For me, the sport in and of itself is not the draw. The draw is the people. It’s why boxing always held more interest for me than any team sport. It was the individual who made the sport what it was. The fire and sheer ballsyness of Jack Johnson, the lightning style and class of Sugar Ray Robinson, the sturdy and unrelenting force of Rocky Marciano. They defined their sport and their sport defined who they were simultaneously.
With boxing (or any sport that’s solely about the individual), it’s easy and clear to see the story of that person, to see the thrills and the heartaches and the failures and successes of that one person. They win or lose on the basis of their own strengths and weaknesses and it’s plain for everyone to see.
But with baseball, that’s a far more murky prospect. It’s not about the one, but the many and all those singular stories are lost in the shuffle. At least, that’s what I thought. But as I learn more and more about the history of the sport, I’m starting to hear the same amazing and terrible stories that I heard when I read about boxing: The sad and terrible monster that was Ty Cobb, whose talent and downfall both came from the same rage and feelings of inadequacy, the talented and uneducated Shoeless Joe Jackson who threw it all away for the promise of $20,000 and Christy Mathewson, who never went to war, but lost his way of life and then his life to poison gas anyway.
It’s the stories that make any sport go beyond the confines of being a simple game played by talented men and women. It’s their lives that make their victories more than just points on a scoreboard. It’s always about the stories.