Rather than wait for columnists to bait readers into blind Internet anger, we at SB Nation believe in setting the curve ourselves and doing so honestly. On Troll Tuesdays , we attempt to construct the most obnoxious column on earth. Today: Let's talk about America and the game that lays our soul bare on one special day, every spring.
A day after the ceremonial bunting is husked away from the stands, revealing the nourishment of the human spirit, kernel by kernel in every seat, victuals necessary for the spring renewal and recrudescence of the human spirit as a part of the seasonal covenant that is used to enkindle the hearthside of our soul, it becomes incontestable: Baseball is not just America's favored pastime; it is its only pastime.
As children around the country rejoin their schoolmates, replete with tales of struggles and elation, defeat and amelioration, they have but little time to reflect on why they were allowed to abet in a game within the game, sanctioned hooky, where the arithmetics and assignments became secondary, a nod to the conviction that yesterday there was something more important.
Opening Day is a holiday, a saturnalia of sorts, as much as we attempt to evolve past the game's (read: country's) guttural roots, and it's our chance to tousle the hair of each and every child within arm's length, whispering to them in strict confidence: Here. You are an American. Join us.
Baseball is not just America's favored pastime; it is its only pastime. Nothing matches the isochronous reminder that it is here, in which it is defined as the rapturous and ineffable slashing through the chrysalis wall, an emergence that leads to spring and rebirth. The malachite and verdigris painted your closed eyelids in the cold because it was your only aegis against a grim, hibernal winter; on Opening Day, the colors envelop you instead, wrapping like ivy around you, through you, seeking the tiniest of pinholes to break through, manically searching for sunlight, desperate to keep living, and there it is, just as promised, inviting you to it.
What other game can lay claim to the idea it is our National Pastime? The hagiolatry of football sets itself up as a clear a proxy for war and wartime, a confined skirmish with yards arrogated back and forth in a rented territory with no real permanence, and the cynical mind could make the cogent argument that this is America, this is our nature, the autochthonal and settler violently colliding for scant real purpose, with no winners except the irrepressible gallop of time, waving a scythe instead of a stopwatch (or perhaps in concert with), shuttling the attestants out into labyrinths of concrete in search of their own tin, wheeled sarcophagus, ready or not. But is that really the nonpareil of a pastime, the definition that we should seek as the world's last coruscating beacon of hope and equity? Baseball is instead a disagreement, a gentlemanly encounter overstuffed with decorum, written and unwritten. It also observes an etiquette of sorts, lending us the illusion of immortality, providing a game without a metronome ticking away in our subconscious and conscious, where the end is not delineated at a specific time. The slavish devotion to a clock is pure drudgery, more suited for drones and automatons. It cannot, must not, be a crucial portion of the pastime that defines us.
What of basketball, the meeting of the tetragonal and spheroid, another wholly American invention? At first blush it appears to be more genteel, a carving of wills and impulses, a fast-moving balletic counterpoint to the inevitable (and altogether desirable) lacunas of baseball. However, it, too, lives under the despotic rule of the clock, suffering from the same boundaries, an electric fence staked into the four corners of the limitless, repelling rather than inviting. More than that, though, where are the reminders of our agrarian roots? The demarcation between grass and soil, the acknowledgment that we have tamed the flora around us, shaped and cultivated it to our will, telling it sternly where it begins and ends, swaddling the areas and hubs of activity, each base like its own metropolis, with immigrants and emigrants arriving and disembarking, always striving for something more, more, more, just beyond the way, as close as 90 feet away, while the necessary, bucolic lands expand back into dimensions that are not set, that are unique to each park, boundaries exclusive to each territory? Those expanses shape the metropoleis, not the other way around, providing everything under the guise of nothing. In contrast, the basketball court is a ligneous construct, the wooden hull of a ship circumnavigating nothing in particular, all vegetation removed epochs ago to make room for the sterile and septic, with no reminder of who we are and where we came from.
No, there can be a debate for 364 days out of the year, a guileful meditation of what truly defines us, but after the background hum of the offseason emerges as Opening Day, fully formed and resplendent, shaking off the torpid snows of inactivity that frosted over us in the harsh and bitter cold, there is no debate. America is baseball is America is baseball, and the genesis of each season like the chapter of a tome that will never end, informing us and applauding us. As Pynchon wrote (not about baseball, though it might as well have been), this is "not a disentanglement from, but a progressive knotting into," a reminder that the circumvolution is complete. Renewal is upon us. Renewal is a scabbard stuffed into our hands before we can object, as we're pushed, madly charging, into the summer months, fighting to reclaim our collective spirit. Only baseball can provide this. After Opening Day, we have nothing but validation washing over us, Helios exhorting us that rebirth is anon, and proof that baseball is not just America's favored pastime; it is its only pastime.