What this nation needs is a national pastime.
For starters, put down your cellphone.
I don’t know about the nation, but the Bulldogs are saving some of us from ourselves.
The Mississippi State baseball team has reached the College World Series as probably the most unlikely squad in the final eight.
And in doing so, the ‘Dogs have reawakened something in me that had been dormant for decades.
America’s pastime. Or what used to be called that.
Some background is needed. Deep background.
It seems I peaked in baseball at about 15. I was cut from a team because, as the observant but obviously biased volunteer coach observed: “That boy’s got no arm.”
(Many years later, it occurred to me that, as a Little Leaguer, I had probably injured my right arm. Warming up to pitch, I’d throw as hard as my little arm could so as to impress the coaches, arm aching and me saying nothing.)
So for a light-hitting, average outfielding lad, that was it. I simply thought that everyone’s throwing arm ached. Career over.
I gradually lost interest in the sport. Stopped reading the box scores in the Memphis newspapers and watching the Saturday Game of the Week. Oh, yes, those were the days before cable and round-the-clock sports.
But those gritty boys from down the road in Starkville have blown away the fog of decades for me. And lifted the spirits for many Mississippians.
While not perfect by a long shot – the Black Sox scandal will be 100 next year, the Major League Baseball strike of 1994 was a major letdown, and the performance-enhancing drug abuse of a few years ago is still a cloud — baseball, the game itself, can be transcendental.
And doesn’t America need a pastime just now?
Football with its concussive nature and, more recently, a platform for political statements, isn’t a candidate in my scorebook. The NBA season seems interminable.
The baseball season, when you include the Bigs, seems to go on forever.
It is a time for heroics and crushing disappointment.
Always with the chance of tomorrow or (wait’ll) next year.
I was no natural athlete. I came by everything by the hardest.
An unanticipated throw during warmups – Jack, look out! – hitting me on the nose, blood spurting everywhere on a cold, windy March day.
But there were moments. Dashing in from right field on a line drive no more than two feet off the ground and crazily cork-screwing ended with a pop in my glove – to cheers!
The single I got when we upset the mighty Ardmore Cardinals. And eventually coming in to score and getting a bear hug from our answer to Babe Ruth.
Telling my dad about the stand-up double I got in my first at-bat and the coach later saying: “Are you sure you’re only 11 years old?!”
Ah, the moments, however fleeting, that took me away from all the problems in my young life.
Now, I’m wondering: what exactly is a cutter? And about other mysteries of a game that this nation needs more than ever.
» Contact Mississippi Business Journal staff writer Jack Weatherly at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1016.
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