The Sanity of Sports

I quit playing baseball in seventh grade. Lacrosse seemed cooler.

Plus, I was kind of over bubblegum and ranch-flavored sunflower seeds — and my splitter wasn’t breaking the way I wanted it to! (Just kidding, I threw a 55 mph fastball and a “changeup” that was really just a slightly slower fastball.)

Since hanging up my cleats, I’ve swung a baseball bat maybe ten times. It’s just not a sport that you can casually play with your friends, ya know?

And yet, despite all that, baseball holds a special place in my heart that no other sport can touch. Not even basketball, which I’m completely obsessed with; or lacrosse, which I played in college.

Every morning, you wake up and are instantly reminded that the world is INSANE. Your office is killing you. Sinkholes are real things that exist. We’re addicted to our phones. Your buddy from high school got rich off Bitcoin and can’t even explain what it is or how it works.

Meanwhile, The New York Times fairly recently informed us that the Pentagon’s secret UFO program (wait, what?) has mysterious alien “alloys” in a garage in Las Vegas (WAIT, WHAT?) — and our collective response was, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Like I said, INSANE. The world is insane.

Sports, however, are not. And that’s why they’re so important.

Sports just make sense, ya know? There are winners; there are losers; there are rules; and typically, there’s a clock that lets everyone know where we are, where we’re headed, and when it’s time to go home.

Whether you’re competing on the field or watching from the stands, sports teach you humility, teamwork, and respect.

“Just win, baby. But be sure to respect your opponent. And remember: it’s not about you, it’s about the team.”

All of that sounds so … human. But think about it: those are sports-specific lessons.

What business class teaches you to respect your opponent? What Netflix documentary taught you teamwork? What iPhone app made you realize that being part of something bigger than yourself makes life infinitely richer?

Bottomline: sports represent what we aspire to be. And without their sanity — without the escape they provide — the world would be a much darker place. Never forget that.

Time Heals All Wounds (But Does it Get You to Cooperstown?)

On Saturday night at AT&T Park, the San Francisco Giants retired Barry Bonds’ No. 25 jersey. A Who’s Who of not only Giants but baseball history were there to celebrate the Home Run King*.

Some highlights:

  • The team placed 35 floating balloon baseballs in McCovey Cove — each one at or near the location of all of Bonds’ 35 home runs that went swimming.
  • Willie Mays sent a message to Hall of Fame voters about Barry: “Vote him in!”

Watching the ceremony, it was hard not to feel like the world had forgiven Barry…

And there were plenty of tweets and blog posts confirming this notion. But there were also plenty of tweets and blog posts pointing out the irony of the whole thing. I mean, the guy (allegedly) took steroids. He cheated. And we’re celebrating this?

Regardless of whose side you’re on, it will be interesting to watch this all play out. Because time does inevitably heal all wounds — but asking time to remove a literal asterisk is a much taller task.

Reflection (last week in review)

  • College Football: Maryland has suspended head football coach D.J. Durkin while the university investigates accusations about mistreatment of players that surfaced following the death of freshman offensive lineman Jordan McNair.
  • College Basketball: Facing ongoing FBI investigations into the dark side of recruiting, and the imminent demise of the one-and-done era, the NCAA announced sweeping changes to its rule book.
  • Soccer: Billionaire Stan Kroenke got full control of Arsenal after buying out Russian tycoon Alisher Usmanov’s 30 percent stake.

Looking Ahead (coming up this week)

  • Tuesday, 10 PM (HBO) ➞ Hard Knocks, Episode 2: No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield looked good in the Browns’ 20-10 preseason win over the Giants, but Tyrod Taylor remains the starter. Should be interesting to see how head coach Hue Jackson handles “Mayfield Mania,” which is sure to begin this week.
  • Wednesday, 7 PM (ESPN) ➞ Red Sox vs. Phillies: The AL East leader vs. the NL East leader (as of Sunday). Two of the best sports cities in America. National television. See you there.
  • Thursday, 8 PM (ESPN) ➞ Jets vs. Redskins: Preseason games don’t matter, we get it. But they’re still entertaining, especially when you get to watch and critique a rookie quarterback like Sam Darnold.

Scripture (articles worth reading)

  • Deadspin: The NWSL’s Sky Blue FC Is Falling Apart, On The Field And Off:“Sky Blue FC is the longest operating women’s professional soccer club in the United States … But six seasons into the team’s NWSL stint, there are questions as to whether Sky Blue can survive another year of the poor living and working conditions that have come to define the franchise.”
  • The Ringer: The Meaning Of Ohio State’s Urban Meyer Decision: “Once an independent investigation delivers its results later this month, the university will face a choice about whether to fire its head football coach. The decision it makes will speak volumes — on both college sports and the school’s priorities at large.”
  • Bleacher Report: Chasing Alvin Kamara: The NFL’s Reluctant Star: Lots of curse words in this one. Great read, though.

-Kendall Baker