There are many truths within the world of sports, and the most steadfast of those truths is that baseball is very police.
Among the four major sports leagues, the MLB is the unchallenged king of police like behavior from all involved–fans, players, announcers, reporters and front offices. Continuing to tout itself as America’s favorite pastime goes hand in hand with the country’s love affair of local police departments–you know who you are. At every given opportunity to walk back statements that further entrenches the sport into fed-like behavior, the salty curmudgeons involved take it as a chance to double down. The reasons for this unbecoming attribute of baseball are numerous and far reaching, but a few are so prominent they can’t be ignored.
The regular season is 162 games:
There’s absolutely zero explanation I would accept for why a season is 162 games long. When you have people in your life, such as Twitter followers, who live and breathe the sport, it quickly becomes clear that baseball has an off-season that’s almost non-existent. It JUST ENDED as far as I’m concerned, and now it’s back. My theory is the droning nature of the season, which worsens in the summer, amplifies many of the issues which lead to police behavior. If the season was shortened, people might snap out of it.
Unwritten rules are trash:
Baseball has its litany of unwritten rules, and police everywhere have their blue code of silence. If baseball’s nebulous and secret rule book were to take physical form, it’d be enough to make even readers of “Infinite Jest” cry defeat. These oft spoken but never truly explained rules are usually used in defense of something otherwise indefensible–this would include pitchers throwing fastballs at another human’s head for previously “showing them up” by flipping a bat with a bit too much pizazz, standing in one spot too long, or letting their gaze linger in the general direction of said pitcher for more than a quarter of a second.
Not all tradition is good tradition, yet the MLB continues to fall back on what was established in previous decades and with no real reasoning as to why. This is not to say there are no unwritten rules anywhere else in society, but typically these rules must at least be explainable outside of a vacuum in order to have some merit. This is how many societies work; common themes become accepted and are replicated throughout said society. However, if such a rule is robustly questioned, it usually has to have an explanation that goes deeper than “just because”. If not, heavy scrutiny tends to follow. While a major change may not occur from this scrutiny, the aforementioned rule is put on shaky ground going forward and tends to be regarded less as authority and more as preference.
Questioning of these amorphous rules tends to be lacking or not done by those with invested interest of the game. The few who do raise concerns are drowned out by a deafening reverence towards tradition.
It’s hard to find something more self-serious than baseball:
I’m not sure if self-seriousness is the chicken or the egg, but either way it’s directly connected to baseball’s unwritten rules. I don’t really care if seriousness and self-importance of the game are what birthed the unwritten rules or were caused by the rules. I just know this is another fed trait of the sport. I can’t say other sports don’t have a sense of seriousness or importance surrounding them, but all pale in comparison to the MLB. I suppose these are traits that are necessary in order for baseball to still refer to itself as America’s favorite pastime in 2016.
The compulsive need for everything to be treated in the utmost reverent way is often to the detriment of fans. If you’re at a baseball game, you must look at the field as if the field itself provides you with life. If not, you will be mocked by fans and broadcasters alike.
Since it’s so self-serious, the MLB hates fun:
The most obvious byproduct of the MLB having such a self-important view of itself is that there isn’t much fun to be had by players. This is also linked to those dastardly unwritten rules. While the NFL may be the No Fun League, the players don’t seem to really care about maintaining the appearance of self-importance–usually.
MLB players rarely choose to show tons of personality or emotion on or off the field, because these things either conflict with unwritten rules or with the goal of promoting the seriousness of the game. It’s rare that a colorful player is allowed or encouraged to be as such. More commonly, you’ll see push-back. For every fan who enjoys Yasiel Puig or Bryce Harper, you’ll have another fan who says they should tighten up the antics and present themselves more like a Mike Trout.
You see players upholding this baseball ethos through phrases that say to play the game the right way or respect the game. It’s like watching new players who only parrot what they’ve heard their predecessors preach. Goose Gossage was a great player, but there’s no way a player today should be listening to his ultra salty opinion about today’s game.
Joy is okay:
It’s okay to have fun watching baseball if you can do such a thing. It’s okay to poke fun at baseball or for it to poke fun at itself. The MLB is kind of like what would happen if you gave Zack Snyder a go at running a specific sport. No one really wants that. If they do, they’re bad people.
But maybe the sport sees the light and will one day embrace individualism for the sake of fun. While it’s the tiniest of steps, they decided to reinstate bat decals. Hopefully the momentum builds from bat decals to being less self-serious to chopping down the unfathomable number of unwritten rules.
Stare at each other; flip your bats 100ft into the air; take a leisurely walk around the bases after a home-run; flash the biggest grin while you peer into the opposing dugout. You do you if that means not being police.
By Demarcus Robinson