Nathan's Hansen's column: No shortage of traditions
Baseball is a game of traditions. Things are done a certain way today because they have always been done that way.
Tradition is the reason people sing about snack foods during the seventh inning stretch, why they don't talk during no-hitters, why they overpay for mediocre hot dogs and terrible beer and why they continue to eat malted ice cream with a stick when the civilized world long ago recognized the superiority of the spoon for scooping-related tasks.
Honestly, even a spork would be a step up.
We have these traditions, so far as I can tell, because people need something to distract them from the fact baseball is actually pretty boring.
I realize that won't be a popular opinion. America's pastime and apple pie and long Bull Durham speeches and such. But come on. I love soccer, a game most Americans would call tedious even though fact the ball is in play nearly constantly for two 45-minute halves. In baseball, meanwhile, each half inning starts with a bunch of guys playing catch with each other for, like, five minutes. They don't even mix it up with monkey in the middle every once in a while.
And sure, there are intricacies I don't always get. There are intricacies I don't ever get, for that matter. There are Advanced Statistics that will let me know where the third baseman will stand when a left-handed batter is facing a right-handed pitcher who is getting over a head cold.
If I was looking for a sport I could track with an Excel spreadsheet, this would totally be it.
If this all sounds like I'm kind of down on baseball, well ... yeah, I guess that's fair. In my experience a baseball game on TV is best used as background noise when you're taking a nap and can pay attention only when the announcers get excited about a home run or drawing a particularly nice circle around someone in the stands. I just don't get it.
And yet, I totally get the appeal of seeing a game in person at a nice stadium.
Target Field is a nice stadium, and I made my third trip there on Sunday to watch a game between what I'm told are two pretty bad teams. One of them was the Twins. The other one wasn't.
But the sun was shining, more or less. There was a decent crowd in the stands. The stadium was beautiful. And I didn't have to wait too long to get my Cuban sandwich. Or my beer. Or my soft pretzel. Or the malt cup I ate with a glorified tongue depressor. Because tradition.
Throughout most of the game I couldn't have told you how many outs there were. Or how many strikes the pitcher had thrown to a particular batter. For that matter, I wasn't very good with the batters, either. Outside of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau the Twins could have replaced their roster with local high school all stars for all of the names I recognized. There was a guy named Oswaldo, which I'm pretty sure is an alias. If the witness protection program had to hide someone, they could do worse, I guess, than the Twins' starting lineup.
I tried to pay attention. Really. But I was distracted by the people being urged to dance or make out on the giant video monitor. Someone near our section got engaged. Or maybe his sweetheart was just too polite to turn him down in front of a giant crowd of strangers. It's impossible to say for sure.
None of it really mattered, though. The Twins won because "Oswaldo" hit a home run just as I was starting to worry there were going to be extra innings. I had people I liked around me. Lots of people went home happy. Lots of people went home drunk. In many cases, they were the same people.
I totally understand why people have fond memories of attending baseball games, even if I'm not in a hurry to do it again.
Not watching baseball is my tradition.