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New baseball enthusiasts eventually will hear someone use the word “romantic” to describe the game. It may seem odd, as most people connect romantic with love, or the feelings two people have for each other.
Yet, some will say baseball, its history, or other elements of the game, are romantic. Some diehard baseball fans might even question those who say they don’t get passionate about a game.
Hardcore fans might claim that people who cannot see the romantic aspect of baseball are just weird. How can they not see it, hardcore fans think.
What exactly does it mean to be romantic about baseball?
Let’s start by digging into definitions for “romantic.” The first is what most people assume: “Conducive to or characterized by the expression of love.” This might be fine for those who truly love baseball, or a team, or player. Like, in an overboard way; too much.
Almost every baseball fan of a decent amount of time will know such a person, who shall we call Overzealous Oliver.
However, another definition makes more sense in this discussion as it relates to baseball:
That is, you see something, and believe it is representative of perfection, or of how things should be.
In other words, a glorification of something. Like “the good old days.” Like the immortal James Earl Jones speech in “Field of Dreams.”
A number of elements and historic periods in baseball are discussed from a romantic angle. Among them:
- Style of play. The slower pace and pastoral feel of baseball lends itself to a more relaxed atmosphere in which to watch the game played. (See “Pace of Play” section below for more on this). Bottom line: Baseball more than other sports provides more opportunities for people to interact with one another during games. There is no game clock, and no hurry, in baseball.
- Stadiums. A great many Americans are familiar with Lou Gehrig’s immortal “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth” farewell speech in Yankee Stadium (especially as re-enacted by actor Gary Cooper). Or historic moments, like Hank Aaron hitting his 715th home run to become the all-time leader; or Cal Ripken breaking Gehrig’s record for most consecutive games played.
- Smells. The sweet aroma of freshly cut grass when entering a stadium is a memory that is difficult to forget. As are the hot dogs and beer and everything else that comes along with the baseball experience.
- Uniforms. Americans never seem to drop their love of nostalgia. So much, in fact, that when MLB teams started heavily marketing licensed goods like caps in the 1990s, they introduced “Turn Back the Clock Day,” where players of today wear old styles of team uniforms long since discarded. And fans loved it ~ and still do to this day.
- Twilight. Most baseball games start at twilight, or continue from daylight into the darkness under the lights. It’s a time of day when people naturally feel a tad relaxed, as in, “Whew, survived that day”; or have that anticipatory feeling of “Can’t wait for the night!” Twilight is when most dates begin, think of it that way.
- History. American history is chock full of baseball legends; even our language is peppered with baseballisms. Ruthian is used to describe a tremendous event or accomplishment, a la the legendary slugger Babe Ruth. Home run spills off the tongue as easily in a corporate board meeting as it does at a Little League field. Bush league is universal for amateur. And on and on.
- Makeups. No major sport has more games canceled because of rain or foul weather. Yet, clubs seem to go out of their way to make up for it, with vouchers for future games, or even doubleheaders ~ which don’t happen in other sports. Fewer Americans may be aware of the “The Red Sox never let you down” speech by Jimmy Fallon in “Fever Pitch.”
Compared with other major sports, baseball is played at a more leisurely pace, providing more time for fans in the stands to commingle. Going to stadiums or arenas to watch football, basketball, or hockey, and you go to root for your team to crush the opposition. You go to root them on, aggressively.
In baseball, not so much. Think about it: baseball stadiums are most often called parks, or fields. The Ballpark at Arlington. Chase Field. Fenway Park. Wrigley Field. Nationals Park.
Comedian George Carlin said “Baseball is played in a park.” It may seem an obvious observation, but when placed in context with the other sports (stadiums or coliseums favored for football, or the arenas of basketball and hockey), just the venue names scream leisure.
Probably the main reason some people find baseball romantic is the emotions the simple game can conjure up. They say “Baseball is a uniquely American experience” ~ the key word being experience. Baseball is something to live with, to be part of, and not just something to watch.
Attending a game, being involved following a team or player, talking about games or pennant races, all of it adds up to this experience that fans, once under its spell, can’t seem to shake.
Baseball is a game passed down from generation to generation, from fathers to sons, and even today from fathers to daughters. It’s this institutional knowledge of this leisurely paced game that lends to the romantic element.
Many Americans can remember meeting up with a girlfriend while still in a baseball uniform from a game or practice just completed. At lower levels of play, and sometimes even in the big stadiums, fans sit up close to the home plate area, intimately close to the players.
Conversations ignite, relationships form. It doesn’t hurt that baseball uniforms fit the fit and well-built athletes quite snuggly.
At modern games, clubs can set up special couples or married nights, with prizes and the such.
Perhaps the biggest romantic moment at a baseball stadium comes when clubs use the huge display monitors usually beyond the outfield fences to lure attendees into doing things they may otherwise not. Like the “Kissing Cam,” where a camera will focus on a couple and remain there until … they kiss (or not).
And staged, filmed, and broadcast marriage proposals are not uncommon.
The “How can you not be romantic about baseball?”question came from the 2011 movie “Moneyball,” starring Brad Pitt as the general manager of the Oakland A’s, Billy Beane. While Beane and an assistant watch game film of the A’s season, Pitt asks his colleague.
Question: Why are baseball pants so tight?
Answer: In modern times, they actually are not so tight. Baseball pants started as heavy wool items, worn rather loosely to allow for easy leg movement for running and sliding. Into the 1970s, the introduction of uniforms made of stretchy polyester made it possible to wear them skin tight, without all the itchiness and sweat associated with wool. Tighter pants were just easier to play in, particularly when sliding. However, from about the 1990s to today, many players favor quite loose pants.