“How can you like baseball,” my wife often asks?
Usually, this question arises about 10:30 at night as I am watching the final innings of a Cardinals game.
Our nightly ritual has fallen into a pattern of watching the news to see what random act of senseless violence has occurred on Indy’s eastside yet again and then turning to our escapes — baseball for me and a computer game for her.
My light goes out most nights as I turn to her and say, “Two words.”
“Cards win,” she replies with feigned interest for at least a nanosecond before going back to conquer the gumdrops that are taking over her screen.
The question — How can you like baseball? — goes unanswered with a politely dismissive, “You just don’t understand.”
It deserves a better response than that, especially as the best gather tonight for the All-Star Game.
So, channeling my best Jennie DeVoe singing “Do you wanna know how I feel?” let me open up to you.
Here is why baseball is simply the best game on the planet.
You won’t find a clock on the scoreboard, and that makes all the difference. There is no tick-tock to bail out a leading team on the cusp of a momentum shift. There is no four-corner offense or victory formation.
No, a game is not over until a trailing team simply runs out of outs. There are at least 27 chances to do something good at the plate. It’s like playing “winner” in basketball. Every time you produce at the plate, you get an extra chance for your team.
Maybe that is why baseball produces parity like no other sport. Look at the leaders at the All-Star break. None of them led last season at this time. There is a complete turnover.
Not only that, but resurgent franchises like Cleveland and Pittsburgh are pushing for a pennant.
Tim Lincecum used to be the best pitcher in baseball with back-to-back Cy Young Awards to prove it.
Not anymore. At least not until Saturday night.
The undersized San Francisco righthander lost a few ticks on his fastball, and his 4-9 record this year led to speculation that his days as a starter were numbered.
Not just yet.
The Freak went into his start at San Diego giving up 11 hits per nine innings over his past three games. The Padres got none.
Lincecum’s story is even more improbable because of what happened 11 days ago, when he lost his most recent decision at Cincinnati, 3-0.
If possible, an even more unlikely scenario unfolded that night as Homer Bailey became the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter since Homer Bailey threw a no-hitter last season.
The Reds player, who also sports a losing record like Lincecum, was brilliant in handcuffing the Giants, just as he was when he against the Pirates 10 months ago.
Now, the two pitchers are forever intertwined.
For me, it is the perfect story of how baseball allows a player to reinvent himself like no other sport. Even players struggling one day can dazzle the next.
Sure, there are more reasons, many more than space allows. From the classy (no egocentric touchdown dances here) to the traditional (uniforms for managers), baseball stands out.
For now, it is time to turn down the lights and escape the pressures of the day. By the way, Cards win.
P.S. Baseball’s best might be gathering in New York, but my real All-Stars are at the Johnson County fairgrounds this week.
Take a walk through the barns and exhibits, as we did Sunday night, and you cannot help but be impressed by the creativity, dedication and hard work of our 4-H youth. Pro athletes might train hard, but they have nothing on teenagers sleeping all night in a hot barn alongside farm animals.
Johnson County has grown greatly in recent decades. Agriculture, though, remains its heart; and the fair is a glimpse into its soul. It has been that way for generations, from Reds Corner to Edinburgh, from Stones Crossing to Needham.
This week you can catch a glimpse of the future in the hard work of fair entrants. It is a future in good hands.
Bob Johnson is a correspondent for the Daily Journal. His columns appear Tuesday and Friday. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.