Baseball's Bud Lite

Baseball is the natural antithesis of all that, a game without a clock, a pastoral exercise for mind and soul that offers welcome respite from the world of hurry-up and frenzy and deadline. That isn't one of its by-products, it's one of its meanings. So if Nomar Garciaparra, the exemplary young shortstop of the Boston Red Sox, wants to incessantly fool with the Velcro closures on his batting gloves and before every pitch perform that feathery little tap dance of his (left foot, right foot, left-right-left), let him have at it. These are the quirks and rituals of baseball that we will savor long after the scores of particular games have been forgotten.

Tell me now. Can't you still see Joe Morgan pumping that trailing arm like a furious piston? Do you not yet relish the mock-spooky conversations between Mark "The Bird" Fidrych and the baseball clutched in his palm? Years from now, will you not continue to see, if only in dimming memory, Baylor's disconsolate trudge to the mound (it's the walk of both jailer and victim) to yank Saberhagen or Kile or Astacio?

Speed up, hell! In beer-league softball, the umpires impatiently herd players out to their positions and a third-strike foul ball means an out. So be it. But leave the real game alone for a change. The greedy people, enslaved by TV, who transplanted the World Series to prime time (presumably so sleepy kids on the East Coast couldn't watch it) are the same people now bellowing to hustle things up. The Atlanta Braves' TV broadcasters can be heard complaining about length--as if they worked for a living. And people who never liked baseball in the first place are demanding that it be spiced up, hastened along, maybe decorated with neon signs. They don't have the patience for David Cone's mound rituals or Barry Bonds's preening because, in essence, they don't have the patience for baseball itself. It is, has always been, a quiet, contemplative game marked by sudden outbursts of great excitement. It's not a game for the short attention span, the shallow mind or the guy who wants to turn the lights out early and go home. Baseball fans, like the extras in pirate movies, don't mind leaving their wristwatches at home.

And our Mr. Selig, the supposed symbol of baseball's timelessness? Instead of going out to the ballgame and meddling with it, he might do well to stay home and do something useful--like making instant pudding. That way, real fans can continue to enjoy the true thing, at its own pace, in its own sweet time: We don't care if we never get back.

Judging by the shouting and fuming, you'd think Bill had proposed to Monica. Or that Saddam Hussein was weighing his options: Continue a successful career in dictatorship, or join Up With People?

Simple fact: Over the weekend, a football player announced he was out of shape and content in his retirement.

Gary Zimmerman, a veteran tackle for the Denver Broncos, will not play in 1998. Is this earth-shattering news? Or even a matter of minor interest? To hear the heated debate on the sports blab shows or the sniping between the daily newspapers, you'd think the Pakistanis were about to drop their atomic bomb on us or that Newt Gingrich blew up those embassies in Africa.

Fact is, a retired football player remained in retirement. Wow.

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