Baseball is Life: Background Programs

They had to talk me off the ledge when a teacher explained to me that whole body systems – heart, digestion, even blinking – worked without me thinking about it. They are background programs. I knew these things were happening, but I never thought about how, exactly.

When I was told that if we really had to remember to circulate our blood, breathe oxygen, and keep our eyes on the fine print, we would likely cease to exist pretty quickly, I panicked. What if these processes came under manual control at some point? I couldn’t competently glue one piece of construction paper onto another. Also, how should I deal with the direction of each and every white blood cell?

If these ordinary physical procedures suddenly required daily grooming, we would arguably struggle mightily individually, but create a society much more livable. There will be little time or worry to Instagram influencer posts when you suddenly find out that you haven’t been producing enzymes lately.

Because of this, professional athletes make more money than grocers. The ball players got an extra automatic system. You throw the ball harder and higher, hit with greater force. There’s a lot of practice and refinement that feeds these activities, of course, but I could do set-and-throw exercises for months and still heave the ball no further than the average toilet cubicle, let alone a whole baseball diamond across. These people are different. They are easy.

I wonder if they know they are different. These days I would bet sooner rather than later as there are now tea ball league organizations for embryos. I have to attack the preschoolers to form the 5U selection travel team.

It’s not about pushing kids too early too much; Success, skill development, and determination are good things, and those of us who will never take volleyball over the net from serving position tend to wash out fairly early on. The girls in my elementary school who ran the fastest were regulars on the community soccer team in second grade. They all became athletes. Of course they did. They covered the ground and they knew it. The coaches knew. Extra speed without thinking about it.

As I become more and more disaffected with professional sport and am even ready to turn my face away from the Olympics – once a huge visual ritual – I have to come to terms with the concept that I may be asking too much from the NCAA, Team USA, which NFL, the MLB. If talent scouts hang out with fourth graders, then why are we surprised when that fourth grader sometimes becomes a basket case of an adult with insufficient critical thinking skills, family drama, money problems, substance abuse problems, and geriatric knees as a college second grader?

There is no such thing as pure sport because there are no pure spectators. You might just want to watch a ball game because it’s fun to see refined athletes at superhuman levels and they are your boys, but the person next to you wants a communal experience with all of the major political opinions and ethical considerations going on in the field who are aligned and validated play, and these political opinions and ethical considerations are the opposite of the person sitting next to her. All of your tickets cost the same. They all have valid and totally incompatible requests.

Whose requirements will the for-profit companies hosting these shows meet? Because it can’t be everyone. And as many fans trade niche podcasts for sports reports and crowdfunded media services for giant satellite trucks, this is becoming more and more acceptable to everyone involved.

Perhaps baseball is becoming a matter of choice rather than an involuntary injection of local culture, and for that it is shrinking even more than it already is. And that’s to our disadvantage, because the heart works best when it’s automatically fed when we don’t even think about it.

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