Baseball as a Necessary Distraction

We, as human beings, are always trying, at least subconsciously, to avoid thinking about the end of our days. Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, a grim and terrible reminder of just how fragile and fleeting our existence here on earth really is. More times than not, it’s simply a matter of good luck or bad and any second could be our last. That’s why we all need distractions. If we thought about our collective fates, suicide might become a viable option. We all need something to hang onto.

For many of us, sports, and more specifically baseball, is that distraction. How else could one explain our passion? It is, after all, only a game which makes a lucky few millionaires and set for life. Sure we all complain about salaries and rightly proclaim that no one is worth that much money. We often complain about ticket prices, concession prices and paying $12 for parking. But we still go to the games.

We often live and die with our team and if they win it all, we feel as if we have won something as well. When our team plays poorly we vow to stay at home instead and watch something else, anything else. But we still go to the games and each spring brings new hope however ridiculous.

We argue over statistics and which player is better and many of us read the disgusting details of the sport’s cheaters. We argue over who should or should not be in the Hall of Fame and who should be the MVP and CY Young winners each season.

The season seems to zip by and the offseason seems to last forever. Then suddenly that first pitch of spring training has arrived life begins to make sense once again. There is nothing to compare to opening day and the World Series is often more like the world serious.

Each of us remember where we were on that terrible day ten years ago and even for those of us who did not lose a loved one or a dear friend, the terror we felt changed our lives forever. The horrors of parts of the world beyond our borders knocked loudly and suddenly on our door, a door which before we could leave unlocked and still feel safe in our beds at night. Life seemed to stop and nothing made any sense. Nowhere felt safe.

Even baseball stopped. It had to. We couldn’t at that moment live with our distraction. Baseball seemed pointless and useless and it seemed disrespectful to care about a game when so many had lost their lives. Discussing who was better or how we had lost a game had lost all meaning. It seemed more trivial than at any other time in our lives.

I thought back to what our fathers and mothers and their fathers and mothers might have been thinking during the Second World War when death could come at any moment and often did. Yet the president at the time insisted that baseball continue. He realized that people needed something to cheer about, something to distract them. They needed something else to think about and talk about.

But baseball did come back after a brief respite. It didn’t seem as important as it once had but it gave us all something to hold onto, something which gradually let us believe that despite the 9/11 attacks, those responsible couldn’t take away our way of life and our feeling of well being. Life would indeed continue even with the changes we were forced to make. The sun would come up the next day and the enormous sacrifices made by those who perished that day would never be forgotten. We just wouldn’t think about them each and every day. But we wouldn’t forget them either amidst our distractions and passions. They were and are, after all, part of who we are.

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