Though I have never seen it in person, from the way Batty describes his reaction to being subjected to talk about sports I imagine I accurately captured the look he gets on his face at such times. Where he lives the talk is generally about soccer, of course, and maybe he finds my baseball chatter marginally less tedious simply because of the novelty. Have you ever tried to explain anything about baseball to someone who knows almost literally nothing about the sport? Pretty soon you find yourself creating the universe in order to make Carl Sagan's apple pie. In my case it was an effort to explain the Chase Utley thing (a couple of weeks ago; I'm not still obsessing over it). In order to do this I had first to explain the mechanics by which the baseman gets out the baserunner, what a force play is, what a double play is, what breaking up the double play is, what a neighborhood play is, and what the point of sliding is. Then I got distracted and went off into an explanation of the unassisted triple play. At the end of all this I don't think Batty was any more enlightened than he'd been at the beginning, though whether this was because I'm lousy at describing the mechanics of baseball or whether his brain just shut off as soon as I said the word ball is anyone's guess. The third possibility is that baseball simply can't be understood by anyone who wasn't raised on it. Given that there's plenty about it I don't understand, and I was raised on it, by two staunch Yankee-hating Mets fans, this seems plausible. After age twelve or so your brain hardens up and you can't soak in all those finicky little rules about the infield fly ball and why you never make the first or the third out at third base and when a relief appearance counts as a save. So I came up with this overarching metaphor in the hopes of making the game comprehensible at least in broad strokes to those who were doing something else during their tween years. And it holds up, I think: imagine, for example, the strained, suffering look on the face of a starting pitcher; recall the way the other players don't talk to him in the dugout but allow him to sit quietly on the far side of the bench with a towel over his throwing arm. Pitchers commune directly with the ball, they deliver it into the world to see if it will favor the defense, and they are blamed when it smites them. They're not quite rabbis, I think, because the umpires are the rabbis. Maybe they're prophets, like Jonah.
Speaking of Jonah, the analogy works in the other direction too: imagine how shocking it would be if, instead of catching a fly ball, the center fielder let it drop, threw down his glove, and ran off the field in the middle of the game.