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Right now is a glorious time of year when the shakes and fits of March Madness withdrawal have subsided, the NFL remains a slumbering atrocity, and we can ignore the opening playoff rounds of the interminable NBA and NHL.

I would like to take advantage of this window of time to follow in the tradition of George Will, Ken Burns, and mid-90s movie executives to rhapsodize on baseball, America’s wistful pastime. While most elderly, white male fans like to romanticize the sport and use it as a potion to conjure the “aw shucks” Rockwellian America, that’s not what I’m here to do. I’m here to sing its praises as a carnival of vice, where fans can partake of the seven deadly sins in nine innings.

Greed

It may not feel like it, but greed is on display on the diamond. Don’t believe me? Is the pitcher with vaseline or pine tar on his arm not greedy for some extra movement on his curveball? Is it not illegal to steal signs? For goodness sakes, there is even a maneuver called a steal. Theft and covetousness is in the very fabric of the game.

And like all professional sports, Major League Baseball is run by millionaires looking to squeeze Joe Six Pack for all that they can, Well, the joke is on them. I, too, am greedy.

Thanks to an MLB TV log-in provided by a close personal friend, I can watch any out-of-market game I want. As a Kansas City Royals fan living in Washington, D.C., that means I have the pleasure of watching the boys in blue fight to stay relevant. What a blessing! But even when the joke is on MLB, it still is on me. That phrase, “out-of-market,” prevents me from watching the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles, both currently in first in their respective divisions. I can’t watch them from my subscription because they are available through local broadcast, which I am also unwilling to pay for. Like the pornographic section of a video store, they are kept behind a curtain of mystery. And I’d have to compromise my values, ask permission, and ultimately pay to see these performances.

If I did pay for MLB TV, I would feel as though I were being ripped off. Someone is paying a lot of money for this service, why not just show me the local commercials and let me see Jayson Werth’s glorious hair flow through the summer night air? Alas, the grifter has become the griftee.

Lust

I’m sure many readers, when given the pairing of lust and baseball, will immediately think of Wendy Peffercorn, the lifeguard siren of The Sandlot. As do I. But it isn’t just Wendy’s lotioning and oiling oiling and lotioning[1] that’s working us into a lusty lather. It’s also the salacious terminology bandied about by many color commentators. Who among us hasn’t heard that a power hitter “got good wood” on a pitch and “jacked it into the stands” only to have our thoughts turn carnal? Or felt the gentle stirrings when watching pine tar applied to a bat?

These are mere thoughts. The real parade of flesh comes when watching a televised game. The time-honored tradition of the Honey Shot, where a cameraman locates an attractive female sports fan among the unwashed masses to broadcast across the airwaves, has been around for several decades. And it’s one of the few advantages of watching the game at home, since the Jumbotron operator usually has a bit more restraint than to unabashedly look for hotties. Yes, showing the Girl Next door in her replica jersey is as American as apple pie and baseball itself. 

Pride

Obviously this section will be about the St. Louis Cardinals and their fans, who are the worst. If you don’t believe me, peruse The Best Fans in Baseball twitter account. Any baseball fan knows the mystique of the Cardinal Way, which involves explaining why the laws of physics allow a spherical object to stick to Yadier Molina’s chest protector without the aid of an illegal substance. The level of dedication needed to be twice as insufferable as Yankee fans, despite having 2/5ths as many World Series Championships, is something that requires a level of grit and blue collar attitude that only someone who believes St. Louis, the third best city[2] in a garbage state, is a culturally thriving metropolis could pull off. All they need is 16 more titles and Babe Ruth, and their history will back up their arrogance.

But that level of pride isn’t wholly unique to St. Louis. Last season I watched in horror as the fans of my beloved Kansas City Royals, upon finally basking in the glory of a World Series win, began to exhibit the early signs of Cardinal pomposity. Facebook posts appeared in which Royals fans described how welcoming other Royals fans were to fans of the visiting team. Tales of sharing beer and hot dogs at the tailgate, just as Mother Theresa herself would have done, threatened to turn a formerly moribund fan base into another haughty bunch of fartsniffers on the plains.

It can happen to any fanbase. As fans we attach our identity to an organization, so that we might feel joy at their accomplishments. The ultimate goal is unearned pride. Mark my words: as soon as the San Diego Padres win a title, a significant portion of their fan base will puff their chests out a little too far, then the rest of baseball fandom will wish syphilis and death upon anyone wearing a garish camo Tony Gwynn replica jersey. It happened to Boston, it’s happening to the Cubs, and it could happen to all of us. Pay heed!

Envy

And of course, the other side of the coin. Envy walks hand-in-hand with pride. The primary reason that any sports fan professes to hate a team or player is envy. When a team has the wins or athletic ability that you wish for your favorite team, you feel an envy that is frequently expressed as anger. Cries of “Yankees suck” or “Trout is overrated” come from a place of jealousy. We all know that the Yankees do not suck and that Mike Trout is properly rated.

Except for Cardinals fans. No one is envious of them. Even when the Cardinals are hot garbage water, their fans act as if they miss the playoffs in a way that other teams could only dream of[3].

Sloth

The very notion of watching an entire baseball game is slothful. Whether sitting on a couch or in the stands and watching grown men frolic on the grass for 3 hours at a minimum, baseball offers us the best possible way to numb our butts. And if it goes to extra innings, just forget it.

Attending a game in person brings the added benefit of having adults with large calves and herniated disks carrying trays of food and drink to your seat. They shout to you offering the delicacies they carry, and all you have to do is wave a hand so that they will bring it to you or have your row mates pass it down. Sometimes the thing you want is two sections over, but you want food now, so instead of waiting, you decide to have cotton candy instead of the chocolate frosty that comes with a flat wooden spoon. It’s a glorious combination of sloth and gluttony. Speaking of which…

Gluttony

Attending a baseball game is a glutton’s paradise. Stadiums these days offer a staggering variety of food. From barbecue to crickets to spherical abominations claiming to be ice cream of the future, the ball park offers everything the bottomless American maw could want. Food is so abundant that oftentimes, in order to whip the crowd into a frenzy, hot dogs will be launched into the stands. Anything a man could desire. And if you’re a traditionalist who opts for the nostalgia-filled bag of peanuts, simply toss the shells on the concrete floor. Someone else will clean up after you.

Wrath

Though a dying breed, all must fear the wrath of the head hunter. At any perceived slight or show of disrespect during the course of a game, these pitchers are willing to throw a hardened ball made of twine and hide at another man’s body. It is one of the most primitive, vindictive, and brutal acts in any sport. And we need it. The men who still employ this tactic are John Waynes in a world of John Mayers. The bean ball sends a message, and that message is “Three innings ago, you looked at your home run a second too long. I challenge you to fisticuffs at the mond.” The bean ball is the glove slap to the face for a more rugged era.

Yes, baseball is a glorious sport. A team sport that requires endurance, patience, and taking the longview to be the champion in a season comprised of over 100 games. We like to pretend that it these noble characteristics are why baseball has earned the reputation as America’s national pastime. But it’s quite the opposite. It is all the vices that America claims to eschew, but secretly thrives and profits from, that make our love affair with baseball possible.


[1] I can’t take this no more!

[2] No. 1 – Columbia No. 2 – Branson — don’t @ me

[3] They finished 3rd in the NL Central the right way.


This piece is a response to this week’s 7 DEADLY SINS writing prompt. If you’d like to be featured in The Prompt, send us a 400-700 word response to this week’s prompt and always, we’ll print the best submissions.

Dennis Mersmann

Dennis is an aspiring English teacher and still listens to ska music. He lives in DC, which is fine.

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