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Please don’t try to explain why you love baseball to anyone ever

May 29, 2012, 11:00 AM EDT

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Whenever I hear someone talk about how baseball “was the only thing my dad and I could talk about together,” it doesn’t make me think of baseball as some great coming-t0gether thing. It makes me think of how sad it must have been to grow up in a house where you didn’t have anything else to talk to your dad about.

Or mom. Let’s not forget mom.

All of which is why I nodded my head as I read Lindy West’s piece in Jezebel yesterday in which that “baseball is all about fathers and sons …” rebop is shown to be pretty empty. It may apply in one’s own circumstance, but as a means of explaining the appeal of baseball to others, it’s really, really hard for most people to relate to and makes you sound silly after a while.

  1. jarathen - May 29, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    It’s neat that it has meaning in context for some people, and it has been a great bonding experience for men for the last century-plus, but the correct explanation is that baseball is the best. The end.

    • badmamainphilliesjamas - May 29, 2012 at 1:31 PM

      I would love baseball even if I was the only one in my family who did.
      Sharing it across generations only makes it better–something I’ve come to appreciate as I’ve gotten older.

      • jarathen - May 29, 2012 at 1:35 PM

        I was the only one in the apartment my mother and I lived in that cared about baseball, but Lord did I ever, watching and re-enacting Angels games as only a five year-old can. But I’ll be damned if I don’t share that love with my son.

        But this is all because baseball is the best.

  2. yankeesfanlen - May 29, 2012 at 11:10 AM

    We’re leaving out the other important components- apple pie and Chevrolet. However, the best apple pie is now seemingly the McDonald’s kind for convenience, and Chevys are prone to unexpected glitches.
    Well, it’s a talking point anyway

    • cur68 - May 29, 2012 at 11:22 AM

      Nope. Chocolate Cheesecake and Fords. Also, McDonalds has some pretty good coffee these days, so I’m prepared to cut them some slack. Like I often say, life’s too short for bad coffee.

    • chadjones27 - May 29, 2012 at 11:39 AM

      When I think of applie pie, I don’t think of baseball. I think of the movie American Pie. Then I think of Eugene Levy, then I think of the movie Armed and Dangerous with John Candy, then I think of candy. I want candy. What were we talking about?

      • jwbiii - May 29, 2012 at 4:00 PM

        Probably the Bo Diddley guitar riff.

  3. icanspeel - May 29, 2012 at 11:17 AM

    It’s funny because just the other day I had to explain to someone why I love Baseball since they just didn’t get it. My short answer was strategy, every pitch, every decision can make the difference in the game and then even with perfect strategy you still can lose because someone defies the odds and your only response is “That’s Baseball”

    • stuckonwords - May 29, 2012 at 11:56 AM

      I describe baseball as “The Ten Commandments” of sports. It’s like those old movies (like the Charlton Heston version) that take their time, build a plot, build characterizations, build the suspense, and escalate to a climax. Every at-bat is like that, with building tension toward ultimately getting on base or getting out. Every inning is like that, building toward three outs. The sequence of innings builds toward a climax in the latter innings, culminating in the ultimate, “score in the ninth or lose the game”.

      The escalating tension and old-fashioned building toward a climax of baseball is like unparalleled in any other sport. Kids today want quick, “bang bang shoot ’em up”, get-to-the-action-NOW movies, and they like their sports the same way. They sure do miss a lot.

    • jimbo1949 - May 29, 2012 at 12:41 PM

      Every other ‘Major’ sport has a clock, or can end in a tie(I’m lookin’ at you football). No matter how far behind you get, no matter how much the other team stalls, theoretically no lead is safe. And what can compare with a: comeback, walk off win, in the 9th, when you’re down by a few runs. Redemption unrestrained by a timekeeper, and you don’t have to give the ball back every time you score. They have to take it away from you. That’s why I love baseball.

      • IdahoMariner - May 29, 2012 at 12:59 PM

        “you don’t have to give the ball back every time you score. They have to take it away from you.”


      • jarathen - May 29, 2012 at 1:37 PM

        It’s a variant of Earl Weaver’s famous quote: “You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the goddamn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.”

        And he’s right.

      • paperlions - May 29, 2012 at 4:11 PM

        Actually, the defense has the ball…not the offense.

