What would it be like to watch a baseball game as a kid again?
It would be fun. It would be simple. But I’m not convinced it would be better.
The information that we take in as we grow older broadens the perspective that we have in life. More information allows us to form deeper thoughts and understanding of what is happening in the world around us. But does the more we understand about sports and its players dampen our connection with the game or make it stronger? We don’t view the game like we did as kids anymore, but understanding how we did think back then is a good place to start.
I was recently reading the children’s book “Yankees Legends Alphabet,” which talks about the careers of Yankees players in short, two to three-sentence summaries. Those summaries are meant for kids of course, but reading them brought me back to how we viewed the game when we were younger. As kids, we would take the very simple characteristics of a player and use them to form opinions. The example of “I like him because he runs fast” comes to mind. I don’t think of our opinions back then as naïve. I think of them as distilling down information — at the time we probably didn’t understand or didn’t care to understand — to come up with the things we liked best about our team. We weren’t intentionally blocking out the noise, the noise was either non-existent or much quieter back then. I think the simplistic perspective was beneficial when learning the game. I had little to no concept of what a bad GM was or a cheap owner. It boiled down to superheroes wearing pinstripes — hitting the ball hard, running fast, and winning games. But baseball is more than that.
As you grow up you begin the gradual process of seeing players less as the simple almighty figure and more of a complex human. They have personalities, flaws, and typically can’t be summed up in a couple of sentences. I’ve tried to pinpoint when I started consciously taking in a greater understanding of the game. The 2003 and 2004 playoffs were the launching pad for my adulthood version of the sport. I can still feel the intensity to this day. The dramatic high of Boone’s home run in ‘03 to the dramatic low of Damon’s grand slam in ’04.
It all provided a framework for what would become an obsession for my team to win. I started to dislike players for how they carried themselves or because of the team they played for. The transition began when my emotions became invested.
Alex Rodriguez also covered a lot of different scenarios when it came to the mature aspects of the game: big trades, big contracts, and big steroids. The pure innocence of the game was stripped away in that era, but an appreciation for the news and analysis that covered the game grew. I became more interested in the players and teams on a personal level, including the history of the sport. How we process and react to the information we are given will help determine if knowing something is worth it or not. Is there such a thing as knowing too much when it comes to baseball? The kid in me wonders, but the adult version of myself wouldn’t change what he knows.
So it goes back to the question that started this article; what would it be like to watch a baseball game as a kid again?
It would be fun, but not as fun as fully contextualizing a big win. It would be simple, but the complexities of this game are what make it great. And while the innocence of baseball being “just a game” is important in youth — baseball now, to me, is more than just a game.