Fall is my favorite season, and Thanksgiving my favorite holiday. Canadian Thanksgiving, of course, no sense putting a perfectly good holiday in late November when there is fifteen feet of snow on the ground and igloos litter the landscape like so many sugar donuts. Fall and Thanksgiving are tightly entwined with my childhood memories of the grain harvest on the farm when I was a kid, when my mom and me would sit in a grain truck listening to the baseball playoffs while Dad drove the harvester late into the night in the annual rush to get the crops off.
That was a time when you could still get baseball games on the radio. You still can, if you can get the right ESPN affiliate being bounced off the ionosphere, but no one ever carries the games locally like they used to. Too often the ESPN affiliates in Canada usurp the baseball for the hockey, which is really silly considering the relative significance of playoff games on one hand, and miserable meaningless early season games on the other. Fortunately, I can get the Seattle affiliate from where we live on a clear night.
As a kid I loved baseball but then in them middlin’ years I had no time for it. I still have a hard time finding time for a whole game but recently I’ve discovered baseball on the radio is the perfect combination of having your hands and eyes free for jobs while having professional silence fillers help pass the time enjoyably. If you can occupy yourself with a task like painting a room or sanding a dresser, a baseball game on the radio is a great accompaniment. The casual pace of the action (it’s boring until it’s exciting, but then it’s really exciting) rarely demands full attention. Never a moments lull, never the silliness encountered when trying to listen to the U.S. Open tennis over the Internet.
A friend and I decided that baseball is the perfect game. It doesn’t discriminate against height or size. Volleyball and Basketball were great when they were invented, but they haven’t kept up with increased athleticism of the players. Also, there’s very little to counter the inherent advantages tall players have. They are tall players sports through and through and a tall capable player is better than a short capable player and there’s no point arguing about it. Tall baseball players, on the other hand, have a larger strike zone; likewise smaller hitters smaller zones and with accurate umping the advantages of height or lack thereof should cancel each other out. A similar argument concerns the size of the game field and the nature of human fitness and training. Few games scale well in the face of year round training that became the norm in the mid ’80s. Hockey, for example, has larger and faster athletes than ever before but each player has so little time and space to manage the puck the game resembles pinball more than the old school game of passing and play-making.
A sharply struck grounder by 2009’s strongest baseball player can be caught by a slight shortstop playing back perhaps a step or two. However, the throw to first has to be more accurate and faster as well. The hitter still has drag himself to first base in time to beat the throw which penalizes extreme body mass types. In other words, the game offers degrees of freedom that can accommodate all types and can seamlessly and automatically adjust the way it’s played. Pitchers get stronger and train in equal measure with the hitters, but they too have to hit (American League excepted). If one side or the other gets an advantage, the league can adjust the called size of the strike zone and simply and relatively unobtrusively bring the game back into balance.
The perfect game. Just in time, too, for a fall full of work and turkey prior to building the igloo.