Thursday, March 30, 2017

Thoughts On Baseball's Imminent Return

As loyal readers surely know, I love baseball. I understand if you don't like it, of course. It is a slower game, not great on television, and has fewer exciting athletes compared to other major American sports, so if you don't like it, I understand. Being the contrarian I am, I guess it's fitting that baseball is my favorite sport. For me baseball's beauty lies in two elements: its rich history (always a plus for a historian like me) and its dailiness. During the season I have my wonderful, daily friend to be with me, just waiting there after I get home from work. Every day of the off season feels oddly empty without it.

Although baseball may not be as popular as the NFL, it is connected to America's history and culture in ways that other sports aren't. That's why Jackie Robinson mattered so much. That's why they still make more and better movies about baseball than other sports. And that's also why very president since Taft has thrown out the first pitch to start the season. In olden times the stout Taft merely stood up and threw the ball to a player on the field. Starting with Reagan, presidents have taken to the mound and thrown the first pitch. I actually find this to be a very undignified thing for the chief executive to do. Just look at George HW Bush, once the captain of Yale's baseball team:

So as critical as I am of our disgrace of a president, I actually don't have a problem with him declining to take the mound. If throwing the ball from the stands was good enough for FDR and LBJ, it's good enough for me.


He, as of yet, is not even doing that. It may sound like a minor thing, but I think it matters a great deal in a symbolic sense. The president has still not attended a public event since the inauguration (his rallies, where entrance is controlled, do not count.) He seems afraid (or perhaps his handlers do) of actually seeing the subjects that he rules over. We all know that if he throws out the first pitch in DC, he will be booed and heckled mercilessly. His rather inflated ego will not countenance such behavior by the peasantry.

The American presidency is a strange institution. The president is both the driving force in our national government, but also the head of state, much like a monarch. We expect the president to make symbolic gestures, to participate in the symbolic life of the country. The opening day of baseball season is one of those important symbolic days, and if Trump does not show up for it he is proving himself (yet again) to be uninterested in the symbolic power of the presidency. This does not surprise me in the least. He has and will continue to care about only one person: himself.

The silver lining, of course, is that I can enjoy an opening day of baseball untainted by the tiny orange fingers of our dear leader. It seems strange to care about baseball while the world is on fire, but I need my daily friend to give me needed solace when the enormity of it all threatens to overwhelm me.

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