BASEBALL IS ONE...

BASEBALL IS ONE THING, BUT PLEASE, NOT BASKETBALL. I sincerely hope that Matt is wrong about the imminent takeover of basketball by the saberrnetric kudzu that's come to spread itself over baseball. I have no problem with it there. After all, the difference between the essential thrill of watching the average major-league baseball game and the essential thrill of adding up long columns of numbers is not vast. But more than any other sport, basketball relies on its performance esthetic for its essential appeal. This began with James Naismith's eureka moment when he decided to put the goals of his new sport off the ground, thereby guaranteeing that, sooner or later, people would leave the ground to get to them. The fact that gravity always has been incidental to the sport is one of the reasons why basketball's fundamentals change as quickly as they do, why basketball took less than four decades to go from the standing guard to Michael Jordan, whereas it took baseball nearly 100 years to develop the relief pitcher. There always will be something about basketball that resists the dully empirical analysis, thank God. I have never seen the sheet music to John Coltrane's "Alabama," but my life would be poorer if I'd never heard it.

--Charles P. Pierce

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