Well, it’s February, the Superbowl is over (congrats to Seattle on the best thing they’ve done in New York since they traded Ichiro to the Yankees), and that means Spring Training is right around the corner. And by corner, I mean literally weeks away. Pitcher and catchers report in 11 days, rest of the players in 16, the first full squad workout in 17, and first preseason game in just 22 days.
While I’ve definitely been excited to see those memes circulating that say something to the effect of “football season’s over, it’s baseball time”, that sentiment isn’t exactly true. There’s this pesky overlapping sport called basketball, both at the professional and college level that will suck up most of baseball’s preseason news on the larger sports networks. And if you don’t believe me, I just heard the term “March Madness” used three times in the last hour on the news. That’s right, baseball fans, apparently, we are not really in baseball season yet because according to the “big guys” (aka the analysts at the big desk), it’s still basketball season. But we baseball fans are used to waiting our turn year after year, Superbowl after Superbowl, March Madness after… you get the point.
Here’s what fans of other sports don’t get: there really isn’t an off-season for baseball fans. Sure, there’s not any games you can watch, but there’s always something baseball-related going on — a big splashy trade or signing, a player coming off an injury, a player retiring, an elected Hall of Fame manager, or even just remembering the great games or players or moments of the past. Because baseball isn’t just a one-off season, the all-or-nothing variety that some other sports seem to be. Baseball is that long-term, settling into a pattern, developing a strategy, and building a dynasty kind of game.
My grandfather always called baseball the “thinking man’s game”, and I have to agree. It’s 7 men on the field, anticipating what their pitcher and catcher are going to do through a pattern of varied pitches to try to get that poor sucker with a bat to miss (strikeout) or do something terrible (like a fly ball to center field or easy grounder to shortstop), and that poor sucker thinking he’s got it all figured out and can judge in less than a second whether he’s going to be able to hit that next pitch or to let it go as a ball. And then 3 outs later, the other team gets to do the exact same thing.
I’ve had a lot of “friends” who aren’t baseball fans (read: think football and/or basketball is a “true American sport”) who complain about baseball in as many ways as can now be considered clichéd — “it’s too long”, “it’s boring”, “it’s overpriced”, “it’s too many steroids”, and “it’s so old-fashioned”. So for all that, I have to say (in this order): “football”, “basketball”, “football and basketball”, “football”, and “golf”. And here’s the kicker (forgive the pun), I’ll still go to and cheer on teams at any sporting event (yes, I still have my preferred teams in each of the professional and college sports arenas, and none of them were/will be in this year’s playoffs). Does this make me a baseball snob? Maybe, but I suppose there are worse things to be snobby about. And then maybe not, because I think competitive sports are still pretty cool no matter what they are in the long-run.
I like to think about it this way: I have a friend in the veterinary field who can easily tell the difference between “cat people” and “dog people”. She says that “dog people” only like dogs and really don’t like any other animal; they probably never owned a cat or bird or hamster and never want to attempt what they would consider a ridiculous feat. And “cat people” (clarification: not “cat ladies” who are scary and need help) really like a lot of different animals and have probably owned a dog, a bird, a hamster, a rabbit, a turtle, and a cat at some point in their lives but usually end up with a cat because they are pretty low-maintenance when it all boils down. To continue this metaphor then, baseball fans are like the “cat people” who love baseball but can also enjoy other sports, and those other guys are like “dog people”.
And before I get into any trouble, there’s nothing wrong with preferring cats or dogs, nor is there with preferring one sport or another. I’m just opining my observations and experience, as I am apt to do on this blog. For the record, I am a cat person who loves dogs (and horses and rabbits and manatees and ladybugs), and a baseball/Yankees fan who enjoys most other sports, just as long as they don’t interfere with baseball season. I mean, there are priorities, after all.