Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Baseball

I didn't appreciate baseball until I read this John Updike poem

Baseball

It looks easy from a distance,
easy and lazy, even,
until you stand up to the plate
and see the fastball sailing inside,
an inch from your chin,
or circle in the outfield
straining to get a bead
on a small black dot
a city block or more high,
a dark star that could fall
on your head like a leaden meteor.

The grass, the dirt, the deadly hops
between your feet and overeager glove:
football can be learned,
and basketball finessed, but
there is no hiding from baseball
the fact that some are chosen
and some are not--those whose mitts
feel too left-handed,
who are scared at third base
of the pulled line drive,
and at first base are scared
of the shortstop's wild throw
that stretches you out like a gutted deer.

There is nowhere to hide when the ball's spotlight swivels your way, and the chatter around you falls still, and the mothers on the sidelines, your own among them, hold their breaths, and you whiff on a terrible pitch or in the infield achieve something with the ball so ridiculous you blush for years.

It's easy to do. Baseball was invented in America, where beneath the good cheer and sly jazz the chance of failure is everybody's right, beginning with baseball.


John Updike (2009)