I understand the anger. I understand the need to vent. I understand the desire to make a statement by staying away for a while.
Those are the normal reactions of someone who has been abused and abandoned, which is just what the players and owners did to the public.
But I can’t understand those who say they’re through with baseball for good. Either they’re speaking out of emotion and don’t really mean it, or they weren’t true fans to begin with.
By true fans, I speak of those who were raised with the game, its tradition and lore. I speak of those who automatically check the boxscores with their morning coffee, who turn the game on the radio in the car, at the beach, on the boat or when they’re working around the house.
I speak of those who have baseball in their blood, to whom the game has long been a part of the rhythm of their lives.
Owners and players may behave like buffoons, but they come and go. The game goes on. To true fans, baseball’s grip is too powerful, resilient and enduring to be irreparably broken by a labor/ management fight, however distasteful. They won’t - can’t - abandon the game in a fit of pique.
No question, the eight-month civil war never should have happened.
No question, baseball has been wounded. No question, the two sides had damned well better come to an agreement to avert the possibility of another stoppage of play.
But a little perspective, please. Baseball has suffered a terrible eight-month stretch, but eight months is the blink of an eye to a game that started well before the Civil War and over generations established a place in the nation’s history and psyche.
It has had peaks and valleys. It has survived wars, depression and scandal. It will survive this.
It will survive even a precipitous drop in attendance, should people continue to stay away in large numbers. Will they? I suspect not.
At least not for good. Not the true fans.
Sure, people can live without baseball. It’s entertainment, not an essential. But for those who love it, who truly love it, their quality of life will be diminished by its absence once the anger has cooled.
The symmetry of the diamond still beckons. The bases are still a perfect 90 feet apart. The lush verdancy of the outfield still stretches forever.
Fastballs still hum, curves hiss, and splitters drop off the table. Consistently hitting a baseball hard remains the most sophisticated and difficult athletic skill ever invented. There still are triples.
It’s hard to remember, but baseball was enjoying one of its greatest seasons before the strike. Attendance was booming, exciting races were in the offing, and individuals were on pace to wondrous years.
Given a chance to heal, baseball can and will reclaim those heights. To those who say no thanks, not interested, never coming back, I say suit yourself, but you’re not a true fan.
And you’re missing a great game.
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