Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Traditionalism comes out swinging

The crack of the bat: Traditional thinking comes in many forms. Edmund Burke liked to talk about "old affections" that hold a people together. He, like so many conservatives, was acutely aware of the fact that constructive progress can best happen under conditions of stability and settledness. Baseball is one of those "old affections" that traditionally has held Americans together -- rich and poor, country and city, east and west.

True, other sports are competing for our attention, and baseball doesn't hold the same central place that it once did. We actually even recently elected a President who didn't like baseball -- the real reason that so many Republicans couldn't stand him, if truth is to be known.

That's why his spouse has been at such pains to prove that she is a die-hard Yankees fan. Granted, this showed her ignorance of baseball politics by not realizing that being a Yankees fan (especially a carpetbagger Yankees fan) is a grave liability once one gets 75 miles out of Gotham. If George Bush had previously owned the Yankees rather than the Rangers, Al Gore would have blown him out of the water in a landslide in 2000. But still, it showed that Mrs. Clinton was trying, and one has to respect her for that.

We old-fashioned types tend to like baseball -- not so much watching it on television necessarily as being there with the smell of freshly mown grass in the air, the sight of that green expanse, that unmistakable smack of ball on leather, and the settled rhythm of the game.

For reasons not entirely clear, many baseball fans would even rather listen to a ball game on a crackling AM radio than watch it on TV. Go figure. We like the fact that Cobb Field is being restored, but worry about whether the experience will be the same (and whether it is or isn't will still be debated even as bond issues for Cobb Field III are being voted on.)

And how about that unmistakable and lovely "clink" of a metal bat on the ball in college and high school games? Well, there's always something to mar the joy.

But thanks to our neighbors in North Dakota, we may be seeing a move back to wooden bats. High school ball will be all with wooden bats this season, and according to the Gazette's AP article, "high school officials across the country are watching to see how this plays out."

While we curmudgeons would want to return to wooden bats on aesthetic grounds alone, the biggest selling point is of course safety. This season's legislative session in Montana saw a bill introduced to ban metal bats, spurred by the death of a Miles City player hit by a line drive.

That bill failed, but really, this is the job of schools and leagues to police themselves, and it can't happen soon enough. Now if MLB could just get rid of the D.H., steroid use, an interminable season, and wild-card spots in the playoffs.

But time to stop grumping and to go back to joy -- kids are hearing the crack of a bat again in at least one state.


In other breaking news, the Pope is firmly opposed to abortion.


Jay Stevens said...

Hey, you're a baseball fan! I knew there was something redeeming about you...heh heh...

...tho' I do object to the notion that the sport appeals to "traditionalists" and "curmudgeons"...tho' some may claim those adjectives do suit me...

Montana Headlines said...

Of course, you have a traditionalist streak and are a bit of an old-fashioned curmudgeon.

They're your two redeeming qualities. Well, you have that third one -- being a baseball fan.

Which reminds me that in my list of the parts of America that baseball, as one of our "old affections," is able to unite -- I forgot "left and right..."