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Walt Whitman once said “I see great things in baseball. It’s our game, the American game.” I agree with this assessment whole-heartedly and feel this is in no way better represented than in October, when playoff baseball reigns supreme in America, in our living rooms, and in our hearts and minds.
Every year like clock work, October provides some of the most nerve racking, entertaining, and honestly down right fun baseball imaginable for the American people. It gives us something to look forward to and enjoy as the days grow shorter and the nights grow colder, something back in the early 1900s that was very important with millions not having heat or enough money for light bulbs. Back then our grandfathers would stay up late listening to the radio hearing games featuring heroes like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Jackie Robinson. Today playoff baseball gives us a traditional, old timey month of fun before the mad dash of the now two-month long modern Christmas season hits us.
We get to watch our heroes come and practice their unique craft on the grandest of stages, all the while rooting for our hometown cities or even our adoptive hometown cities. We 9 times out 10, and 10 times out of 10 if you are a Chicago Cubs fan like me, come out of October on the short end of the stick, without a pennant or World Series trophy to show for the long grueling season just endured. But we never come out of October feeling like we just wasted a month of obsessing over ‘just’ a game. We feel closer to our community, whether it be St. Louis, New York, or even for the first time in almost 80 years Washington. We feel entertained for we as onlookers to baseball just got to watch on live TV drama, action, and some comedy all on a baseball diamond featuring 50 men doing all in their power to prove victorious. And most importantly we feel the enormity of the American tradition we just participated in, a tradition dating back to 1903, bearing down upon us, that we are a part of something greater than our selves.
I know some may say I am putting to much stock into baseball but I truly feel if anything I am understating the importance of playoff baseball. In 1919 when the Chicago White Sox threw the World Series to make some quick cash it was not just baseball that suffered from this act of betrayal that would make a contestant on a reality show feel dirty, it was the entire country and every citizen in it. The innocence of a game and a generation was largely gone and we as a country have never looked at our heroes the same way again.
Today we build up our heroes but are constantly suspicious of them, waiting for the dark part, the evil part, the human part of that person to come out. Playoff baseball may not have been the only cause of this but was surely a major factor in the development of this mentality.
However, October baseball playoffs have produced many more great moments for America than negative ones. In 2001 it was playoff baseball that helped heal a nation after the Sept. 11th attacks, showing the world that America was not going to just go and hide after being viciously attacked. Curt Schilling and his bloody sock in 2004 helped break a curse and lift the city of Boston into a sports golden age that created one of the greatest senses of community in the country for the New England city. And in 1932 Babe Ruth probably performed the most famous play in baseball history, calling his shot by pointing his bat to where he would with his next swing hit a home run.
These moments and countless more have helped define a sport and this nation. So when your have nothing to do in the next few weeks I highly recommend turning on the World Series and enjoying one of the most amazing traditions sports has to offer.