Here's what I think is bad behavior: writing a wrap-up that has only the most peripheral connection to the question. But here's even worse behavior: baseball, our tedious national pastime. So now that the 721-game baseball season is winding down, and the 85 major-league teams are looking ahead to the playoffs, it's the perfect moment to get on that hobbyhorse and ride it around the outfield.
In a typical game (average length, nine hours and 22 minutes) over half the time nothing whatever happens, nor can it: The ball is simply being held by the pitcher. And even when he throws the damn thing, eight of the nine men on the hitting team are lounging in the dugout doing nothing, while on the defensive side nearly everyone spends nearly all the game doing nearly nothing or, more kindly, in anxious anticipation of eventually doing something. The only person constantly involved in the game is the umpire. It is not a good sign when the officials, or for that matter the hotdog vendors, are more intensely engaged in the action than are the players. In hockey or basketball or soccer, most of the players are actually playing most of the time.
When the pitcher eventually puts the ball in play, the frequent result is a ludicrous injury. This is not surprising in a game where the required level of conditioning allows the professional athlete to have a cigarette. In the dugout. During a game. It is not uncommon to see a big-league ballplayer tear up his innards trotting down to first, unimpeded, on a level, raked path, in daylight.
To embrace baseball is to join a cult of rural idiocy: It is a game where people spit. It promotes an ersatz bucolic ideal, giving rise to debates over grass vs. artificial turf, natural vs. unnatural—a defense of the natural from those who refer to the orange goo siphoned onto their stadium nachos as "cheese."
Baseball is family fun (a true oxymoron), as bland as the food in family restaurants or the drama in G-rated movies. Its governing body regards scandal—lust, avarice, gambling, corruption, temptation—i.e., human desire as bad for the game. Everything that makes a novel exciting, everything that makes life interesting, is officially bad for the game.
And might I add: Mayor Giuliani loves it. As do millions of decent, right-thinking Americans.
Bullying (but Consistently Victorious) Answer
Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight was on zero-tolerance probation when he did a series of bad things, including:
- Allegedly physically and verbally abused a student.
- Orally abused a high-ranking university official.
- Instead of staying on campus, as requested, to clear up these charges, he went fishing.
- Flouted the athletic department chain of command.
- Made inflammatory remarks about university officials.
- Refused to participate in certain university events.
Mr. Brand, the university's president, offered Knight a chance to resign. When Knight declined, Brand fired him.