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Why we have baseball

Baseball carries very little importance in the grand scheme, and because of that, it really does matter.

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

If you’re on this site, there’s a very good chance we have something in common. That being our shared love for baseball, and its service as one of our main forms of entertainment. I’ve always been interested in why humans have entertainment. I’d argue the most important reason is that it can help distract us, for a little while at least, from the things around us that leave a bad taste in our mouths.

For many of us, baseball serves as that outlet. It is an unfortunate truth, that the hard to face parts of our experience will always be there. This can be true on a personal front, and of course, one that pertains to the world and events around us. As we know, there are countless things we can point to that fit this description, some of which are difficult to even fathom. But, when all of it may seem like too much, baseball or whatever it is that may fill that need, is there to distract us for a few hours.

There have been plenty of ways in which this principle has been fortified and shown to be true. In the midst of World War II, the president gave a green light for Major League Baseball to continue operating, if nothing else to serve as a source of recreation and entertainment. Following the 9/11 attacks, the resumption of baseball, particularly in New York, performed those same services.

I was not alive or old enough to have experienced those things, but even on a personal level, this idea holds true. In the spring of 2020, when the world was in a very new and uncomfortable state, I found that one of the things I missed the most was the ability to turn on the TV at seven o’clock and watch a baseball game. Once that comforting presence made its return, there was a noticeable impact.

I think the reason that baseball has this ability, is because it really does not matter. Not in any tangible sense at least. And I’d argue because of that fact, the fabricated things we use to entertain ourselves actually matter a great deal. It likely isn’t the healthiest thing for everything we do and see to have profound and long lasting impacts. Sometimes it’s okay to just sit there for a while and watch Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole do what they do.

On top of this, the things we use to distract ourselves from the harsh realities of the world can also serve as a useful aid in understanding our experiences, and the things we think and feel. I have often found myself using baseball related analogies to explain things, regardless of whether those things are heavy or in fun spirit, or if I’m explaining to myself or someone around me. The silly things we love can be an effective backdrop for the lens we view life through.

All of this, however, does not take away from the importance of those things in our life and in the world that might get us down. Baseball should be welcomed as a source of joy, but it is by no means a ticket to ignore the goings on in the world. It is more evident than ever that we have serious issues on our hands that needs to be dealt with. How to deal with those things is above many of us, but it is vitally important to keep these things close to the forefront; any sort of productive change would be impossible without that.

We all have negative experiences, whether it be a bad day at work or school, in our own minds, or on a national and global scale, and they affect us all differently. Sometimes, it’s nice to be able to look at something fun, something we can inconsequentially care and think about. For me, and many others, one of those things is baseball, but it can be anything. There are countless and wildly-varying sources of joy which we can seek out. And doing just that is what I think to be one of the most beneficial things we can do for ourselves. Whatever it may be, it should serve simply as a fun distraction, not a long-term means of forgetting. Some light to look at if the dark gets a little overwhelming.