Martin Aronson describes baseball as the sport which is the most closely associated with natural time. This is because unlike a sport like football which divides its playing time into equal periods of humanly measured time, baseball’s playing time is open in a manner which reflects nature’s rhythm.
My basic premise is that in many rich and subtle facets of the game, baseball is a metaphor of life, mirroring its tempo, rhythm, and essential character. The most basic illustration of this is probably baseball’s association with the season of spring – indeed it may certainly be considered the prime rite of spring in our culture. Spring is, of course, the season of rebirth, and baseball renews itself each year in the popular consciousness just when the crocuses are poking their tips out of the earth in the first stirrings of the revival of nature after winter’s end.
One need not belabor the point that spring is also associated with youth and innocence, conjuring up a whole magical world of childhood memories, of which baseball is a great part for many of us. There is a natural connection among spring, youth, and baseball, recapturing that carefree time of simple heroes, boyhood cheerfulness, and the capacity for pure joy before all the worldly woes of adult life dulled our sensibilities…
The basic association of baseball with spring and youth has further implications in terms of life and, indeed, cosmic cycles, so I should like to consider baseball as related to the phenomenon of time. Baseball, it could be argued, is the sport that reflects the truest expression of natural time in its tempo and texture. Unlike football and basketball, for example, it is divided into innings and half-innings (not fixed, measured quarters), retaining natural breaks and shifts from offence to defence. In its actual pace, it accelerates at points of action and excitement, then reverts back to a relaxed, casual undertone, very much like the great game of life itself. Some may criticize it as boring, and perhaps at times it is, but that is the balance and rhythm of nature…
In keeping with this theme of the essential naturalness of baseball, I’d like to direct your attention to the basic open-ended structure of the game. Baseball transpires in a timeless world; you can throw out the time clocks, scorning them as reality does. There are no set periods for the duration of action, no artificial time constraints. Like nature, a baseball game takes the amount of time it needs to run its course and complete itself. It will not be hurried, circumscribed, or aborted (hence the extra-inning game). It is interesting to note that the course of action during an afternoon game will often follow the rhythms of the day, reflecting the phenomenon of time passing from the bright cheer of the late morning, to the sharp focus of midday, to the shadowy light of late afternoon. And even after the last out of the game has been recorded, the ghost of time lingers, for win or lose, good day or bad day, there is always tomorrow – and the next day, and the day after that – always the promise of a new beginning, a new time to redeem and develop. That is Life, friend, if you learn how to master the mystery of time (Aronson 2006, 12-14).
Aronson, Martin. 2006. Cogito: A collection of essays. New York, Lincoln, Shanghai: iUniverse.