The Baseball Desert

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The dance

Beth has a wonderful piece up on her blog about last night's game at Fenway. What I love about Beth's blog is that it's not always (in fact, very seldom) about the nuts and bolts of the game - the runs, the hits, the strikeouts. Last night she found herself looking beyond the action at the plate, and in so doing manages to turn a wet, Monday-night blowout against the Devil Rays into something timeless:
I had begun, meanwhile, to watch things other than the plate--I watched the fielders, their surprisingly precise movements, the way they'd sway in unison on the pitch, then return to their habitual between-pitch fidgeting, this guy drawing circles in the dirt with his feet, this guy windmilling his arms, this guy cracking his neck and snapping his gum.

People often decry this dawdling between pitches and between plays as a fault of baseball, a way in which the sport is boring and useless. Maybe if you're watching on TV, it's worse. But watching at the ballpark...last night I saw there is nothing more beautiful. They're like dancers; they have the same stylized, subtle muscular movements. The different permutations of the ensemble enacting this pantomime are tantalizing--now a man on third, scratching with his feet around the plate like a dog marking his territory. Now two men on, first and second, leaning and jumping toward the next base with the pitch. It's like a dance. Like something that exists only for itself, not as part of a game with strategies and a greater outcome.
There really is nothing more to be said.