Aug. 1, 2014, Winnipeg - I love baseball movies. I actually like baseball movies more than I like baseball. I’ve never played the game and don’t really understand all of its intricacies. But baseball movies, they’re fantastic; they have drama, action, even romance, and usually inspire us to change, grow, and challenge ourselves to be more than we ever dreamed we could be.
Baseball, I must say, I find very boring to watch on TV. This spring, I went to arguably the most famous park in the world, Yankee Stadium, and saw the boys in pinstripes live and in-person. I marveled at the history of the building; I can name more famous Yankee baseball legends than I have any right to know. I basked in the Americana of it all ¬– the feeling of being part of something so esteemed and legendary. The game itself . . . well, let’s just say I would rather watch Bull Durham, Money ball, or Field of Dreams from my device while sitting in my seat, eating a hotdog, drinking beer and people gazing. I just don’t get the strategy or rules, and I can’t see the difference between a cut fastball and a slider. I have no clue what a 7-2-4 triple play is, a balk by the pitcher, or however you describe it, and I just don’t understand how anyone can be paid so much money for doing something three times out of 10, consistently. Can’t they find athletes who can hit the ball eight out 10 times? I’m sure Peyton Manning could throw a football accurately more than three for 10! If you were to ask me if I’m a passionate fan, I would say no; maybe just a fan, especially in the playoffs, when the cool air of October mixes with the drama of a bottom of the 9th, bases loaded with two out and a full-count-to-win-the-pennant kind of moment occurs.
My passion for baseball movies and lack of understanding for the game itself compares to the way some folks have no clue what we do as firefighters, but seem to know everything about a fire department. Hey, why do you carry that oxygen tank on your back? Why do you guys respond to false alarms? I called an ambulance, why are you here? Why would you go into a burning building? I saw Backdraft, is it real? Do you guys actually rescue cats out of trees?
Some people can’t seem to comprehend what we do, but they have no problem telling us their opinion on it in the letters and comments they send to the papers and post online any time the fire service makes the news. But it’s OK; it might just be the baseball fan in all of them. Our customers are passionate about their governments and how their money is being spent and I actually believe we have a duty to serve our customers more, and to properly explain what we do at a comprehensive level more than three out of 10 times. I would love to take part in one of those fire ops 101 days to see the looks on people’s faces when they put the gear on. I’ve always asked schoolteachers to try on gear when they come for a visit with the kids because I think doing so is a great teaching tool through which people can understand the deeper meaning of what we do. There’s nothing like loading up a teacher with 50 pounds of gear and asking them what they think.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, even if it is foundationally formed from misconceptions. I’m sure some of you would argue for the merits of watching live baseball, however, you’re just not going to convince me because I know better. We may never be able to convert all the firefighter fans to true supporters who have our backs, but that’s OK. It’s always our job to respond to everyone, regardless of opinion.
The truth about baseball is the strategies and tactics used in the game are so complex that only a true enthusiast, who has either played or loves the game, could truly appreciate what is happening on the field. I would never expect anyone to truly know what I do for a living unless they walked a mile in my shoes, or have at least rounded the bases a few times.
My passion for the fire service is a lot stronger than it is for baseball. But my comparison rings true in the crack of the bat, or the sound of a crackling working fire. Either way, you have to have passion to appreciate both if you’re truly going to love them. Have a fantastic long weekend; I’m sure there will be a great baseball movie to watch while you BBQ and have a cold one!
Jay Shaw is a firefighter and primary-care paramedic with the City of Winnipeg. Along with multiple fire and emergency services courses and certificates, Jay holds a master's degree in disaster and Emergency management from Royal Roads University and is an independent education and training consultant focusing on leadership, management, emergency preparedness and communication skills. Contact him at
and follow him on Twitter @disasterbucket
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