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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Baseball & A Free Society

       Baseball & A Free Society

With the pitchers and catchers reporting for Spring Training in just a couple of weeks, it got me to thinking about baseball and democracy, or should I say, the way a free society works. 

Baseball (or most any other team sport) takes skill to succeed.  In fact, baseball is based on particular skills, i.e. turning a double play, hitting an 85 mile-per-hour curve ball, etc.  Basketball’s required skills include dribbling and shooting accurately.  Football demands being able to catch an odd shaped ball while fending off a tackler and running quicker, smarter and faster than the defender.  These sports require other skills as well, but you get the idea.

All three sports, especially baseball which is significantly more complicated and sophisticated than the others (if you don’t believe me, try to explain baseball to someone who is visiting from Germany or the UK, as I have), have rules that apply to all players.  And getting on a team for any of these sports is strictly based on merit.  Who you know, how much money you have, where you were raised, your sex, or the color of your skin (no longer) has any impact whatsoever on your ability to be on the starting team. 

Can’t dribble?  I don’t want you on my basketball team.  Can’t hit?  I don’t want you on my baseball team.  Can’t block or catch a football?  I don’t want you on my football team.  It is all based on your merit.

And, by the way, it doesn’t matter if you are not blessed with good hand-to-eye coordination.  Tough!  It doesn’t matter if you are not tall enough.  Tough!  It doesn’t matter if you’re not big enough.  Tough!

I know because I was never fast enough, coordinated enough, tall enough, big enough, or just good enough to make it on any of my high school’s teams.  I had passion without talent.

That’s life.

In a free society, you go as far as your God-given talent, ability, drive, and God’s blessings take you.  That’s a free society at its best.  It’s a free society as our Founders envisioned it. 

And in sports, everyone plays by the same rules.  There are no exceptions for players who are shorter or smaller or slower or less skilled.  The rules apply to everyone equally and they certainly can’t be changed in the middle of the game.

In society, government makes the rules, and like baseball, they should be applied to everyone equally.  That is the only fair and right way for laws to apply.  When laws are applied unequally (as they were to black Americans), the outcomes are not fair.  Yes, Judges, like umpires, make mistakes, but again, that’s life—imperfect, difficult, challenging, sometimes disappointing, but life.

It wouldn’t be much fun to go to a baseball game and have one team start with runs on the scoreboard because it’s not as good as the other team.  We would rightfully call that unfair.

The rule makers never seek to determine outcomes and government shouldn’t either.  When government seeks to define outcomes, the problems begin.  Problems like the current economic crisis.  Subprime loans given to selected individuals who can’t afford to repay them because of government mandates, caused a financial meltdown.  Good intentions without a solid understanding of the foundations of a free society make lousy law. 

Baseball players, even on the sandlot level, don’t seek unfair advantages.  What fun is it to win if you are cheating?  How good can you feel about yourself if the rule maker gives you an unfair advantage?

Laws that are based on good intentions, but favor one group or one individual over another, hurt everyone.  The loser quits trying if it’s not a level playing field.  The winner loses self-respect if he or she knows that they really didn’t win on their own merit. 

When we play sports we are tough and demanding when it comes to enforcing the rules fairly and equally.  We should demand no less from our government.

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