Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Play Ball

Bear with me...

A major league baseball is round and white, the outer covering comprising two identical slices of cowhide, held together with 108 stitches of waxed red thread. It's about 1/4 lb. in weight and about four inches in diameter.

It also has three labels stamped on it: the manufacturer's logo, the logo of Major League Baseball, and a facsimile signature of the commissioner.

It's a metaphor for life.

Many people will glance at something matching that rough description and conclude in a moment that they're looking at a baseball. It could be a ball designed for another league, or it could be a soft and squishy ball meant for safe play by the youngest of us, or it could be a slightly larger softball.

Some people will look at some of the elements making this a baseball and finally conclude by the preponderance of evidence that this is truly a baseball and not a squash. It's okay to be skeptical and gather more proof, at least in their minds. it's always good to ask questions because, you know, you never know until you know.

Some people will insist this is a hockey puck. They won't look at any of the evidence and side with others who maybe say that this is a hockey puck in a stealth white wrapper, and someone's trying to fool us all and there is no reason to believe otherwise.

Some people will key on a particular element such as the yarn stitches, and all they can think about is Grandma knitting mittens that kept their hands warm as children, and so they have a heart-felt (although somewhat disconnected) fondness for the baseball.

Although not saying so anywhere on it, the outer cover is cowhide, but some will insist on calling it horsehide, maybe well beyond the grave. The cowhide side will insist they're right, and the battle for the truth will immediately degrade to one-word exchanges: "Cowhide!" "Horsehide!" "Cowhide!" "Horsehide!"

Some will wonder why the commissioner has his name on the ball, when he's only some office guy overseeing the sport, and it's more important to get a player's signature on it, and a real one. The commissioner's name on it just isn't good enough, no matter how they acquired the ball. To them, it's just another baseball until a real ballpoint-ink signature is on it, whereupon the baseball is placed in a display stand and likely never again to be held in human fingers. A curse upon anyone daring to handle it as the commissioner intended.

Some have examined (or maybe even assembled) a baseball inside and out, so they have more thorough knowledge of the makeup and reasons for its makeup than virtually anyone else. They understand that it takes far too long and it's maybe far too boring to explain all to anyone except the rare curiosity-seeker who has the time and desire to acquire the fullest education on it. A baseball is complicated, but that's irrelevant to just about anyone interacting with one.

There is at least one trade secret involved with every baseball but I'm not telling what that is. Some with in-depth knowledge of  baseball prefer that the rabble be hoodwinked into knowing the baseball in a particular way. Perhaps they keep a business secret, or they feel extra-important because they know the real truth about the baseball and the world does not. Maybe this is a way they maintain a membership in a brotherhood or sisterhood, and that cannot be challenged. Rule number one: You do not talk about the baseball. You know rule number two.

Public opinion of elements of the baseball will shift, often inaccurately polled. How people vote on elements of the baseball (Horsehide? Cowhide?) will never be perfect in one way or another, and some will insist that their winning vote is final and those who didn't vote their way are losers. Winners feel good about the world and are smug and satisfied, and the losers deserve mocking and ridicule for being so ignorant. Those who feel they lost will write slogans on signs on sticks, convinced that these will convince others of "the truth"; those who feel they won will ignore the fact that they voted that baseballs can be inflated.

Every day of every year is baseball season, and though the public may feel that it's reserved for only a few key days, this goes on all the time always will.

As you go about your daily lives, outdoors and in public, have you noticed that there are rare few people handling a baseball, trusting what it is and how it may act, taking its existence at a simple level of face value, and playing ball with each other, regardless of others' impressions about the baseball? And the ones who are generally seen this way are the youth?

If you should somehow ever feel that you've ruminated on this deep philosophy as far as humanly possible and you see all the metaphorical points made here, contact me.

We'll discuss the detail that the average Major League Baseball only lasts six pitches before it's sullied or lost out of play. At which point, another identical one comes into play.

Or is it identical?