The Comfort of Baseball

Last night I watched the Mets-Atlanta game, and the Mets lost in excruciating fashion, with Bobby Parnell giving up two runs in the top of the ninth to blow a 1-0 lead and Jason Heyward making a fantastic diving catch on Justin Turner’s drive into the left-centerfield gap in the bottom of the ninth for the final out, which would have tied the game if it had bounced out of Heyward’s glove or won the game if it had missed the glove altogether. Afterward, as I have many times before, I thought to myself “Screw this! I don’t need this kind of anguish! I’m not watching the game tomorrow night; I’ll read instead.”

But as this afternoon has worn on and I am thinking about how to unwind after a stressful day, the thought of watching the game becomes more and more appealing, and of course I’ll be in front of the television promptly at seven.

This turnaround, which has also occurred many times before, made me think of Philip Dacey’s poem “America without Baseball” from Brooke Horvath and Tim Wiles’s anthology of baseball poems, Line Drives. It depicts a late twenty-first century America where baseball has somehow died, but subliminally lives on. While “box scores began to look / like Greek or Sanskrit,”

3 and 9 became magical numbers–
all automobile license plates
carried either or both,
as did the logos of some commercial ventures,
though often buried in the design
to work subliminally on customers,
though no one could remember why.

This is the idea from the poem that has stuck with me since I first read it nearly a decade ago. I love the thought of baseball being completely ingrained in the national sub/consciousness, the thought that we could not get away from it even if we tried. This is not really the case anymore for the nation, but I was reminded that it is the case for me, and that knowledge is comforting. No matter what kind of day I am having, I can turn to baseball for solace, even in cases like last night: even though it was a hideous loss, the game itself was an intriguing, exciting one that I would have deeply enjoyed had my favorite team not been playing. The game made me exclaim out loud several times, and very few activities have that power over me. In seeking this comfort I am connected to millions of others, and that connection is significant.

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