She is indeed the Susan Jacoby, of Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism, such a hit this past semester in our Atheism course. Add another name to the Church of Baseball register.
Her point in this book is not simply to praise our favorite game but to raise a red flag of concern for its future, in an age that rewards inattention and distraction and discourages continuous (though relaxed) concentration. She understands how true baseball appreciation requires sustained focus, a willingness to notice how much is happening both on the playing field and in the annals of institutional memory when casual semi-observers are sure "nothing is happening" in the game unfolding before them.
My concerns about the future of baseball—a $10 billion sport enjoying an unprecedented era of financial success and labor peace-are not based on misplaced nostalgia for a "pure" game that never existed. They are based on the dissonance between a game that demands and depends on concentration, time, and memory and a twenty-first-century culture that routinely disrupts all three with its vast menu of digital distractions.Just look around, the next time you're in a ballpark: how many spectators are actually watching the game? How many are instead texting, watching other games in other places via smartphone, playing video games on that same dumb "smart" device? If you're in my town, Nashville, how many are playing shuffleboard or engaging in some other irrelevant diversion in the right field grandstand, backs turned constantly to the field? How many are seated, watching the game while conversing with family and friends? How many people under 30 are even there at all?
It's depressing, but Jacoby's a meliorist with constructive suggestions for how the great pastime can reclaim its rightful place. Most important is for those of us who love it to "make an effort to show the young why we love the game and why they might love it too if they surrendered themselves, as an experiment, to time uninterrupted by clocks and clicks... One kid at a time, one adult at a time."
So for my part, I'll continue to track participation in my classes with a baseball scorecard. Least I can do.