Saturday, June 11, 2005

Ya lollygag around the bases!

Mark asked, a while back, why I don't post much about baseball. Well, to be honest, my personal interest in baseball has dropped a bit from when I knew Mark in college, a time period which happened to coincide with the last time my team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, were any good.

Mostly it boils down to that: my team is now on its fourth rebuilding phase since 1992, and I figure they're probably due for a firesale either this year or next year unless they suddenly figure it out and get good. This could actually happen, I suppose, since they have a decent young pitching staff and appear to have a few good position players.

Another factor is that I don't have cable TV, and thus my ability to actually watch baseball games is minimal, limited to whatever games are on FOX on Saturday afternoons or whatever, and since that's the time of week I'm usually doing grocery shopping or laundry or trying to convince people at Target that I'm James Lileks (my long hair gives me away, sadly), I almost never watch those games. Internet coverage of baseball is pretty good these days, and I check the standings just about daily (as of this writing, my Buccos are one game under .500, which is an unfamiliar pleasure), but without ESPN, following baseball basically involves reading box scores and game summaries. I still do it, and I enjoy it, but it's not as active a pleasure as watching a game on TV and seeing Jim Leyland spitting sunflower seeds out at the rate of one every eight-point-six seconds or Leo Mazzone rocking back and forth or Lou Piniella kicking dirt on home plate during the exchange of lineup cards.

But then, maybe I'm doing myself a disservice here. After all, that's precisely how millions of baseball fans had to follow the game before the advent of ESPN, and no less an authority than FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder once described the box score thusly:

It's like the Pythagorean Theorem for jocks. It distills all the chaos and action of any game in the history of all baseball games into one tiny, perfect, rectangular sequence of numbers. I can look at this box and I can recreate exactly what happened on some sunny summer day back in 1947. It's like the numbers talk to me, they comfort me. They tell me that even though lots of things can change some things do remain the same.

I guess there's something to that.

(By the way, "The Unnatural" is, in my opinion, one of the best episodes of television ever produced. In case anyone cared.)

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