GOOD

Whatever You Do, Don't Call Baseball 'Boring'

At one point last Wednesday, on what has rightly been called the best night in baseball history, I texted a sports-obsessed friend whose hometown Baltimore Orioles were in the thick of the action.


“You watching this? Amazing!” I wrote just after the Orioles tied their game against the Boston Red Sox, who were fighting desperately to hold onto a playoff spot.

“The baseball game, you mean?,” he wrote back. “Nah, I barely follow baseball these days. Too slow.”

His answer depressed me so much that I didn’t even encourage him to turn the game on in time to see the Orioles win in the bottom of the ninth. This was a guy who had grown up a rabid fan, for whom every childhood story seems to revolve around Cal Ripken Jr. If baseball didn’t have his attention on a truly epic night, I thought, the game might be in serious trouble.

Since then, I’ve thought a lot about my friend, as well as the dozens of other sports fans I know who have decided baseball is too boring to merit attention. And I’ve decided that the problem isn’t baseball, it’s them. Last Wednesday night may have been exceptionally dramatic, but it illustrates a broader point: Baseball's brand of drama can't be replicated in any other sport.

For much of that evening, the last of the regular season, it looked like the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves would be forced into a one-game tiebreaker for the National League wild card, and that the Red Sox would earn a spot in the postseason despite a September collapse of historic proportions. The Tampa Bay Rays, who were battling the Sox for the American League’s final playoff spot, were getting crushed by the New York Yankees.

I won’t recount all of the details (ESPN’s timeline has that covered), but the result was that the Braves and Red Sox both lost while the Cardinals and Rays both won, completing two major turnarounds that put St. Louis and Tampa in the playoffs. The American League race came down to three minutes just after midnight Eastern time, when a walkoff single by Oriole Robert Andino and a bottom-of-the-12th homer by Ray Evan Longoria put the final nails in the Sox’ coffin. The Kentucky Derby claims to be the “greatest two minutes in sports,” but surely this was the greatest three.

And it could only have happened in baseball. This unique brand of drama serves as the perfect retort to anyone who thinks baseball is a boring game.

For starters, the Rays’ game-tying home run was hit by an absolute nobody named Dan Johnson. Johnson, a .108 hitter, had no expectation of getting into the game—he wasn’t even sitting in the dugout. But once the coaches tracked him down in the batting cage, he walked out, watched five pitches, and launched one over the right field wall to save his team’s season. More remarkably, it was the second time in three years he had hit a dramatic late-game home run against the Red Sox to propel his team into the playoffs, and he spent most of the time in between in the minors.

Can you imagine the equivalent of Dan Johnson taking the last shot in basketball, the Hail Mary pass in football, or the final penalty kick in soccer? Of course you can’t—it doesn’t happen. In baseball, thanks to its rigid lineups, the game comes down to whoever happens to be up, not the team star. This makes baseball less predictable, and thus more compelling—when Dan Johnson is deciding your team's fortunes, anything can happen.

Furthermore, a comeback like the Rays’—they were down 7-0 in the eighth inning—wouldn’t have happened in most other sports. A soccer team up 3-0 in the 85th minute can just play keep-away until the clock runs out. A basketball team down by 20 in the fourth quarter is doomed. A football team that’s trailing late in the game can try on onside kick, but the best-case scenario is one extra touchdown. But a pitcher trying to preserve his team’s lead has no tricks to turn to; he just has to keep throwing his best stuff and hope it’s enough. The great philosopher Yogi Berra was describing baseball when he said “It ain’t over till it’s over,” and it’s still more true on the diamond than anywhere.

Everyone likes drama, whether they're a fan of theater, celebrity gossip, politics, or sports. Baseball may seem non-dramatic on the surface, but the million small moments that make up a game can add up to something nearly unbelievable. I can't think of a more exciting way to spend a Wednesday night in September.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user imagesbyferg

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Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

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The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

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In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

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In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

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In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

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The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

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via Wikimedia Commons

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Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

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Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

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Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

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