  4. cur68 - May 29, 2012 at 11:26 AM

    Why do I love baseball? If someone asked me that I’d give them the “Zombie Apocalypse” answer. Every skill required for surviving the Zombie Apocalypse can be hones and refined by playing baseball. Hitting, running for your life, being safe, knowing when to sacrifice, knowing when to go for it, throwing hard at a target under pressure, working together, working alone, being watched by malignant hostile entities (hey, some of these games are played in Philly, y’know) and beating the odds. That’s baseball to me: Zombie Survival, 101.

    • Jonny 5 - May 29, 2012 at 11:54 AM

      It is upon us RIK. Beware.

      • cleverbob - May 29, 2012 at 12:01 PM

        Cocaine psychosis, huh? At least that’s what they want you to believe…

      • Jonny 5 - May 29, 2012 at 12:11 PM

        If this survivor gets up and decides to eat other peoples faces then I’m going to Defcon 4 with my finger ready to push the readiness to Defcon 3. Face chewers should always be shot on sight. ALWAYS.

      • chadjones27 - May 29, 2012 at 1:20 PM

        Rule No. 2 – The Double Tap
        (Zombieland Reference for those who were confused)

      • cur68 - May 29, 2012 at 9:48 PM

        Oh, crap. Well, I’m ready. Got the car, got the Louisville Slugger, got the hunting rifle and a shotgun. Know where my towel is, have enough survival gear & supplies to hold out for month in Mom’s basement & I’m scrappy. With grit. I’m ready for you, face chewers .

  5. number42is1 - May 29, 2012 at 11:32 AM

    ” it doesn’t make me think of baseball as some great coming-t0gether thing”

    Well done typo if i ever saw one.

  6. stuckonwords - May 29, 2012 at 11:39 AM

    If a bond between father and son can be strengthened through a shared love of baseball so often that it’s become almost cliche, why criticize it?

    Boys/men rarely remember the genuine experiences they had in their lives pre-teen. When boys become teenagers, their attitudes change; they’re discovering themselves. It is a coming-of-age period of time, and they often dismiss their fathers as being “too old to understand”. Often there are few things they can come together on, like baseball. It’s just a reality of growing up, and a reality of parenthood.

    It is incredibly condescending, not to mention shallow, to say that such a reality in the lives of men and their maturing sons is “sad”. That’s like whining that it’s sad that everybody has to work for a living, or that everybody doesn’t get to make $100,000 per year. Father’s and sons often have a natural struggle to endure, and the hope is that it all works out in the end. Until then, baseball is often a joy they can share. Find something else to knock.

    • IdahoMariner - May 29, 2012 at 1:06 PM

      If a shared love of baseball STRENGTHENED your bond with a parent, that’s cool. But if that literally is the only thing you remember being able to talk about with your dad, yeah, I feel bad for you.

      • IdahoMariner - May 29, 2012 at 1:12 PM

        And I say that as someone who also only ever talked about sports with my dad. And yeah, it’s a really empty relationship. Of course, I am female, so I don’t know how that skews your theory, but I don’t know why it would. Because I also remember talking sports with my mom – in fact, she is the reason i got into sports, and why i had anything at all to say to my dad – and politics, and school, and whatever else….and we spent most of my senior year at war, because I was growing up and defining who I was, but I couldn’t possibly say that we only had one thing to talk about, even during that time. And that was an awesome relationship.

      • stuckonwords - May 29, 2012 at 1:24 PM

        It’s not so much a theory, Idaho, so much as a reality. Boys want to become “their own men”, and for a period of time it is simply a rampant reality that they dismiss (i.e. “roll their eyes at”) their fathers’ advice and guidance in lieu of finding their own answers. I’m not saying that it isn’t sad (of course all boys should heed every word of their fathers’ counsel, right?), I’m just saying that it’s a rampant reality of humanity. While that happens, and it is incredibly common that it does, baseball is often a neutral, common ground they can share while they endure that period of time.

        Sometimes it strengthens their bond, sure. But that isn’t the point. The point is that it’s often something they can share that is neutral…a common love that even everyday reality can’t squash. It doesn’t have to strengthen their bond; it simply doesn’t weaken it in the midst of the rest of the challenges teen boys and their fathers often face. Don’t feel bad for us; it’s a common challenge throughout the history of boys and men. We’ll work it out.

      • IdahoMariner - May 29, 2012 at 1:41 PM

        I get what you are saying, but I also think 1) yeah, that’s the same struggle that girls have with their moms, and i can’t think of any cliche equivalent to the “that’s all we could talk about” for us. And 2) the “that’s all we could talk about” cliche mostly seems to be uncorked by guys who never had/still don’t have great relationships with their dads (Field of Dreams is a classic example, and one that seems to be a touchstone for every guy I know who still doesn’t have a great relationship with his dad).

