I’m convinced baseball is more than a sport. It’s a deeply ingrained part of the fabric of American culture. It permeates our lives and our language in ways of which we might not even be aware. This was further brought to my attention recently during the Sochi Olympics of all places.
During the bobsled competition, my family heard the commentator refer to one team’s ability to “hit a home run”. It turns out that we weren’t the only ones to notice this. At least one other reader of this blog (you know who you are, Carol) took note of several more instances of such references, including the following:
- During a hockey game, the announcer said the goalie “was expecting a fastball and got a change-up.”
- Skiers as they approached the starts of their runs were described as “stepping up to the plate.”
- One competition that was nearing its conclusion was described as entering “the 8th inning.”
- Some video footage had to be shown during a delay in the competition caused by fog. Someone said it was “the Olympic version of rain delay theater.”
- The extended drought of US bobsled medals was compared to the 86 years of frustration experienced by the Boston Red Sox. (Why not mention the far more frustrated Chicago Cubs? Good question. Their drought is ongoing; the Sox put the kibosh on their woes multiple times this century. The Red Sox, it seems, are synonymous with suffering… and baseball.)
The point being that even in other sports, no metaphor is more descriptive and better understood than a baseball metaphor. I chalk this up to two factors.
First, there is nothing like baseball lingo. No other sport comes close to the colorful language of the grand old game. I mentioned this in a previous post about MS jargon.
The second factor can’t be expressed in a few words. Fortunately, someone has done it exceedingly well already: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZ1dZhh0_RQ
I can testify to the truth of screenwriter Phil Alden Robinson’s speech (though it could have come from Kinsella’s book; I haven’t read it) as spoken by the inimitable James Earl Jones. People do come.
Many years ago I went to Dyersville, Iowa to the farm where the movie was filmed. What did I see? A few pickup ball games, parents and children “having a catch”, people in the stands watching… what? A bunch of strangers tossing the old horsehide around. And they still do.
That’s more than a sport.