Saturday, July 7, 2012

Summer's best aspect: Baseball and the Atlanta Braves

In the last couple of weeks, it has been unbearably hot. Though this is a problem that will come and go with the season, there is one aspect of summer that makes this time of year particularly sweet.
Yes, it is baseball season, and the pennant races are about to crank into high gear in Major League Baseball. As I write this, I can already hear the sighs of exasperation from people who do not like the game. They say the season is too long and the games are too boring.
Well, those people are wrong – dead wrong. I have loved the game since I was a boy, and I do not anticipate my heart changing anytime soon.
Major League Baseball survives even though its own caretakers have done their best to kill it in the last couple of decades. Bloated salaries, steroids, labor stoppages, and court cases have dropped a big wet blanket on the joy that goes along with the game.
Still, it perseveres almost in spite of itself. A reason it survives is because it is unlike most sports in several ways. The most important difference is that it allows fans the chance to develop a day-to-day relationship with their favorite teams.
Sports like football play once a week, while others play only two or three times a week. However, most major league teams play at least six games a week. Because of this, the bitter disappointment of last night’s loss can be wiped away within 24 hours. Or the momentum developed through a previous night’s win can be built upon very soon.
This constancy allows fans to become deeply invested in the performance of their teams. A win can make a person’s day. A loss can cause a person to turn the television off and roll over and go to sleep.
In this instant communication age we live in, the daily routine of baseball provides plenty of fodder for discussion. The fortunes of a team seemingly changes many times because of this.
My favorite team, the Atlanta Braves, is an excellent example of this. We are only three months into the season, and the team has already experienced a whole lot of ups and downs.
The team opened the season with four consecutive losses and looked bad doing it. When reading the Internet message boards, a person would have thought the world was coming to an end. People wanted to fire the manager, trade players and send others back down to the minor leagues. People thought this failure was certainly a continuation of 2011’s late-season collapse.
Then, the team got on a hot streak. The Braves won 26 of their next 38 games. The offense put up big numbers, the bullpen was solid, and the starting pitching held its own. When I visited those same message boards, all was great. Talk of winning the World Series was in the air.
Then the team dipped again in May, losing eight games in a row. A lot of the same problems from early April resurfaced and so did a lot of the complaints from the fans. Since then, the Braves have been a wobbling kind of machine that has been inconsistent. This has left fans frustrated or excited depending on the night.
I do not see that type of fan interaction on a daily basis in other sports. Though some might argue how good this is, it does make baseball unique.
July 4 is the unofficial midway point of the season and much excitement is yet to unfold.
My advice is to pick a team and enjoy. Just don’t pick the Yankees.


Anonymous said...

Seven in a row for the Bravos!

Chris said...

The Braves have been really streaky. Win seven. Lose eight. And so forth and so on. Hope they can keep it up.