        And for me, I guess, this whole post and the one Craig linked to, is about how baseball is about so much more than that, and reducing it to that cliche seems more like a need to erect a barrier to anyone who didn’t experience that – when the beauty of baseball is shared by all of us. That’s all.

      • stuckonwords - May 29, 2012 at 1:54 PM

        a) It really is comparable to the struggle between girls and their moms. All this is natural. For men and their daughters, most of us adhere to Robert Heinlein’s philosophy: “Little girls, like flowers and butterflies, need no excuse.”

        b) It would be a stretch to say, “It’s all we could talk about.” Nobody is actually saying that. The discussion is as to whether baseball is an example of one of the kinds of things fathers and sons have that they can enjoy together during that tumultuous period in the son’s life. There are many things, and baseball is one of them, that don’t touch off resentment with the kid. These days we can also ask if they’ve gotten to the next level in their video game, or if they’d like to see the movie coming out, but we have to be careful about asking about their girlfriends or their after-school activities or their argument with their best friend (with whom we happen to agree). Do we still do it? Do we still try to be a parent, even when it often leads to problems? Sure.

        We just thank God we have baseball, and things like it, for the non-combative moments in between.

      • IdahoMariner - May 29, 2012 at 2:05 PM

        Well, I guess when I hear the cliche, it’s almost always from guys who mean it literally.

        That said, it’s pretty obvious that you are the kind of dad whose offspring areen’t ever going to mean it literally, if it ever occurs to them to resort to cliche. So that’s awesome for them, and kudos to you.

        And, as always, I love this site because you can have a respectful, reasoned discussion about baseball-related life stuff. Awesome. Thanks, stuckonwords. Have a great day!

      • IdahoMariner - May 29, 2012 at 2:21 PM

        Well, the only way I have heard the cliche has been from men who seem to genuinely mean it in a literal fashion. And I could say it about my dad, but it would be all sports, and the fact that it was/is all we can talk about is decidedly NOT what draws me to the sport. But then, in contrast to my male friends who say the cliche and truly mean it, I am not looking to the sport to fill a need to feel close to my dad somehow. I don’t really feel a need to manufacture that feeling (in contrast to my brother, who only went into business, as far as I can tell, to be doing the same kind of thing as my dad and to try to win his approval for succeeding in business. That is, from what I can tell, a decidedly father-son phenomenon). I am so glad that my mom was into sports too, so that i didn’t avoid sports because of the negative association with my dad.

        All of that being said, it’s pretty apparent that your offspring won’t be saying anyof the same things about you and I doubt that they would feel the need to resort to a cliche. Which is awesome for them, and kudos to you for having such a realistic and long term, patient view of the teen years.

        And can I say, again, how awesome it is to be able to have a reasonable, respectful discussion about baseball-related life stuff on the Internet? This site rocks, and so do its commenters.

      • stuckonwords - May 29, 2012 at 2:49 PM

        Yes, nice discussion, Idaho. Thank you.

        Two things, for the record: 1) My father had no use for sports. My love of baseball simply came from playing the game and loving it. 2) I have 15- and 19- year old sons. The older one hates all things sports. That gave/gives us one less thing to share as we struggle with things at times. The younger one wants to pitch in the Majors, and it gives us something in common that is unshakeable.

        There is no way around these struggles. Computer techs have a saying: “There are two kinds of people: the kind who have had a hard drive failure, and the kind who will have a hard drive failure.” One might be able to form a corollary to that: “There are two kinds of fathers of teenage boys: those whose sons think they know next to nothing, and those who will have sons who think they know next to nothing.”

        Take care. Time for me to go trim some tenderloins. (Not all single fathers serve only pizza and McDonalds to their kids. That can be a stereotype we can debunk another time. :-) )

      • jimbo1949 - May 29, 2012 at 2:58 PM

        “Boys want to become “their own men”, and for a period of time it is simply a rampant reality that they dismiss (i.e. “roll their eyes at”) their fathers’ advice and guidance in lieu of finding their own answers.” reminded me of this:
        . .“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished by how much he’d learned in seven years.” Mark Twain

      • stuckonwords - May 29, 2012 at 3:03 PM

        Made me literally laugh out loud, Jimbo. Great stuff. :-)

  7. amhendrick - May 29, 2012 at 11:44 AM

    Actually most of my baseball memories as a kid are with my mom. She would watch the Braves with me, and took me to my first Braves game. Not that I had issues with my dad, its just that with baseball, it was my mom. Dad was for golf.

