A hard one from right field

In the breast of many an American conservative beats the heart of a sports fan, but through the heart of a true conservative pumps the blood of a baseball fanatic.

Perhaps I’ll get arguments from the umps, but hear me out before you toss me out of the game. You, dear readers, are the umpires when it comes to this or any assertion appearing under my name. As the Reno Aces enter their second week of the 2010 Pacific Coast League season, here is my pitch.

Conservatives like sports, including team sports, because individuals and groups of individuals compete on relatively level playing fields; competition produces success and failure, just as life is meant to be; rewards are apportioned according to rational laws, including of supply and demand; entertainers and the entertained enjoy a win-win situation because wins and losses retain standards.

Like life, however, nothing is perfect. Steroids and rule changes over time alter the validity of record comparisons. For the most part, however, sports offer tradition and cohesion through the years.

But why baseball? Despite changes, it is as tradition-bound as any sport. It includes elements of state and national life, such as playing or challenging percentages (risk and outright gambling), outlawry (stealing and stealing signals), the rule of law (umpires are the ultimate arbiters), hot dogs (and beer).

Still, most sports share similar if not identical characteristics. Again, why choose baseball? Team and time tell.

Other major team sports, American football and basketball, are time-limited. Golf isn’t time-limited, but it is mostly an individual sport. And recent events show that unless you have a Tiger in your tournament, it loses luster. Society likes individuals but gravitates toward interdependence in life and sports.

Baseball gets this true conservative’s vote because it features individual plus team skills and goes on forever (theoretically) until a clear victor emerges. The late great George Carlin nailed it.

“Baseball has no time limit. We don’t know when it’s going to end; might have extra innings,” said the comedian. “Football is rigidly timed, and it will end even if we’ve got to go to sudden death.”

In fact, Carlin’s stand-up routine on differences between baseball and football convinced me that football is for neo-conservatives:

“In football, the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use the shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward walls of the enemy’s defensive line. In baseball the object is go home, to be safe. I hope I’ll be safe at home.”

Only a neo-con believes he’ll wind up safe at home if he keeps bombing and battering his opponent in enemy territory.

Only a liberal, by the way, thinks all this emphasis on winners and losers misses the point of life. Hogwash; it is the point.

The Reno Aces played the Fresno Grizzlies in their Triple A season opener not long ago, and I cared who won. These diamond nomads play for love of the game and just enough money to keep the wolf from the door, striving for a call to the show and big paydays there.

Off season is over, baseball is at hand and the pulse quickens. Risk-taking and stealing mingle with beer and BS. This true con man loves it.