I set out with the intention of writing an article about how I miss baseball, and I do really miss baseball. But then I realised it’s not baseball I miss, at least not just baseball, it’s sport. I really miss sport in general.
As the world is going into lockdown to try and minimise the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, sporting events became a sad but inevitable (and wholly sensible) casualty of the measures being put in place to protect us.
But why do you miss sport? Why do I miss the act of one individual throwing a small, spherical bit of leather at another individual who tries to hit it with a piece of wood (different shaped bits of wood are available)? Or a group of individuals running around a field kicking a larger bit of spherical leather in an attempt to get it into a bit of netting? Or a larger group of individuals crashing into each other to get a funny shaped bit of leather over a line painted on a field? Or even groups of individuals running around ovals a varying number of times?
It’s not the acts themselves, which can be pretty absurd when you think about them out of context; it’s the stories.Embed from Getty Images
Humans have always told stories and always will. From early humans looking up at the stars and inventing characters based on the shapes they saw there, to the latest blockbuster dragging in huge crowds to the cinema. We, as a species, love stories.
Think about your favourite sports and teams, and it will be stories and storied moments that come rushing back to you first, not the cold facts and figures.
From on-field heroics: Curt Schilling bleeding from his ankle due to surgery mere hours before Game Six of the 2004 ALDS but pitching through the pain, Ben Stokes obliterating the Australian bowlers at Headingley in 2019 when England had only one wicket remaining to keep the Ashes alive, Super Saturday at London 2012, Manchester United never giving up against Bayern Munich to score two goals in stoppage time clinching a famous Treble or Johnny Wilkinson’s drop goal in the 2003 Rugby World Cup final.
To off-field drama: the Houston Astros sign stealing, Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace after his doping was revealed or the ball-tampering scandal that surrounded the Australian men’s cricket team.
Regrettably, there are also true human tragedies associated with sport which pale the events on the field into insignificance, such as Hillsborough or the attack on the athlete’s village at the 1972 Munich Olympics.Embed from Getty Images
What makes these stories so special is that we don’t just experience them; personally, we share them and share in them. They’re not just moments of entertainment; they create a collective social story that brings people together. From the buzz generated in a city (or even a nation) when their team is on a roll, to the impromptu friendships struck up in bars and pubs as we watch events unfold together to the “did you see …” conversations in the workplace.
These stories create communities, communities that aren’t necessarily bound by restrictions of geography, social/economic class or religion. Communities who welcome anybody who partook in that story.
In this time of isolation and social distancing, community is possibly more important than ever. Without sport and the stories it provides some of that sense of community is inevitable lost, temporarily, but lost at a time when maybe we need it most.
I do miss baseball. I miss sport. But most of all, I miss the stories and sharing those stories with others. Here’s hoping they’re not gone too long!
Rich Hampson is covering the Boston Red Sox during 2020 as part of the growing team of writers at Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @armchairbaseba1
IMPORTANT: Hey, the next few months will be tough for all of us. The UK baseball community is one large extended family. We are here to help, and together we will all get through it. Reach out to us on Twitter @BatFlips_Nerds – our DMs are open.
Nice article, I think it captures the essence of why(and how) sport means so much to us as a species. Thank you.
I know it’s a cliche but they really are ‘more than just games’ to paraphrase the famous line.
It’s notable how some of the ‘standard’ conversations I’d have with friends and family have disappeared into the sport vacuum.