Sunday, July 6, 2014

Poetry Sunday: Baseball

The Major League baseball season is half over and my Astros are still in last place. Sigh.

In another week, the best in the game will be playing the All-Star game. Then it's all downhill until October.

The world is obsessed with the World Cup - football or soccer, if you prefer. Many Americans are obsessed with American football. But the beautiful game of baseball is still the only game for me. John Updike liked it, too.

Baseball

by John Updike

It looks easy from a distance,
easy and lazy, even,
until you stand up to the plate
and see the fastball sailing inside,
an inch from your chin,
or circle in the outfield
straining to get a bead
on a small black dot
a city block or more high,
a dark star that could fall
on your head like a leaden meteor.

The grass, the dirt, the deadly hops
between your feet and overeager glove:
football can be learned,
and basketball finessed, but
there is no hiding from baseball
the fact that some are chosen
and some are not - those whose mitts
feel too left-handed,
who are scared at third base
of the pulled line drive,
and at first base are scared
of the shortstop's wild throw
that stretches you out like a gutted deer.

There is nowhere to hide when the ball's
spotlight swivels your way,
and the chatter around you falls still,
and the mothers on the sidelines,
your own among them, hold their breaths,
and you whiff on a terrible pitch
or in the infield achieve
something with the ball so
ridiculous you blush for years.
It's easy to do. Baseball was
invented in America, where beneath
the good cheer and sly jazz the chance
of failure is everybody's right,
beginning with baseball.

                    ~

Failure is so much a part of baseball. Even the very best fail more often than they succeed. Learning to deal with that is perhaps the most important lesson that baseball, that most American of games, teaches.

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