Bunts

Georgewill-baseball2_medium

I'd never heard of this book; I didn't know such a thing existed. I think George Will has a US Marine Corps logo on his laptop. Then there's the piercing, dead-eyed gaze that he's been employing in photographs close to his entire professional life.

"Bunts", Will writes, are "modest and often useful things." Each of the short essays in his collection, it's implied, will be bunts: brief but, in the end, somehow useful: informative, amusing, perhaps occasionally arousing. I only briefly looked through Bunts but I cannot vouch for having been informed, amused, or aroused. Mostly, what I read was Will wandering around doing Will-things, complaining about the DH, writing his way back down well-worn roads (the Cubs! They lose!), and self-injecting nostalgia until he nods off.

Of course, that's sort of the point. Will's essays let baseball fans slide, half-awake, back into some version of life and the game that likely never existed. This sort of thing is all over baseball: grinder-ism, that the bunt is still called as often as it is, uniforms that don't appear, in any significant way, to be tuned to the needs of gifted athletes.

One of Will's tag lines is something to the effect of "Nothing about baseball is trivial." Depending on what connotations 'trivial' carries for you, I understand why many would shy away from that term for a sport they love. Baseball's basic appeal for many, though, is that it's not a variation on the basic human game (get ball across line, passed opponent, etc) and, instead, it's invented out of whole cloth. So much of baseball appears so trifling because there's no basic logic to which we can appeal: in many instances, football and basketball have changed in the ways they have because the basic logic of "get ball to there" has allowed or dictated changes. With baseball, there's no basic logic; there are only the original rules. This lack of a logical framework is how you end up with yellow lines painted at the tops of walls, with the infield fly rule, with so many moments that, to the uninitiated, might as well be Calvinball.

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