Ball and Stick Games

What is it about ball and stick games that inspire writing? Baseball seems to stimulate the most writing, but golf comes in second. (At least it does based on my highly unscientific research in new and used bookstores).

Other than golf and baseball, the other major ball and stick games I’m aware of are hockey (I’ll equate a puck with a ball here), cricket, and croquet. I’m going to rule out polo, because the addition of horses seems to put polo in another realm.

Hockey has some literature, and Bryan Gruley’s Starvation Lake and its sequel The Hanging Tree are promising recent hockey-related contributions. But the hockey literature seems relatively sparse compared to golf and baseball.

Do cricket and croquet have their own literatures? I’ll plead ignorance on that point.

Golf seems to be the most elemental ball and stick game. Baseball and cricket include running, catching, and the interfering efforts of an opposing team. Hockey includes skating, physical contact, and the other team. Croquet is pretty pure ball and stick, but the opponent can mess with your ball.

But in golf, the ball just sits there, waiting to be hit. Nobody rolls or throws the ball at you, you don’t have to run around or beat it to somewhere, and your opponent can’t interfere with your swing or ball flight. You’re opponent doesn’t have to be present. In fact, your opponent doesn’t have to exist.

With no opposing team, balls hit out of the park and balls dribbled halfway to the pitcher’s mound are home runs. I can’t ice skate, but without an opponent I figure I could manage a goal in hockey. But even if I’m the only person on the golf course on a day of perfect weather, I’ll still screw up.

For good or ill, golf (and maybe baseball and cricket) have the largest inaction to action ratios of any games I can think of. The amount of time a player actually hits the ball is infinitesimal compared to the amount of time the game takes, so you have a lot of time to think.

But golf gives you the fewest excuses and the biggest opportunity to blame no one but yourself for the results.

So golf inspires solitary rumination and personal examination. Sounds kinda like writing, doesn’t it?

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2 Responses to Ball and Stick Games

  1. Bryan Gruley says:

    Thanks for the kind words on your nifty blog!

    • ckprokop says:

      Thank you for giving me some pleasant hours of reading. I think a hockey goalie has a lot of the same “no fault but my own” problems of a golfer. And as Gus well knows, if the goalie screws up he lets a team down, not just himself.

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