I guess it has become debatable in American society that baseball is America's past time. In an era of organic weight conscientiousness, and failing US automakers, has the refrain "Baseball, Hotdogs, Apple Pie, and Chevrolet" become a death knell rather than a rallying call?
I don't think so. Baseball is not my past time, it is not my passion, it is something more ethereal (and becomes even more so the older I get). In my middle age, I am thrilled by the prospect that we are on the verge of another spring training, that in fewer than three days pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Arizona and Florida to partake in this ritual of Americana. Childhood far behind me, once again childhood beckons me through baseball. Year after year I feel this, my own private phoenix rising from the flames. And it is not a solitary thrill, as I can reach out to my wife/best friend, and my baseball buddy, and my children, and my elder brother, and the larger brotherhood of baseball in screaming out, "I can't wait!"
It is because of the unique nature of baseball that it is not only a love but a shared experience. The Game represents the seasons. The arrival of camp and the start of the season is spring, the blooming of life awakening. By the allstar break, it is summer, the heating up of the run for the fall classic. By the playoffs, excitement has peaked, but the pangs of loss are beginning as I know the season is winding down and it is autumn. Winter follows, crawling, a barren time of no baseball filled only with thoughts of surviving and making it to spring training.
In it's way, Baseball is also religion. Like the Catholic Church which is uniquely known among sects and religions as the Church, so Baseball is uniquely known among all sports as the Game. As in the often raucous Southern Baptist Church, fans at a baseball game share the cathartic gyrations of euphoric ecstasy at the hitting for the cycle, or the clutch walk off grand slam (Spilly, Spilly, Spilly!). In Charismatic churches, believers will spontaneously break into speaking in tongues, like the baseball fan who will spout endless statistics at a moments notice and without warning. People believe in the Game, and die a little when the Game let's them down, because the Game should be above it all. And the Game has its saints, and like religious saints they are revered most not for their talent, and not for their stats, but from "doing it right."
Baseball: An analogy of life, a representation of the passage of the seasons, a religion unto itself. Baseball: Now 2 days, 22 hours, and 28 minutes until pitchers and catchers report. Baseball: I can't wait.