Baseball, the Stuff of Life
As we reach yet another All-Star Game, I’m reminded how profound baseball really is. And I say that knowing some people consider it a snooze-fest. A friend visiting Toronto from Lebanon was at her first game. Someone asked her in the third inning how she liked it. “Oh, has it started yet?” she asked. Indeed! Baseball is notorious for filling the field with nine fielders who seem to be just standing there while one opponent wiggles a bat. Isn’t that boring? Yes, if you don’t know what’s really going on.
Mythologist Joseph Campbell pointed out that all mythology from around the world, including religious stories and fairy tales, tell one basic story: the hero crosses a threshold, and in crossing acquires a guardian who provides instruction and support. The hero then encounters demons and treats them in ways that turn these menacing creatures into either enemies or allies. Ultimately, the hero completes the quest and returns home to tell the story. Such adventures bring to mind figures like Jesus, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Hamlet, Cinderella, Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk—and, however sacrilegious and Toronto-centric it may sound, Jose Bautista.
I think baseball fans unconsciously identify their own threshold crossings in life with the individual who steps up to the plate and tries to get a hit and round the bases. The pitcher and catcher conspire to baffle him with pitches, but if the batter gets on base, the coaches at first and third bases become guardians who receive orders from the ostensibly wise manager sitting in the dugout. So we pull for the individual struggling against the demons and cheer when the batter gets a hit. And upon coming home, the player can tell stories to help teammates with their adventures.
Baseball is everybody’s story, as long as you see the drama inherent in all those people who seem to be just standing around.