It was a medical Monday: Three doctors–only one of them scheduled–in one day. And a split decision: the neurologist (scheduled) said he would no longer be a part of my life, as my recovery from a bout of Bell’s Palsy was complete; my primary care physician (unscheduled), meanwhile, saw me and sent me on to a vascular physician, who is now part of my life. It seems as though I have developed a blood clot in one of my legs.
The last member of that medical trinity, after viewing my sonogram chart and having a look-see for himself, confirmed what my long-time doc had surmised, but with a big–and most welcome–expert opinion: the clot is not life threatening, but instead something called a “superficial clot.”
So by the time I left his office, armed with a prescription for industrial-strength Advil and advice to keep my leg elevated whenever possible, my thoughts began to drift from mortality and family to something also of personal significance.
That would be baseball. I had been listening for days to the mantra on ESPN that soccer was the soon-to-be sport of the future in the US, and how baseball was “in trouble.” It had bothered me, in part because this smacked of the network’s radio jocks shilling for a product (the World Cup) that had cost the parent Disney Corp. mega-bucks to broadcast, but also because I had a knee-jerk defensive reaction to an attack on the game that I grew up avidly playing and watching, and still hold dear.
I needed to take a step back, and decided that I would drink the ESPN Kool-Aid: accept its premise that baseball no longer is (or before too long would not be) the proverbial “National Pastime.”
There would be losers in that scenario–team owners, watching the value of their investments fall, Major League ballplayers, seeing their multi-year, multi-million dollar contracts disappear, television networks, dealing with shrinking ad revenue.
But for me? No downside whatsoever. While at ESPN it might be a popularity contest, with value affixed to sales at the gate or Nielson ratings, for me the game would be unchanged in the subtleties and pleasures it offers. Each encounter–pitcher/catcher vs batter; pitcher vs base runner; fielder vs runner; manager vs manager; the list is long–would contain all the complexity and drama it always has had.
Not that I think a big downsizing is about to happen. The crowds at games I’ve seen have remained substantial in the sport’s long, long regular season. The teams remain emblematic of their cities and regions, and the players continue to be loved and hated by the fans, young and old.
We live in a word of herded culture. No matter the sport, we are the cattle, and the media conglomerates are the ranchers, leading us to the slaughterhouse, where we are appraised, segregated, carved up and sold to the market’s middlemen. We’ve been led to accept as a given a black-and-white world, but that isn’t reality. In my case, let professional baseball disappear, and I’ll still be out watching, analyzing and enjoying a game somewhere.