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Why baseball matters

John Sandberg | Thursday, April 19, 2012

I’ve been waiting and hoping for a chance to write about baseball this entire school year. And with this being the last column I’ll write this year, it’s now or never.

Yeah, a few small opportunities came and went, but not once did I take advantage. First there was the World Series last October, but to be honest I just couldn’t bring myself to write about the Cardinals.

Then a new semester arrived and with it spring training. But my grand notions of writing about the wonder of warm days in states far away, full of green grass, blue skies and our favorite teams arriving at their respective camps while we toiled away under a grey Indiana sky were undermined by 60-degree days here in February and March.

And just a few weeks ago there was Opening Day, the one day a year when all teams are equal, full of hope and eager to prove their worth over the 162 games that lie ahead. And just like that, after one day my beloved Cubs were in last place and haven’t budged since. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not giving up hope yet. But I didn’t think it was appropriate for me to be writing about the abundant signs of hope that come with a new season when it wasn’t even May yet and my team was already giving games away.

But now my day has come and I’m not letting it slip away. It isn’t just for my enjoyment that I write about baseball. I write about baseball because it matters.

It matters because without it a significant portion of English vernacular and American culture would be absent. Answering a big question would not be “hitting a home run.” That weird guy who lives around the block would be somewhere other than “out in left field.” Teachers couldn’t throw you curve balls on tests, Jay-Z would be forced to wear a New York hat instead of his signature Yankee cap and the word ‘Sox’ would just be a typo.

Baseball is important because it has the extraordinary ability to simplify things. When studying DNA models, ATC curves and GOP history gives you headaches, give your brain a break by studying Lincecum’s ERA, Pujols’ RBIs and Cabrera’s OPS.

Speaking of stats, baseball is a prime lesson in attention to detail. Every sport keeps track of numbers, but none to the extent that baseball does. Ridiculous as it may be, there is something to be said about a group of people that keep track of every last measurable fact, all the way down to the number of changeups a certain pitcher throws to left-handed batters during away games at night in August. Some might call a baseball fan’s obsession with statistics weird but you’ll never hear it called careless.

Our nation’s presidents have known for many years the importance of baseball. In fact, every president since Taft has thrown out at least one ceremonial first pitch while in office except for Jimmy Carter, who went on to do so after he had left office. Baseball has forever been and always will be our national pastime. Love it or hate it, you still have to respect a sport that began in America and has stayed basically the same for more than two centuries.

In the grand scheme of things baseball is insignificant, which makes it matter that much more.

Baseball parks are filled each night with fans waiting to watch their teams face off. Players of all ages from all different countries continue to come together just to play a game. Given the status quo of the world around us, a world which too often seems to be enveloped by conflict, taking the time to play a game seems all the more worthwhile. Games matter. Baseball matters.

So with summer approaching and the long days and warm nights almost here, do yourself a favor and spend some of that time taking in all of the greatness that baseball has to offer.

John is a sophomore English major from Littleton, Colo. He can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.