Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Baseball Rituals

As we all know, watching sports in real time is a luxury enjoyed by men with no kids; highlights were invented for the rest of us. Nonetheless, I was somehow afforded the opportunity to sit down and watch the final two innings of the 2009 baseball season this evening.

I enjoyed this brief opportunity to watch two very skilled teams compete but I was struck by several prominent rituals I observed. Now, I don't know if I like rituals or dislike rituals but I can tell you that I am keenly aware of them when they unfold before me. This is especially true when it is unclear to me how the ritual began or why it has persisted.

What is it with the spitting? I know about the old tobacco ritual and understand how that was a prominent habit in the game for decades. Somewhere along the line I tried chew and I remember how it compels the need to spit. Today though, the tobacco is largely gone from baseball but the spitting has remained a part of nearly every player's between pitch routine. That strikes me as odd.

I guess gathering at the mound in a team embrace and hopping in unison is a pretty well entrenched ritual for celebrating a world series win. I have to say, it just doesn't seem spontaneous. It looks to me like the players do it because it is expected; perhaps believing that is what they are supposed to do. Perplexing ritual if you ask me.

I really don't get the immediate donning of championship hats and T-shirts as a celebratory ritual. I've played lots of sports and had many victories that were very important to me. I never once felt a natural desire to express my joy with head wear and I remain skeptical that a World Series win would trigger such an emotion. Somehow, the silliness and shallowness of a "Champions" hat does not belong in the same moment as the genuine and well deserved joy that is so clearly evident on the player's faces

Finally, and most importantly, I am shocked by the loser's ritual of sitting stoically in the dugout and watching the winner's tired charade. I know they are disappointed and I guess assuming a listless existence is probably a pretty natural reaction. Still, it shocks me that not once, has any player, manager, or coach from the losing team ever mustered the maturity to step on the field and offer a congratulatory gesture to the victors. When that happens, the man who does it will be an instant hero to me.


  1. Anonymous11/05/2009

    FYI, Matt Garza set a new ESA (Earned Spit Average)record this year with 877. I think he needed an IV after one game. RF

  2. Plagued by a World Series hangover for the last week, I chose not to watch the end of Game 6. I did, however, catch the highlights and had very similar thoughts. I don't really get the jumping up and down in a large group after the last out.
    I also had the same thought about the losing team peering out from the dugout. I wondered why no one ever ventures out to offer a congratulatory handshake, but I assumed it is some unwritten baseball code.
    I do like to witness the actions of the winning team and even went so far as to think about a member of the winning team climbing into the stands (home team) and celebrating with the fans or taking in the victory from the fans perspective.