spring in the step of a pitcher between deliveries, I caution otherwise.
An MLB team’s schedule spans three out of Earth's four seasons, features 162 regular season games per year from April to September, and each game takes about three hours and eight minutes to bring to completion. To rush its three acts is to destroy its narrative structure. The excitement of baseball is the waiting.
For every walk-off homerun, there are roughly 61 foul balls (I did the math). It was 45 years between a player Carl Yastrzemski’s Triple Crown and Miguel Cabrera’s in 2012. There are only 18 minutes of in-game action during any one game. Yes, the traditional definition of what Americans consider excitement is at a premium for any single game, season, lifetime. But a great personal experience doesn’t require a great game, great play, or big win.
Memories are being created between pitches for fans in attendance and those watching or listening from home. Sworn enemies from opposing fanbases bond over their mutual love of statistics and strategy. You may not know that guy’s name in front of you, but you sure as hell know his son is going to Cornell next year. Pregnant wives, due at any moment, agree to go to neighborhood bars to watch a team’s first playoff appearance in 21 years*. Friends place bets on who can kick 30-yard field goals. Fans reminisce about former games, players, stadiums, at-bat music, player meltdowns, stadium theme music, their families, other people’s families, underperforming prospects, their new car, their old car, life.
Professional baseball is over 146 years old, and we must respect the wisdom it’s gained in that time. The game is deliberate, the season is leisurely — characteristics we harried humans can only aspire to. So even if you don’t like baseball, take some time to appreciate the moments between life’s excitements. But who doesn’t like baseball?
*This may or may not be based on personal experience. OK. It is.