The Washington Times-Herald

April 20, 2013

The thrill of the grass

By T. Daniel Lancaster
Washington Times Herald

WASHINGTON — In the spring, they say a young man’s fancy turns to — baseball.

I, like so many others, see the arrival of spring as a time when hope springs eternal and the painful moan of last autumn’s “wait ‘til next year”  is replaced with enthusiastic anticipation of being able to say, “This is definitely going to be our year.”

Every spring from my past was greeted with the same nervousness and excitement of having THAT really cute girl sit next to you in home room. You weren’t really sure how to handle it, but you knew it was a good thing and it helped make junior high that much more tolerable.

I knew what was right with game — the pastoral nature, the timelessness, the way fans felt like they were watching a season unfold — knowing there would always be another game tomorrow.

I grew up a Red Sox fan and although every season during my youth would be an exercise in futility and disappointment, it was a way, I, like so many others, cataloged the passage of time.

However, for some reason, over the last few seasons, have become more and more disengaged from the game. I don’t think it was a moment or incident which changed my perspective, but my interest has certainly waned.

I would say at first, I made all the standard excuses like .... Too long, too many games, over saturation on TV, labor issues and too much focus on home runs and strikeouts.

But then you realize some of those are actually some of the things are what initially drew you to the game.

The game didn’t have clock or timekeeper other than the one God provided. The home run still is most exciting moment in sports and the strikeout seems like the ultimate act of defiance. I knew it would take more than a “McExcuse” to break up with baseball.

So why would a game that prides itself with such a tangible connection to my past seem so disconnected in my present? I think if anything, it’s not the game that has changed, it’s the way we now watch the balls and strikes.

Everyday we become more programmed to expect life to be presented to us in an immediate, compressed digital form.  One does not need to spend three hours watching a story unfold when one can have it reduced to 15 seconds on ESPN.com (which is less time than watching Mike Hargrove face just two pitches).

Baseball is a game which has to be experienced with all of the senses.

Try to Tweet Fernando Valenzuela or Luis Tiant’s delivery in 140 characters or snap chat the battle between Lou Brock and Don Drysdale, as second base lay in the balance. Can we really understand the majesty of these green cathedrals when they are being viewed on a tiny cell phone screen?

I think baseball is a game that is best viewed live in CinemaScope, wide vistas and high definition. It is game where one’s imagination paired with Jack Buck, Ernie Harwell or Harry Caray’s voice created a place one could go home to 162 times a year.

I guess I just can’t go home to the Twittersphere, where the angry take the game and dissect it to the point where the parts never equal the whole.

I don’t know what will draw me back to the game, but I doubt it will be someone whose only interest in the game is to win a fantasy league.

I rooted for a uniform, a ballpark and a history that connected my family across generations.  If you fit all that, along with a hot dog and beer in 140 characters, maybe I’ll be back.

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Todd assumes that he will have no such issues with the NFL in the fall. You can follow him on Twitter @blasterdog