    • stuckonwords - May 29, 2012 at 11:47 AM

      Yep, I wouldn’t begin to pretend moms don’t deserve to be included. But to knock the people who shared it with their dads? To suggest that those who did that come from “sad” households? That’s just ultra shallow in my opinion.

    • - May 29, 2012 at 12:39 PM

      My childhood was the same way. I worked on cars, learned about airplanes (I work in the aviation industry, as does my Dad) and built stuff with my Dad. My Dad pretends to have interest in sports because his wife and two sons LOVE sports.

      It was my Mom that I watched World Series & Super Bowls with. It was my Mom that not only took us to live baseball games, but to our practices and games. All of my sports bonding was with my mother.

      So yeah, the whole “Baseball & Dad” thing kind of gets on my nerves. But I get where it comes from. Because now that I have a son, I don’t want “Baseball & Dad” to get on his nerves.

  8. Jonny 5 - May 29, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    My wife just loves watching ” her baby” strike other mother’s “little babies” out left and right. She was even reprimanded by a ten year old a couple of weeks ago. Our son was pitching and the ball sailed high and the kid batting ducked into the ball and got grazed on the face and got his free base. Well our son get’s flustered when he hits a kid, he starts reeling back on his velocity a bit so my wife starts yelling things to “her baby” on the mound. “don’t worry about it, it’s ok, you’re alright” stuff like that. Well he get’s through the inning and the kid gets off first base and walks up to my wife and says “Excuse me, but I’M the one who got hit in the face.” She wanted to run away but all she could do is stammer she’s sorry as the kid walked away. I nod in approval since I’m always telling her to shush anyway.

    Moral of the story. Moms love baseball too.

    • IdahoMariner - May 29, 2012 at 1:16 PM

      Now that I am a mom, of a daughter, I love that she loves baseball. The only thing about the “fathers and sons” angle I don’t appreciate is when it’s presented as the only way to really deeply understand the allure of the game and what it means. Clearly from the comments here, it’s not the only way people come to love the game, and not the only reason they love it.

      • indaburg - May 29, 2012 at 2:39 PM

        I’m right with you, IdahoMariner. I’m a mom too, and I’m doing my best to get my daughter to love the sport too.

        Craig’s statement that it must be sad living in a household where baseball is all you have to talk about to your parents is terribly judgmental and rather shortsighted. What I find sad is to have nothing at all to discuss with your parents. Baseball, and sports in general, are frequently metaphors for other, depper issues.

  9. Stacey - May 29, 2012 at 11:55 AM

    That whole series on Jezebel is infuriating.

  10. steviep23 - May 29, 2012 at 11:57 AM

    You can’t be an idiot and play baseball. There’s plenty of idiots playing football and bball. Baseball you have to know ahead of time what needs to be done in certain situations ie. tagging up, getting the lead runner, move a runner over etc.

    • cleverbob - May 29, 2012 at 12:08 PM

      There are plenty of idiots that play baseball. It doesn’t take a Ph.D to throw a baseball really fast. Or hit a baseball really far. The rest can sort itself out.

    • indaburg - May 29, 2012 at 12:17 PM

      My dad was friends with one of Manny Ramirez’s high school teachers. He is as dumb as a bag of rocks. Plenty of idiots play baseball.

    • - May 29, 2012 at 12:42 PM

      Just search “Sh!t baseball players say” on Youtube and get back to me on that.

  11. WhenMattStairsIsKing - May 29, 2012 at 1:49 PM

    I’m one of the few people I know who loves baseball. It’s sad. Thank goodness my fiancee does as well or I may go crazy!

  12. congocash - May 29, 2012 at 1:54 PM

    Sports, the only thing my father would talk about at length….nothing else…. Nothing else would have been welcomed either.

  13. - May 29, 2012 at 3:44 PM

    I missed this the first time read through the article. I don’t know where that pitcure was taken. But that photo looks real similar to where my daughter plays softball. Down to the bleachers and the wheat as far as you can see beyond the outfield.

