This week my mom told me that she’s never been bored. When I asked how that was possible, her response was “I don’t get how people can be bored. Don’t they have piles that need organizing and paperwork to do and things they’ve been meaning to get to?” The examples were domestic, but I caught an underlying whiff of and representatives to call and people in the neighborhood who need help? I laughed. Of course, I said, there’s always all that, but I think you’re confusing boredom with not having anything to do! Boredom is understimulation, and just because you have things to do doesn’t mean they’re providing adequate intellectual or emotional stimulation.
Plenty happened in this baseball game; it had the same number of outs as many others. Today’s was a “big game” for the Mariners, or so the TV and radio broadcasters assured me repeatedly. Key moment in the season, facing the superior Orioles next on the road trip, rookie pitcher Woo starting tomorrow, something something. “You never know what you’re going to get almost any start for a rookie pitcher,” said Dave Sims … My brother in Christ, I respond in my mind, you never know what you’re going to get, period.
But anyways, some things happened. My favorite player, Dylan Moore, hit a home run. The Mariners got a second run in the top of the ninth because Julio is fast. Gleyber Torres demonstrated a satisfying TOOTBLAN in the bottom of the fifth; let’s watch that again.
Teoscar Hernández makes a nice running grab, then nearly runs all the way to first base to double-up Gleyber Torres, who was already well past second base.— Daniel Kramer (@DKramer_) June 22, 2023
That'll help Luis Castillo clear the 5th inning with Matt Brash warming. pic.twitter.com/Z6GhIpOpAI
Anyways, so. Home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi made some awful calls, most egregiously this one to end Jarred Kelenic’s at bat in the seventh:
Things have to happen for a team to score runs, and the Yankees scored four of them. Even that was boring as hell, though; it’s just not that stimulating to watch a second-string player mash a fastball down the middle of the plate, on just an awful pitch… and then see another one do it on the same pitch the next inning. These are those two pitches visible in pink:
Which brings us to the only thing that really made my neurons fire watching this game, and I can’t say I much enjoyed it. Usually Rock-solid Luis Castillo didn’t have his command today and it was uncomfortable to watch. His pitches were up at their normal velocity, but they were all over the place. The box score tells me that he walked four batters, but my notes bemoan a three-ball count on at least seven batters, and I could have sworn at least that many walked. When Castillo left the ballgame after the fifth, the score was 3-0 Yankees, and that lead felt insurmountable.
Knowing that the antidote to my boredom is internal, in providing the stimulation my mind craves, I tried to drum up some curiosity about something related to this game. How many people do I know watching this game right now? Right before Castillo left the game, M’s pitching coach Pete Woodworth was writing on a small pad of paper; what might he have been writing? What’s the percentage of major leaguers chewing sugar-free gum versus sugar-full gum? What would be the key elements in the physics of underwater baseball? Who would be the funnest Mariner to watch take a Zumba class? Despite my efforts at pondering, I found myself under-stimulated again. Much like the Mariners, my efforts in vain. The final score was 4-2, Yankees, and I didn’t much care.
Even after I clarified the difference between “being bored” and “having nothing to do,” my mom claimed that boredom is foreign territory for her. At first that seemed impossible to me; my whole life I’ve craved intellectual engagement. The more I think about it, though, the more I buy it. My mother has a rich internal life, replete with imagination and curiosity and worry, all of which I have found to antidote boredom (for better or for worse). This makes me think about the monks I have known, who exemplify a lack of boredom coming not from things to do, but from spiritual practice that engages the inner life fully.
One of my favorite monks, though not one I have known, is the great Trappist Thomas Merton. He wrote that overwork is “a pervasive form of contemporary violence” because “the frenzy of our activism [...] destroys the fruitfulness of our work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.” I include this for two reasons. One, I want to put my attention on something of value as I recap this drudge of a baseball game, and I find this quote to be of value. And two, as I grapple with boredom in my Mariners fandom, Merton reminds me that my (sometimes frenzied) desire for things to happen to make my fandom fruitful is no solution. Baseball is my sport of choice because of the way it engages the inner life of fans, more so than other sports with shorter seasons or more consistently active play. It does so through memory, mathematics, and storytelling, and through the wisdom gained over the course of a lifetime loving a team. That wisdom comes, in part, from witnessing the buildup and release of one’s own emotions— including boredom— as the cycles of the game revolve. I’m bored today, but when I’m old I hope to be wise. Go Mariners.