October brings the playoffs in baseball marking the end of a long season in which each team plays 162 games. When I look at the stony faces of the players, they appear to me to be under more stress than the rest of us have felt during these past two years. Egos are at stake in the attempt of each team to “bring home the gold”, that is win the World Series. Given this atmosphere, it is hard to imagine that baseball, like any other sport, is only a game, and isn’t participation in games supposed to be rooted in fun? Obviously, this is not apparent during playoffs.
Kyle Schwarber, Red Sox first baseman, a few days ago reminded us not to take each other so seriously. The Red Sox acquired Schwarber just prior to the baseball trade deadline of July 30th this year. The main purpose behind acquiring Schwarber was for his bat, and not his fielding skills that were regarded as mediocre. Although his position had been as a left fielder, the Sox had a weakness at first base so the plan was to place Schwarber where he would best contribute to the team: first base.
Even though Kyle’s bat has lived up to the hopes of the Red Sox management, his glove, especially at a position he had not played in the past, has drawn some apprehension. He had made a few fielding miscues in some important games prior to the American League Division Series (ALDS) against Tampa Bay. However, he outdid himself in the 3rd game of that series, played in Boston, when he fielded a routine ground ball hit by Josh Lowe. In his effort to make a simple underhand toss to pitcher, Nate Eovaldi, who was covering first base, Schwarber threw it well over the pitcher’s head The broadcasters, in a moment of disbelief, joked that the great and famously tall basketball player, Wilt the Stilt Chamberlain, couldn’t have made the catch. You could see the momentary chagrin on Eovaldi’s face. One could only wonder how Schwarber felt after making such a poor play allowing Lowe to be safe at first base.
Kyle only had to wait until the next inning when Ji-man Choi of the Rays hit a ground ball to him almost duplicating the play he had blown the previous inning. However, in this case, he did not commit an error. Afterwards he charged with fist flying in the air, as if to say he had made a great play, and then he doffed his cap and waved it to the Fenway crowd. It was funny because it was a routine simple play that any first baseman could have made. The Boston fans loved his antics and wildly applauded Schwarber.
Humor to be fully appreciated has a context. Telling a joke to an audience that doesn’t understand the punch line, has little value. Likewise, Kyle’s stunt would not have been funny if the home team was Tampa Bay and not the Red Sox. It takes a certain amount of self-confidence and coolness to laugh at oneself in a way that can make others laugh too but in a loving rather than deriding manner. Even if you are not baseball fans, I would suggest you look at a replay of these two plays by Schwarber as it is being widely seen on the internet. Kyle allowed us to put the importance of our lives on hold and savor a moment of good fun and humor.