If you think about the intersection of government and baseball, you’re probably thinking about the steroid hearing. Other than that, the two couldn’t be more different, it seems. But the more I think about it, the more I see these similarities.
I’m the Deputy Finance Director for the city of Durham, North Carolina, home of the minor league Durham Bulls from Bull Durham. I guess it’s natural that I’m looking for these similarities. Sports metaphors lead to corny writing, especially with baseball. But maybe there’s something here.
If you look at government through baseball, maybe it’s not all that bad. So, bear with me.
- Baseball is about tradition; it’s a tradition to point this out. Baseball is a sport with a tremendous history and fabulous rivalries. Going to a baseball game is a way of connecting to the past, to the long history of the game, and to the history of the U.S.
- You don’t need expensive equipment to play baseball, and you don’t need to be freakishly tall or massively built. It is a very democratic sport that everybody can play. Look at David Wells.
- Baseball’s best days came from legendary players who brought the game to new heights. It’s been hurt by scandals where the misbehaving few have sullied the public’s perception of the many. Sound familiar?
- A baseball team strives for a collective goal; at the same time, it is a game of individuals—a batter versus a pitcher—that becomes a team sport whenever something goes wrong, like a batter getting hit.
- Baseball is the only sport where a play can be legally made outside the foul lines. If you catch a foul ball outside the lines, it’s still an out.
- Lower-level baseball has a certain purity to it that the big league version doesn’t have. None of the players are millionaires. Many of them want to be, but many of them are still playing it out of love.
- Long-time player and manager Casey Stengel once said this about baseball: “Ability is the art of getting credit for all the home runs somebody else hits.”
- In baseball, you can’t sit on a lead, run a few plays into the line, or just kill the clock. The pitcher has to keep throwing the ball, and the batters keep getting their chances to hit the ball.
Good sports and good government can be enjoyed on many levels. Although they hold many things in common, baseball is a sport and government is an art. While the differences between baseball and government might be more interesting, the two aren’t all that far apart.
—Photo AP/Jeff Roberson