Recently I decided it’s time to start reading again – I mean, reading that doesn’t involve the Internet or homework; an actual sit-down with a book in my hand.
My first foray back into scanning the printed page is a book my older sister lent me just before the semester called Blue Like Jazz. So far, it’s an insightful read and one sentence in particular remains prominent in my thoughts. Early on in the book, the author, Donald Miller, writes “sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself.” I think that statement rings true in many aspects of life and sports is certainly one of them. I experienced this first hand over the summer with the Toronto Blue Jays and the game of baseball.
No golf or baseball
To give you all some context about my sporting interests, I’m usually either glued to the screen or bored into a coma watching various professional sports. As an athlete, I always loved playing games like hockey and basketball but turned my nose at golf and baseball. This is doubly so with pro sports on television. If the on-ice, on-court or onfield action features standing more prominently than athletic movement, the game loses appeal. Because of this, I’ve never been a fan of Premier League soccer, the PGA or MLB.
My father’s side of the family all love baseball. In fact, I believe I’m the only Ryan male that never played organized baseball at some point in his youth. I just never liked standing around, doing nothing. So, every time my brother had the Jays game on, I did my utmost to annoy him into a change of channels. Heck, there’s a billion games every year and they are all around 12 hours, why would you want to watch each one?
Funny thing happened
Sometime last year, I decided that I would humour my brother and start following the Jays to gain minimal knowledge about Major League Baseball. Helps to know things about multiple sports, right? But a funny thing happened at one point during that summer, actually two things. The first: I sat down and watched Field of Dreams, a movie whose legacy had always puzzled me. I thought my dad and brother were crazy for liking such a schmaltzy, yet surreal, film. However, after a second viewing, everything in the movie somehow made sense. The film helps to capture the nostalgia Americans associate with baseball and showed me why someone could find the sport appealing.
The second: I had made some lunch (might’ve been after a workout or chores) and then I turned on the Jays game. I kind of half paid attention while doing other things. But I noticed that even though I wasn’t glued to the screen, I was still following the action from start to finish. This fascinated me. Previous attempts to sit down and watch an entire baseball game had rendered me snoozing in a curled up ball on the carpet, yet I was completely fine with having just spent an afternoon drifting in and out of a baseball game.
So, at the beginning of this summer, I watched all of the same previews and interviews regarding the Jays season. I still loathed the amount of coverage baseball dominates on highlight shows but whenever Luke got excited about Mark Buehrle throwing seven shutout innings, I was happy. People watching baseball are usually in higher spirits than fans watching other sports and they’re usually less high strung. It comes from the atmosphere of going out to a ball game, which is almost as important as the action on the field. Your focus isn’t glued to the play at all times but not because you’re bored or because what’s happening is unimportant. That attitude carries over to the TV and radio experience. You can do laundry, wash dishes or sit down with a beer in one hand and enjoy getting in and out of the game.
Even my view of the sport as a whole changed. While it might appear there’s nothing going on during down times between pitches, every player on the field is trying to out-think the opponent at every fraction of a second. It’s like 100 short games of chess in a row, interrupted by brief outbursts of incredible athleticism. And when those home runs, leaping catches and Herculean throws occur, there’s little in sport that can match the excitement. Obviously though, this discovery was helped by the Jays being such an offensive juggernaut. Whether it’s Jose Bats and JD sending pitches over the fence or Tulowitski making a ridiculous grab-and-throw play to first base, you are in for a show when Toronto takes the field.
I still don’t count myself an enthusiast for footy frenzy or hitting the links. I wouldn’t say that overall I’m a big baseball fan. But I’ve learned to appreciate what people love about the game and the sense of nostalgia it invokes. So, for those of you who may spout ridicule in the direction of fans that follow sports you don’t, try and observe them from a different perspective. You’ll likely come away pleasantly surprised.