As spring comes in, when the beauty of the earth comes alive one more time, the great American game begins in North America and Canada. It is so much more than a ball game played between two teams of at nine players on a diamond-shaped field – with bases, gloves, bats and balls, a mound, dirt on in infield, grass in the outfield, and people in the stands.
Baseball is a game of graceful athleticism, intelligence, and class. At times, baseball is like a ballet, a performance and a mind game, a game of chess. It’s very different than – even superior to –that ruthless game called American football, not to be confused with soccer. Baseball is far more humane in nature than football, which is a brutish game of violence much too similar to war. Baseball is a gentleman’s game, a thinking man's sport of brains, strength, stamina, speed, and reflex.
Also, baseball, which is said to have evolved from the British game cricket, was created in New England around the time of the American Civil War, played by Union soldiers to occupy their downtime, to probably distract them and aid in helping them keep their sanity when not fighting. It requires concentration and competition, so it was a helpful tool in bringing them together to do something fun and enjoyable.
Next came professional baseball leagues in various parts of the country, in cities in most states in America. Over time, in one form or another, people all over were playing the great game – whether for fun on pastures or on a flat, dirt field. Then it became a spectator sport during the summer months. Late nights meant for baseball all day long, and people began paying money to see games. It is still this way today. They were paying money to see the best local players compete against the best players in other locations, regions or towns. Since then, since the turn of the 21st century, baseball has been a staple of American life, culture, and society. This may be the reason baseball is called, time and time again, “America’s Favorite Pastime.”
Today, Major League Baseball has become the authority on professional baseball in the United States – and has become a multi-million-dollar company (if not a multi-billion-dollar one). Its games and other retail items attract millions and millions of Americans every year, and the professional league fan base extends to South America, Canada, Europa, and Asia. Its players – Major League Baseball players – make millions of dollars a year, through contracts with each team, which is essentially a large corporation, and through deals with athletic equipment companies, sponsors, and other such things. That is a lot of money for someone to play a game that was played for fun by soldiers in the Civil War, a game played by children on long summer days.
In the last 150 years since the game was created, baseball – the actual game itself – probably hasn’t changed too much. It still involves the same notions and requires the same language, the same basics of the game, its basic principles and rules and standards and requirements. But the game has most definitely changed. A major problem in American professional baseball these past couple decades has been the use of performance-enhancing drugs, like steroids, among the game’s best and most famous players. For someone who grew up idolizing these players and wanting to emulate them, it can be a real downer to think they are human and fallible ones at that, too human to be heroes and to do heroic things. They are only people who could play a simple game very well to the point they could get paid to do it day in and day and for years at a time. It has become an industry and not just a game. That game has changed – and not necessarily for the better.