Thursday, October 17, 2013

Battling Baseball Boredom

Some time ago my love affair with baseball began a long slide that ended just short of complete indifference.

Most of the boys in my northern Wisconsin hometown participated in “America’s pastime” as players, dedicated fans, or both. A major league franchise didn’t arrive in Milwaukee until we were teenagers, so we supported various teams. We had ties to Chicago through tourism, thus Cubs fans probably were in the majority. Quite a few St. Louis Cardinals backers lived in my neighborhood. I bucked the trends by supporting the White Sox, after briefly being enamored with the Detroit Tigers.

We didn’t have Little League baseball, but a summer sports program offered early organized playing opportunities. I started as a catcher at age 11 on the team that competed against nines from other cities. Later, I donned “the tools of ignorance” (face mask, shin guards, chest protector) for high school, American Legion, and county league teams.

When the Braves franchise moved from Boston to Milwaukee, Wisconsin went baseball crazy. Normal business activity ground to a halt in Brewtown when the local heroes took the field. Every adult was in the ballpark or glued to a radio listening to the action. Interest was only slightly less elsewhere in the state. I joined the crowd as a rabid fan.

I'm catching some baseball once again
My passion began to wane during college days. My agenda became filled with more interesting activities than two- to three-hour sessions beside a radio or in front of a television set when half the time consisted of lulls between pitches and innings.

Later, following baseball became more of a chore than an entertainment. I was forced to watch lots of games. As a weekly newspaper editor, it was necessary to report on local contests. However, it was possible to avoid some of those time-consuming tasks by writing stories using scorebooks supplied by team managers. I became quite adept at creating descriptions of games I never saw.

But as sports editor of The Daily Tribune in Wisconsin Rapids I had no way to avoid baseball overkill. Rapids had a Minnesota Twins farm team in the Midwest League. Interest was high in the games played by the young professionals. I was required to attend nearly every home game (a reporter would fill in for me in extreme emergencies). There were 62 home games each season, almost all of them night games.

Covering minor league ball had interesting moments. It also forced me to watch some error-filled contests that lasted far into the night. Often it was midnight when I got to the office to compile the statistics and write my story for the next day’s paper.
My regular work hours started at 7 a.m. or earlier, six days a week.  My enthusiasm about baseball soon began its long slide downward. Later, other things pushed it further out of my life.

Business and family matters became much more important than following what I had come to view as dull athletic contests. Pro football began to replace baseball as the national pastime. It seized the American sports imagination, including mine. In retirement, I caught the golf bug. Had I still cared about baseball, time to follow it was seldom available.

Just as I my interest in baseball was nearing zero, we moved to Michigan. Since our arrival, pro football excitement waned-- the Detroit Lions seldom won a game. The Tigers won lots of games, and their fan base expanded. This year, home attendance topped 3 million. Anyone who follows news as I do had trouble avoiding stories about the Tigers. To learn directly what it was all about, I tuned into a few games on the tube. Unfortunately, I usually lost interest and moved on to something else well before the contests ended.

Now the Tigers are deep into the playoffs. The team features two of the best pitchers in the game and some powerful hitters. Not watching games right now causes people to be left out of a lot of conversations. I don’t like to be lonesome, so I’ve been watching the playoffs on television.

Unfortunately, even the playoff games strike me as less than thrilling. A few descriptions of strategies developed since my days as a player and fan have been interesting, but nothing has changed about the boredom fostered by the same old frequent periods of nothing much happening. I was close to ending my brief stint as a resurrected Tigers enthusiast.

Happily, I accidentally discovered a way to enjoy watching baseball on the tube. I was reading an intriguing book when a Tigers’ playoff game started. Feeling a bit lazy, rather than switch activities completely, I just stayed where I was and switched on the TV. I saw every bit of the baseball action and finished 70 pages of a good book during the dead times in the game. Chances of running out of interesting books are low; I’m staying on board as a Tigers fan, although not exactly a full-time one.  


Anonymous said...

I just wish I still had all those baseball cards I collected years ago. Yes, I remember when the Braves moved. So long ago. Dianne

Kay Dennison said...

I live in NE Ohio and grew up with the Tribe. It's a strange relationship but I still follow them.

PiedType said...

As a kid, I played a little baseball and softball. And I collected baseball cards, but only because I liked bubble gum. And because Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris were from Oklahoma, my home. But as a spectator sport ... yawn! Except for when the Rockies got into the World Series a few years ago and played some Series games here in Denver. Getting son and grandson into a once in a lifetime World Series game seemed mandatory, even for us non-baseball fans.

Barb said...

I rarely watch tv and do nothing. but with any sport but perhaps Broncos football I definitely have a book, my laptop, or knitting or a crossword puzzle going at the same time.

Kay said...

Alas! The only time I've been interested with baseball was when our son pitched for his little league team. The Cubs never won when I attended a game.