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Is This Heaven?

By Curt MacDougall

So here I am watching another Kevin Costner "baseball" movie. Hard to tell which one...maybe Field of Dreams or Bull Durham, or that o0ne where he's an aging pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. Actually, I think there were two movies where he played that part. Whatever.

There’s a lot of existential talk about life and damp grass and the smell of leather mitts as guys gaze sappily off into the distance. I guess those scenes where someone is trotting around the bases in slow motion or squinting in from the mound while adjusting his grip on the ball would be the “action” sequences. I’m pretty sure The English Patient packed more “edge-of-your-seat” moments than this.

And yet I've watched them all, hoping to discover the secret to this “sport” that has eluded me all these years. Essentially it appears to be one guy with a stick trying to break up a game of catch between two other guys — for two and a half hours. The inordinate amount of adjusting and expectorating is apparently meant to compensate for the fact that very little else is happening. The bad news — this will be repeated 162 times. The good news — I think we've found an alternative to waterboarding.

Hey, I'm as big a fan of overpriced hot dogs and watered-down beer as the next guy. But some of us would rather prune an ingrown toenail than sit through nine innings of “America's pastime.” Even the announcers, whose job it is to keep the game interesting, fall silent for great stretches of time, rendered speechless by the glacial pace.

I can appreciate the fact that every sporting contest has its ebb and flow, but with baseball you really can't tell the difference. It's probably because of all that standing around. And yet, the total payroll for the 30 MLB teams last year topped out somewhere north of $3 billion. I'm no bean-counter, but if ever there was a business that could benefit from a productivity analysis…

Friends started posting the spring training countdown on social media about a month ago. “Only two more weeks until catchers and pitchers report,” they gushed, no doubt having just soiled themselves. Because nothing renews the spirit quite like the yearly gathering of, pampered millionaires, er elite athletes, doing calisthenics in their pajamas while testing the limits of how much chew the human cheek can hold.

I'll admit, I never connected with the storied tradition and romance of the game. The batter's intricate dance as he digs in at the plate, the steely resolve of the pitcher as he stares down his opponent, the pools of brown sputum fermenting in the dugout. Or even, for that matter, the seventh-inning stretch — that time-honored ritual where fans stand and sing a rousing rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” while waiting for feeling to return to their butts. A more jaded person might think it's actually a safety measure instituted by Major League Baseball to try and prevent mass cases of deep vein thrombosis.

No, I'm afraid even my man-love for Kevin Costner isn't enough to sell me on the sport. I don't care how many times he gets all misty-eyed sniffing a catcher's mitt.

— Curt MacDougall

Curt's journey has been unconventional, to say the least, something he likens to Forrest Gump and his box of chocolates. From airborne traffic reporter to marketing shlub, freelance columnist and television news producer, the road has never been boring. And through it all there was the need to write, whether it was jokes for a radio morning show, website content for an engineering firm, humorous musings in one of Michigan's largest daily papers or scripts meant to make news anchors sound as if they knew what they were talking about. Other examples can be seen at his blog, Lies Jack Kerouac Told Me, where he writes “largely about small matters and smally about great affairs,” to borrow from James Thurber (another inspiration).

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