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CHRIS ERSKINE

It's a love-hate thing with baseball

Baseball isn't a sport, it's a fetish. But, like many Dodgers fans, he is missing baseball already, this awful, splendid game -- more fickle than life itself.

October 29, 2009|CHRIS ERSKINE

Baseball can be too much of a good thing sometimes. As if Beyonce were born twins.

There are too many games and too many teams and it really ought to be seven innings, not nine. The only thing that should last five hours is a dinner with Mel Brooks. Everything else should be half that. Hey, here's an idea: 100 games, seven innings each. I never said it was a good idea. Just an idea.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday, October 31, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 20 words Type of Material: Correction
Chris Erskine: The name of the country Liechtenstein was misspelled as Lichtenstein in Chris Erskine's column in Thursday's Sports section.

Yet, like many Dodgers fans, I'm missing baseball already, this awful, splendid game -- more fickle than life itself. Baseball is a bad fling with the wrong person. So move on, Dodger nation. Get a hobby. Find a church.

I hate baseball. I love baseball.

Baseball isn't a sport, it's a fetish. It's filled with icy patches invisible to the naked eye. Thirty teams started the season, only two remain. The New York Yankees enter a stadium the way the Prussians entered enemy dance halls, belligerent and with mud on their boots.

The Phillies seem the scrappier team right now, but don't count the souped-up Yankees out yet. New York is where the wild things really are. Fans there ought to have rabies shots.

The Yankees were led Wednesday night by the buxom CC Sabathia, who makes Jonathan Broxton look like Audrey Hepburn. Honestly, how many regular uniforms do they have to stitch together to get one that will cover Sabathia? Four, maybe five? This guy doesn't need a jersey, he needs a wedding tent.

What a fitting ace for the Yankees, still the poster children for excess and entitlement. Boo-hiss, you Bronx Bombers. To watch A-Rod come to the plate is sharply painful for me, like running a fingernail over a bad splinter.

Yep, 30 teams started the season and one (or two) are still alive.

What other activity suffers casualties like this? Bullfighting? Marriage?

If baseball were a song, Willie Nelson would sing it.

If baseball were a country, it'd be invaded by Lichtenstein.

And if baseball were an illness -- wait a second, baseball is an illness. For two centuries they've been studying this chronic disease, and there's still no cure. Ask any Cubs fan. They're easy to find -- sallow people in icky blue jackets.

There is a certain math to baseball. For every lucky break, the game delivers two lousy ones. Two to one, like the dollar to the pound.

Baseball rewards hard work but guarantees nothing. Somehow, it appeals to all five senses -- sight, smell, touch, taste, agony. Like church, baseball doesn't take Sundays off. Like church, it saves its biggest celebration for the coldest time.

If baseball lasted one more week, it would be eligible for the Winter Olympics.

Baseball has a language -- not English, not Spanish, mostly Greek. It is as gnarled as a Casey Stengel sentence -- a subject in search of a predicate. It lives on in Charlie Manuel's ruddy mug.

Sure, baseball can be pure poetry: ivy on brick; mustard in your fingernails; Enos Slaughter sprinting back to the dugout just because.

But baseball can also be haunted: a box of bad luck wrapped in bright bloody ribbons.

You know, it's easy to say you love this crazy game, but trickier to say exactly why. For many of us, it is life's emergency exit, a place to flee. For others, it brings back the joy and flop-sweat of youth.

In the second grade, I already had five pitches, all of them fastballs. Fastball to the ankles, fastball to the chin -- you get the idea. In those days, it was amazing any little boy survived past age 10.

Suburbs were tougher then. The things we did with firecrackers would make a modern mother retch.

In those days, no one took Ritalin, we just worked off our excess energy by jumping all over each other for hours after school, sometimes from rooftops or high up in willow trees.

Boyhood was crazy; boyhood was baseball.

Yep, I think our childhoods still live on in baseball, the most cantankerous, wonderful waste of time America has ever worshiped.

So fret not, Dodgers fans. Life goes on. These days, there are dust mites in my mustache and hints of winter in my knees.

But these days -- short and ever darkening -- one thing still soothes me.

Pitchers and catchers report in about 100 days.

--

chris.erskine@latimes.com

Erskine also writes "Man of the House" in Saturday's Home section.

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