I watch an awful lot of baseball, and often I wonder (especially when the A's are sucking like they do now), why am I doing this? There are so many other things I could be doing.
Time Magazine recently came out with its list of 100 All-Time Best Films. I've only seen thirteen of them. I watched more baseball games last month than I've seen great movies in my whole lifetime.
This has been bubbling up more and more towards the surface in my thoughts. Then a blog entry by Terry Teachout nailed the issue for me. A reader wrote him:
There seems to be such a glut of everything artistic these days. In jazz alone, I could go on listening to new and already-heard stuff from the same 1940s and 1950s period until I dropped dead at 100 without running out, and that's jazz alone. Meaning, I really don't need any more jazz to be produced. It's all on disc. I don't need any more cabaret singers singing Cole Porter, or young guys in suits playing Fats Navarro, etc.
To which Teachout responds:
Remember that no one, not even the wealthiest of connoisseurs, has an unlimited amount of time to spend on art. However wisely or unwisely we allocate them, there are only twenty-four hours in a day. Sooner or later, we have to choose.
I've rationalized to myself that I have chosen to immerse myself in baseball instead of film or jazz or painting or video games or reality TV. But why don't I balance it out a bit more evenly?
I keep thinking that I should take this opportunity to diversify my leisure activities, to spend more my entertainment time and money on other things. Go out to a movie. I hear that new Star Wars film isn't too bad. Take $20/month of the money I spend on the A's and spend it on Netflix or a museum or something. After all, baseball players won't have to wait tables if I buy a little less of their product for awhile.
I've said that before, though. I'll say that I should go see X or listen to Y, but usually, I just end up watching the ballgame instead. Why do I keep doing that?
Again, Teachout to the rescue:
...there's no substitute for the galvanizing experience of being present at the creation of a new work of art that might possibly end up being great. Nothing is so thrilling as making up your own mind instead of waiting for posterity to do it for you.
We can't all make art, but we can at least place a bet from time to time on those who dare to do so.
For me, that's exactly it. I need and crave excellence; it's built into the very fabric of my personality. I once took a personality test that said that this was my most dominant personality trait:
Strengths, whether yours or someone else's, fascinate you. Like a diver after pearls, you search them out, watching for the telltale signs of a strength. A glimpse of untutored excellence, rapid learning, a skill mastered without recourse to steps-all these are clues that a strength may be in play. And having found a strength, you feel compelled to nurture it, refine it, and stretch it toward excellence. You polish the pearl until it shines.
The last five seasons, the A's have been this close, falling just one game short of that next step to greatness. You can sense its proximity, and you desperately want to be there when it happens, so you stay tuned.
The A's aren't that close anymore. There is potential greatness, I sense, in Eric Chavez, Bobby Crosby, Rich Harden, Dan Haren, and Huston Street. As of yet, it isn't actual greatness. I keep watching because really want to be there if and when it happens. And I appreciate Billy Beane's efforts to create a great team.
But I'm not getting my excellence fix very often these days. I need to invest my time more wisely, to maximize my excellence income, to bring the greatest possible profit to my soul.
So I'm going to test out some new rules:
If given an immediate choice between watching baseball and something else that might be fun, choose the something else.
Only sit and watch the game as my primary activity if my team's starting pitcher clearly has the potential to be great. (e.g., Zito, Harden, or Haren)
Even then, make every effort to multi-task, and get something else accomplished simultaneously.
For a mediocre starting pitcher, make every effort to find something to do that is completely unrelated to baseball.
If doing something around the house, the game may be on, but only as background noise.