For many years, major league baseball has been amazingly boring. In fact, it’s been amazingly boring since around 11 p.m. on October 14, 1992.
That’s when the Pittsburgh Pirates lost the ’92 National League Championship Series to the Atlanta Braves. It was the 7th and final game of the series. The Pirates had entered the bottom of the 9th leading 2-0. With 1 out, the Braves made the score 2-1. With 2 outs and the bases loaded, an Atlanta pinch-hitter hit a single to left field. The runner on 3rd easily scored, making it 2-2. The runner on 2nd headed for home. There was a play at the plate. The runner beat the throw from Barry Bonds. Atlanta won 3-2 and went to the World Series.
Barry Bonds left to play for the San Francisco Giants and the Pirates had 20 consecutive losing seasons. Nothing they tried worked. None of their games were significant. Baseball was amazingly boring.
This year, mirabile dictu, the Pirates not only had their first winning season, they qualified for the playoffs. They won the National League wild card game Tuesday night. Thursday they began a 5-game playoff with the St. Louis Cardinals. Each team has won a single game so far.
All of a sudden, baseball is no longer amazingly boring. Where there were long stretches of tedium before, as the pitcher stared into space, the batter called time out, the pitching coach walked to the mound, as foul ball after foul ball went into the stands, there is now serious suspense. Is that 2-run lead safe? Will this pitcher make it through the inning? Can this batter get on base? It’s too scary to watch sometimes. Every throw and swing of the bat means something.
Baseball hasn’t changed at all, of course. But as with all things in life, context is crucial. Walking down the street, sitting on a park bench, eating a slice of pizza, anything at all can be meaningful, depending on the circumstances.