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Baseball And Modern Jazz (How I Learned To Love the First And I’m Trying The Second)

June 26, 2015

Braxton, baseball has got to be the most boring game in the world.

Why’s that?

Just look at it. The most “exciting” game is a no-hitter. NO ONE HITS THE BALL!

No, Rodney, you’re wrong. A no-hitter isn’t the most exciting game. The most exciting game is actually a “perfect game.” 

How’s that different than a no-hitter? 

In a perfect game, no one even gets on base. 

I wasn’t always a baseball fan. In fact, there was a time that I really did think it was one of the most boring games ever invented. I would say that watching grass grow was more exciting, but for games played in an outdoor stadium the two activities seemed to be synonymous. 

My opinion changed. Today, I think that baseball is one of the greatest sports ever invented. I’ve discovered a beauty and “flow” to the game that I never realized before. How I got from there to here involves a willingess to accept the premise that a statement is true. . .even when I don’t yet believe it. 

I love music, but I don’t know a lot about Jazz. I own a couple of Jazz albums by accident more than design. I have a Harry Connick Jr album called “20.” I had no idea he was a famous Jazz musician. I just thought he sang pretty good for an actor. I have a Miles Davis/Thelonius Monk double album. I have a Bill Holliday album. Is she even a Jazz artist? I’m not sure.

I decided I wanted to learn more about this uniquely American genre of music. I asked my friend Caleb Chapman to list the five most important albums in Jazz. Caleb is a good person to ask. He’s the conductor for the Crescent Super Band. They are a professional band made up of high school kids. Caleb runs an entire music school. I think he’s up to a dozen different bands, but CSB is the premier group. He’s literally written a book on Jazz music. 

Caleb, if you were going to help someone learn to appreciate Jazz, what are the five albums you would have them start with? 

The five quintessential Jazz albums? 

Yeah, I’ll send you email and you can. . .

Give me your phone. I’ll write them down right now:
– Miles Davis “Kind of Blue”
– Dave Brubeck “Time Out”
– John Coltrane “A Love Supreme”
– Michael Brecker “Tales from the Hudson”
– Charles Mingus “Ah Um”

Every IT person has had to learn something new this year. I don’t even know what it was for each person, but the point is that if you are in IT, you are learning new things. 

My programming friends learn new languages every couple of years. 

System administrators learn new operating systems each year.

Even endusers learn new applications and desktop operating systems every few years. 

It’s part of the job. Everyone has their own learning style, but for IT folks learning typically involves installing and playing around with your new toys. Hit the download button and just splash around in the new application for awhile. Eventually, they start to focus on learning particular aspects: install, architecture, APIs. The point is that after a few weeks or months of using the new program, or language or application, the engineers get a feel for how it works. They start to see similarities with older versions or with similar programs. It’s how you become experienced and eventually the expert. 

I tried it with baseball. I was living in Seattle in 1995. It was the year after a baseball strike had cancelled the World Series. Something not even the Nazis and the Japanese in WWII could do. As the teams came back to play in the Spring, I decided,

I’m a reasonably intelligent guy. I can learn stuff. People, some people, love baseball. I’m going to figure it out. I’m going to figure out what’s the attraction.

My lesson plan was simple. I went to a few games at the Kingdome where my dad had taken me as a boy to watch teh Mariners get beat. But mostly I read. Everyday, I’d read the account of the previous day’s game. I’d study the box score even when I didn’t understand it. And I started to decipher the world of baseball. I’d watch games and then read the article on them and realize how much I had missed. So, next time I’d pay even more attention. 

And a funny thing started to happen. I started to understand and then I got excited about following the team. A lot of credit goes to the 1995 Mariners. They were the first Mariners team in history to

  • Have a winning record
  • Make it to the playoffs
  • Win a playoff series
  • Have a twenty game winner (Future Hall of Famer, Randy Johnson)

I discovered nuances that opened the game up to me. How a center fielder will reposition himself based on the pitch he knows the catcher is calling. How the difference between an infield hit and an out at first base is a mere fraction of a second. How it’s the catcher, not the pitcher who controls the game. 

I went too far. I dove so deep into the baseball pool, that I pretty much got stuck. I’m a hopeless baseball fan. 

So, what’s this have to do with music? 

I bought five albums on iTunes today.

Kind of Blue

Time Out

A Love Supreme 

Tales From The Hudson

Ah Um

Can I learn to love Jazz as much as I love baseball? I don’t know. But at least I’m not starting out thinking Jazz is the most boring music in the world. 

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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