  14. dremmel69 - May 29, 2012 at 5:02 PM

    Baseball will always be my first sports love. I don’t care who participated; mom, dad, uncle, grandpa. I did not have a passion for baseball handed down to me. It always seemed to be there for me. I will always be drawn to it. I can’t explain it so I won’t explain it. The special things in our lives require no explanation.

  15. denny65 - May 29, 2012 at 7:12 PM

    I grew up listening, and learning to love baseball, kneeling at the feet of my mother. My father, pipe usually always clenched firmly between his teeth, thought baseball was too “plebian” or some such rot and never had an interest in the game.

    I recall even now, nearly sixty some years later, she in her comfortable chair, me sitting on the floor in our semi-darkened living room with just the faint glow of the radio dial showing, listening together to Waite Hoyt giving the Cincinnati Reds’ play-by-play in that peculiar past tense way of speaking he had, and learning the game from my Mom with her comments on the action. After a few years, I got it, and I’ve never lost it.

    During home night games in those early years we’d sometimes go to the back windows of our third-floor apartment located in Mt. Adams in Cincinnati, where we could look out across the city and see the lights of Crosley Field, and I remember being so amazed that the words coming from our radio were coming from *that* spot, over there, all lit up.

    One of the things Mom and I used to reminisce about in the 1980s, before her death, was how much each of us used to hope for rain delays during those early Reds’ games, just for the pleasure of listening to Waite fill the time by spinning tales about his days with the Yankees and Ruth and Gehrig.

    Even today, Mom, ‘though my team is now the Mariners (hey, I’m in Alaska! it’s all we’ve got!) you’d still be happy (proud?) to know that I watch the games on TV with the sound muted and listen to Rick Rizzs (and before him Dave Niehaus) on the radio.

    Old listening habits die hard, and that love for baseball you instilled in me will never die. Thanks.

  16. granted42 - May 29, 2012 at 10:38 PM

    Baseball wasn’t all my dad and I had to talk about when I was a kid, but it’s what we chose to talk about the most. That’s probably why 35 years later, I’m reading this blog.

  17. birdman6824 - May 29, 2012 at 10:44 PM

    Mention of apple pie makes me remember the Mom’s Apple Pie album cover. I Want Candy drifted me to The Strangeloves (cue Bo Diddly riff), Strangeloves bypassed me to the State Rock Song of Ohio(though I lived in Indiana at the time)…. I’m sure baseball was in there somewhere, but only at AAA level, I once has a ball signed by some Toledo Mud Hens when they played the Indianapolis Indians. Growing up without local MLB presence pushed baseball to the Little League level (the league took a train to a Reds game at Crosley Field, my Dad along, box lunch…. I only remember Smokey Burgess) – no one I knew collected baseball cards, we chewed the gum and used the cards in bicycle spokes, or inside the crown of our BB hats

  18. inkedchef - May 30, 2012 at 7:02 AM

    My father contributed to my love of baseball but he was (and is) an extremely “fair weather” sports fan. Yes, he bought me the Reds’ cap in the picture of me in the hospital about 5 minutes after I made my “big league debut” but if it hadn’t been at a time the Reds were good, it could have just as easily been a Cincinnati Swords cap. I think what instilled the love into me was more community based. Born in Cincinnati in 1969 the summers of my youth were filled chasing lightning bugs in the yard while the entire neighborhood congregated on the porch to listen to the Big Red Machine. As a child, I worshiped titans……and most of the adults I knew worshiped them as well. I was 6 in 1975 but I remember game 6 to this day, as much for the game as for the collective groan from the neighborhood when Fisk hit that home run. I remember at 11 years old being tuned in to the outrage of the entire community when Pete Rose (one of OUR OWN!!) signed with the Phillies. Yeah, it was a long time ago….free agency was a bit of a novelty still and the concept of loyalty hadn’t, quite yet, been slain by the almighty dollar. I remember carrying a broom on Fountain Square in October 1990. I remember the “geez, what can I say to defend THAT?” embarrassment of Charlie Hustle’s gambling and Marge Schott’s mouth. These were all things that I shared with EVERYONE I knew. Now as I revel in a Brandon Phillips gold glove play or am rendered awestruck by how Joey Votto can wait sooooooo long and STILL hit that down & in pitch, these are still things that bind me to people I haven’t met yet. Loving baseball is as natural and effortless as breathing to me and my father was a part of that, yes, but it’s more a result of the overall environment. These days when we talk about the Reds mostly he just bitches about how he hates Marty & The Cowboy on the radio……..not me… ’em both…….sorry Dad.

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