Friday, October 28, 2011

Baseball

It has been a part of my life for almost as long as I can remember and it will remain so for as long as I live. For seven months of the year, it is as familiar a part of my life as brushing my teeth or eating dinner, and so it is easy to take for granted. But then one day I wake up and suddenly it is gone, and in the void there is malaise. When the weather is nice, it is played; when it is dark and cold, it moves towards the tropics and away from focus. While it can be used to tell seasons, it scoffs at time while it is played. The competitors dictate the endpoint through their play.

It is a team game, but in many ways it allows the individual to stand and be judged on his own merits. It is a game that, through its variants and offshoots, is quite playable by a large number of people. It is the great American pastime, but it is also the great Cuban passion, the great Dominican pastime, perhaps the most popular import Japan has ever known. We call it baseball, but it is equally beisbol, yakyu, honkbal, pelota.

It is a game simple enough that it can be described (and recorded, on nothing more complex than a piece of paper) discretely--by inning, by score, by out, by baserunner, by count--yet complex enough that there are hundreds and hundreds of people like me who are fascinated by it and spend much of our free time thinking about it, yet we still discover new things about it.

And if you are wired to view the world in a certain way, to try to find and verify patterns, to quantify when possible, and sometimes to find meaning and order through randomness and chance--then sabermetrics is a vessel for enjoying it, understanding it, and celebrating it. To know that what we have seen over the last month is not just unlikely--but rather to have a systematic way of thinking that allows us to estimate just how unlikely--does not detract from it.

Once in a while we are presented with just one more game--one game that is, without question, the end. It almost goes against the spirit of the game to be pettily constrained by a set limit of games that cannot be cheated, unlike the nine innings that often become ten, and sometimes become twelve, and on glorious occasions become twenty, and in theory can be infinite. The potential is often greater than the payoff--but either way, the journey was incredible.

1 comment:

  1. brilliant and true. thanks for saying what i feel.

    159 days 'til opening day!

    ReplyDelete

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