Think of the biggest mistake you have ever made. Ready...go...
...Okay, stop. Regardless of what you came up with, I know some mistake you have made(big or small) popped into your head. The fact is, we all make mistakes. Everyday. Several times a day.
Baseball, like life, is full of mistakes. Blown calls, missed ground balls, Matt Tolbert. There are mistakes everywhere you look on a baseball field.
Baseball, unlike any other sport, is built on uncertainties and ambiguities. Take, for example the place that a baseball game takes place. Sit back and run through as many random stadiums as you can in your head, and tell me how many of them look exactly alike.
Wrigely Field. Fenway Park. Yankee Stadium. Target Field. Each stadium has its own dimensions, its own quirks, its own nuance. There are basic similarities, of course, but no two playing fields are identical. Now, take a football field, basketball court, or hockey rink. Not only are there no differences (besides color, or type of turf) these playing surfaces are almost completely identical to one another. You know exactly what you are getting if you go to one of these facilities, even if you have never been there before.
Baseball is just different.
Yes, it may sound old-fashioned and hokey, but the thing that makes baseball so great, so much different than any other sport are the mistakes. The imperfections. Baseball, like life, is imperfect. Out or safe. Fair or foul. The weird fucking hop from the ball hitting some strange object along the fence (a fence that is completely different than every other fence, might I add). Every second something happens in a baseball game, there is a chance for a mistake. Every split second decision could go right or wrong.
Sounds like everyday life to me.
There are almost no absolutes or certainties anywhere in life. Baseball is no different. One pitch, one inning, one game, things seem to be moving along perfectly, most of the plays going your way. Mistakes are made, but they are small. Then, out of nowhere, things begin to fall apart. An umpire calls a guy safe when he was clearly out, and suddenly things begin to unravel one pitch, one inning, one game at a time. All because of one mistake.
It is neither fair nor just, but it is life. It is having what you want taken away by one little fuck up.
There are things in life that we can control, but there are so many more things that are completely out of our hands. We can influence these things, yes, but it is rare that we can truly grasp them. Everyday brings uncertainty just like every pitch brings uncertainty.
But wait, you say, the uncertainties in baseball can become certainties. The mistakes can be fixed. The human element need not apply anymore. Instant reply can solve all the ills. Just look at football.
But football is not the same. It is never more than a game on a clock with a definitive conclusion. The mistakes are righted with the blow of a whistle and a quick video timeout. Take a break for a moment, the game will still be here when you get back. You'll fix the mistake, and the clock will start up and continue to run to it's conclusion. You know exactly when this game will end, because the clock tells you when it will end.
That's not life. That's a construct of certainties. It's a countdown to a conclusion. It's a safe little box that you cannot venture from. You know exactly what you are getting.
Life is living outside a box. There is no time limit. Sure, you will not live forever, but you don't know when it all will end. And there sure as hell is no video reply to right your wrongs. Good things happen. Bad things happen. But it is up to you to cherish the good, and attempt to find redemption for the bad.
That's life. And that's baseball. Nine innings may not be enough. A few mistakes will likely be made. But you cannot define what will go on between the first pitch, and the yet-to-be-determined last pitch. There will be good, and there will be bad but there will be no re-dos.
So call me a purist, an old-fashioned hack, or overzealous about a metaphor, but I would like to keep baseball the way it is. Just like I would like to keep life the way it is. The ups-and-downs are what define us, and I promise you there is no instant replay in creating that definition.
Think back to your mistakes one more time. Would your life really be better without? Different, yes. But better?
Sorry, but mistakes and imperfections make baseball beautiful and life worth living. Without them, you would be left with one, and only one, absolute: baseball and life would be pretty bland.