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The Politics of Playing Catch or 3 Words Washington, DC Needs to Hear…

April 15, 2010

Wanna play catch?

That was the question we asked each other as kids, over and over again. And the answer (almost every time) was the nod of a head, the reach for a glove or the upbeat reply, “Yeah!”

It was a question that, so many times, lifted spirits and brought to life nothing-to-do afternoons. It was a question that helped forge friendships and patch up broken ones. It was a question that almost always brought us together.

I miss those three words.

There was something about the sound of the ball popping into the pocket of your glove, the sizzle it made just before it tore into your webbing. You’d pluck out the ball, finger those stitches ever so carefully, and then let one fly to the other guy waiting 50 feet away.

It seemed as though there wasn’t a problem in the world you couldn’t solve as long as there was a ball in the air and a glove on your hand. It was a chance to dream, make plans, air out gripes, or call for a truce. You could show off, making catches behind your back; or pretend you were striking out Mickey Mantle with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. It was freedom at full tilt, freedom in action.

Playing catch was like shaking hands – except better. It lasted longer and had more meaning. It gave you the chance to actually get to know people. You were less apt to pop off against kids after having a pass with them. You threw them your best stuff and they fired theirs right back at you. That crisp snap of ball-into-leather usually caught your attention. Somewhere, in between those tosses, impressions were made; mutual respect came into play.

Sometimes, one of the players had too much stuff. There was always a kid who lobbed junk pitches that only a Smoky Burgess or a John Roseboro could catch. To keep playing you had to set ground rules – fair ones. Throw a wild one – chase a wild one. Before long, both sides were on the mark. You had to compromise, find common ground. And almost always, we did.

We didn’t know it then, but we were dabbling with the notion of a thing called bipartisanship – two kids with gloves and a ball. We threw it back and forth. We threw the ball to a receiver, not at a target. We encouraged each other. “Nice catch,” or “way to go,” were remarks heard often. We learned how to work together to keep a good thing going.

That’s what we’re missing today. That’s why there’s so much discontent in Washington, D.C. Our leaders have taken off their gloves because they don’t feel like chasing loose balls, the ones that have veered off the mark. One player is showboating, serving up curves and knucklers, the likes of which have never before been seen. And the other is giving it right back, with smoke and fork balls no one can possibly catch.

Now is not the time to fire the kind of heat that can make someone’s hand swell. Now is not the time to throw change-ups or doctor the ball. Now is not the time to take aim at the person behind the mitt.

It’s time to put the gloves back on; time to change spins and speeds. Let’s get the signals straight. This good thing we have going, after all, is called America.

There are three words we need to hear now more than ever; three words that can bring us back together.

Hey, Washington, wanna play catch?

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5 Comments
  1. Wow. That was an absolutely fantastic blog-post / editorial. It should be required reading by anyone who believes America is veering off the rails. In other words, virtually everyone. One of the best pieces I’ve read in a long time. Excellent, Bill

  2. Steve (BEANO) permalink

    Excellent Rich! Maybe some knucklehead in Washington will get a look at this and put his glove on.
    Perhaps you should send it to some senators.

  3. Well, there is, of course, the Washington Nationals baseball team. Maybe the Dems and Repubs in Congress can form one team together to take on the Nats. They might actually do O.K., and it could be a good “bonding” experience. 🙂 Bill

  4. Linda Donovan Aitken permalink

    Rich: Your writing makes two things obvious, you’re a dyed-in-the-wool baseball fan and an optimistic American. Beautifully written, very poignant. Like Bill said so aptly, it should be required reading. Linda

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