Did you see the game last night? How about that triple that turned into a "home run" by Dee Gordon the other day? And what about Hanley hurting his hand toward the end of the game? That really looked like it hurt. And when will Puig stop putting himself in mortal danger of completely smashing himself up?
The glory of the Dodgers' 2013 season has taught me a strong lesson about the struggles they've endured the first half of the 2014 season: the virtues of faith, hope, patience, dedication, and compassion are all an essential part of baseball, and of life.
Many authors have written about the spiritual themes associated with the game of baseball, and these days, that has become extremely apparent to me. I think we Dodgers fans got a bit spoiled last season, watching "Dem Bums" steamroll over one opponent after the next. It was a beautiful thing to watch, after having endured far too many disappointing seasons with the Dodgers.
This season has been different, though. The wins are still there, though there are more losses, too. Maybe their opponents are playing harder against the NL West Division Champs. Maybe the Dodgers have been plagued once again by injury and exhaustion. With key players in and out of the game this season: Clayton Kershaw, Juan Uribe, AJ Ellis, Hyun Jin Ryu, among others, the Dodgers have had to rely on a lot of utility players, guys who are strong players but perhaps in a different category. Then again, we've seen the rise of players like Justin Turner and Drew Butera and of course, there were the brilliant no-hitters by Josh Beckett and Clayton Kershaw that still have everyone talking. These guys have stepped up in times of need, helping the rest of the team to stay strong and viable, a solid second place as of this writing.
This is where the virtues come into play, both for the players and for the fans. For the fans who are not, as Thomas Paine would say, "sunshine patriots," following a team is a serious commitment, especially when your team isn't doing as well as they had before and "the breaks are beating the boys." There is a community, almost family aspect to sports that includes the fans on a deeper level, and thus, the virtues become that much more relevant.
One could say "well, it's just a game." True, it is just a game, but maybe it more than that. One might even argue that sports, baseball in particular, have a civilizing aspect to them. Baseball inspires the virtue of patience as the team makes its way through a tough game where the score is always on edge, and it also inspires the virtue of honesty, especially when someone from the opposing team happens to make a great play. One can also find the virtue of courage, especially when you want to support your team in times when they aren't playing well, and along with that, the virtue of humility, especially when your team loses a 12 run lead in the bottom of the 9th inning.
See, there's something about baseball that other sports don't seem to have. As much as I enjoy other sports, especially football, there's a personal aspect of baseball that I don't see elsewhere. It's one man at a time, almost like a relationship where you watch him struggle and win and have close-calls and so forth. Maybe that's why I see the virtues in baseball, because the virtues are about relationships, how we relate to others and to ourselves. They govern how we behave and how we treat or regard others, as well as how we look to the future. The slow grace of baseball lends itself to that in its man to man structure.
I look to football for a thrill, and I look to tennis for intense excitement and speed, but as for baseball, I look to that for character, for family and for summertime sweetness.
Gotta go. The Dodgers are on soon! Play ball!
witty; cunning; crafty
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