Thursday, April 14, 2011

Baseball and Bonds

Barry Bonds broke the rules. There are other more important matters facing the world right now and this seems like the least of them. It was an expensive trial that ended up with a mixed verdict. He was convicted on only one count of obstruction of justice. He was evasive and determined to not tell the truth. Truth matters. Especially on a stage as big as professional baseball. Performance enhancing drugs is a huge social problem. Kids emulate their sports heroes. If you can cheat at baseball why not cheat in other areas of life, as well. If only those other areas were as clear cut.

Baseball has rules. Clearly defined rules. Everyone can see the boundary lines. A ball hit inside those lines is fair play and one hit outside those lines is foul. Ball four means a batter gets a free pass to first base. There is no funny business. Three strikes means a batter goes back to his seat on the bench. There is no leniency. Pitchers earned run averages and batters hitting averages are exact. No one's era is about 3. It is 3.21, exactly. The team that scores the most runs wins and there is no nonsense about awarding anyone a run for effort or good attitudes. Players that bet on games are thrown out of the game. Players that take drugs to get an advantage are suspended and thrown out if they keep on doing it. Even if they have hall of fame numbers they broke the rules of baseball and should not get in. So far that has been the case, anyway.

Life is not so clear. That's why baseball is an escape from life. The game of baseball makes sense in the way life does not (excepting players salaries and perks, that is, which make no sense in the real world and it is terrifically irritating to hear baseball commentators say things like he is worth every penny of the 3 million he is being paid - they are not living in the real world either - is this the fantasy league people talk about?)

In so called real life, boundaries are not so clear. Not one of the executives of any of the financial institutions that caused the economy to melt down has ever paid a dime or answered for their cheating. Politicians who play outside the lines do not have to account for their foul play. People find creative ways to get ahead any way they can. Their scorecards show they have scored more runs than the rest of us but they don't have to follow the same rules.

That's why I like to watch the game of baseball.

There are second chances in baseball and even if you go 0 for 4 there is always another game tomorrow. You can even go 0 for 20 and you still get another chance. If you hit a home run on your 21st at bat the other 20 at bats are forgiven. But that is about as far as grace goes in baseball. If you went 0 for 40, you might get shipped to the minors and wind up out of baseball. If you get injured and couldn't play, you won't get to remain part of the team. And if you cheat, you are gone. The lines are clear and well defined. Still, I'm glad life is not like that. As messy as real life can be, grace is a good thing. Bonds and Rose and Ramirez will never play the game again and they probably will never have their greatness immortalized in the hall of fame but God's grace is for cheaters and other sinners. They can still go home a winner.