The Beauty of Baseball and the Mystery of the Chicago Cubs

John ArmstrongBaseball

George Carlin, a comedian whose humor is often irreverent and generally quite obnoxious, wrote a wonderful piece on baseball in 1997 that compared it to other sports played with a ball. For fans of this great game his words bear repeating:

Baseball is different from any other sport, very different.

For instance, in most sports you score points or goals; in baseball you score runs. In most sports the ball, or object, is put in play by the offensive team; in baseball the defensive team puts the ball in play, and only the defense is allowed to touch the ball. In fact, in baseball if an offensive player touches the ball intentionally, he’s out; sometimes unintentionally, he’s out.

Also; in football, basketball, soccer, volleyball, and all sports played with a ball, you score with the ball and in baseball the ball prevents you from scoring.

Carlin then proceeds to compare America’s two most popular sports, baseball and football, by saying:

Baseball is a nineteenth-century pastoral game.
Football is a twentieth-century technological struggle.

Baseball is played on a diamond, in a park. The baseball park!
Football is played on a gridiron, in a stadium, sometimes called Soldier Field or War Memorial Stadium.

Baseball begins in the spring, the season of new life.
Football begins in the fall, when everything’s dying.

I could go on but you get the drift. Baseball is a game with a leisurely pace, one that slows us down, allows us to relax, to “go home,” or finally “to be safe at home.” Maybe this is why I love it so much, especially after the recent winter weather we have endured in the Midwest. (Global warming jokes abound around here when the weather turns this bad.)

But one thing does seem certain, at least in Chicago. The Cubs will not win a World Series this season. I know, they have a new manager, a manager who has been a winner along the way. But the last guy, Dusty Baker, had also been a winner along the way and he came so close in 2003 until a guy named Steve Bartman tried to catch a foul ball and got run out of town as the reason for the Cubs’ collapse. (Cubs’ fans always have their reasons. What can I say?)

Die-hard Cubs fans still have hope, but continue to talk about goats and jinxes and a host of other reasons for their futility. But new manager Lou Pinella doesn’t quite get into this Cubs stuff yet. In the Monday edition of the Chicago Tribune Sweet Lou may not have seen the irony in his own comments when he said: “Our pitchers aren’t pitching very well and our hitters aren’t hitting very well. Outside of that, we’re OK.” OK? Lou, you have to be kidding. We haven’t even played a real game yet and this is how you talk about the Cubs for the Chicago faithful. Hope may be dead on arrival with this kind of gloom and you haven’t even heaved a base toward the outfield in a fit of rage over an umpire’s bad call.

Someday the Cubs will win it all, someday. The law of averages says it has to happen. But I am not sure it will happen in my lifetime. After all, this team is entering its 99th season without winning the big prize in baseball. To make matters worse their hated cross-town rivals won it all in 2005. Oh the glories of spring. I can hear it now, less than four weeks away: “Play ball.” I just wonder what all the money spent in the off-season to buy new players will really mean for the 2007 Cubs? So do the fans who will “boo and raise a hullabaloo,” as one Cubs song puts it, if the Cubs keep being lovable losers in 2007. I know, someday they will win, but someday could be a long way off as Cubs fans all know. Think of it, no one alive in Chicago today can consciously remember the last World Championship Cubs team. But “wait till next year” is about to start soon if the Cubs do not live up to the huge expectations they created by their off-season acquisitions and the hiring of a new manager, a manager you must remember, who presently says their pitchers are not pitching and their hitters aren’t hitting. One thing we will get from Pinella for sure is brutal honesty, whether Cubs fans like it or not.