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in the praise of athletic beauty

in the praise of athletic beauty

In the Praise of Athletic Beauty: Baseball

This paper provides a comprehensive discussion on what makes baseball really beautiful,
for Gumbrecht that is. It also discusses what makes the performance of a baseball athlete worthy
of praise, as well as the role that gratitude plays in watching baseball. In addition, this essay
provides an account of why I believe my answers to the questions are actually correct.
Substantiation for claims made in this essay are offered with quotations from the text In Praise of
Athletic Beauty by Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht.
Baseball is a beautiful game and performance of a baseball athlete is worthy of praise
Baseball is essentially a ball-and-bat game that is played between 2 teams each
comprising 9 players who take turns in batting and fielding, and it is a particularly beautiful
game owing to its fascination. According to Gumbrecht (151), fascination is understood as the
eye as indeed paralyzed by, attracted to, the appeal of something perceived, which in this case is
athletic performance. It also encompasses the added dimension contributed by those watching
the game. The various dispositions on the side of the watcher contribute to the shaping of
dissimilar fascinations (Gumbrecht 151). If a novice spectator and a seasoned baseball coach
watch a baseball game, both of them can enjoy what they watch. However, their fascination will
be different since their engagement and knowledge are very different. Baseball can be seen as a


beautiful game and the performance of a baseball athlete worthy of praise by taking into
consideration seven different sport fascinations. These include: (i) sculpted bodies; (ii) grace;
(iii) suffering in the face of death; (iv) embodied forms; (v) tools that improve the potential of
the body; (vi) good timing; and (vii) plays as epiphanies (Gumbrecht 152).
Sculpted bodies: there is always continuous admiration of the beautifully sculpted bodies
of baseball players. The bodies of baseball players such as those of Mark Teixeira of New York
Yankees, Prince Fielder of Texas Rangers, and Ryan Howard of Philadelphia Phillies contribute
to the sort of pleasure that centrally concerns people, that is, the pleasure taken by those
watching the game – the spectators. Viewers of baseball also admire the movement of the
athlete’s body and this really makes the sport beautiful.
Grace: “grace is a function of how distant a body and its movements actually seem to be
from subjectivity, consciousness, as well as their expression” (Gumbrecht 168). Grace turns
upside down all the accepted knowledge as regards the relation between human mind and human
body. In baseball, grace is seen in the challenge when the player pushes faster, higher, and
farther in a given sequence of body movements – throwing and running – which are performed
under and shaped through detailed constraints. As the baseball athletes perform these movements
continuously, they program their bodies in such a way that knowledge moves from their brains to
their muscles and nerves in the arms and legs. The performance of the athlete “may undeniably
improve in proportion to the distance that he gains from consciousness as well as from the realm
of intentions” (Gumbrecht 170). As such, the grace displayed by baseball athletes is an important
reason as to why his performance is worthy of praise and what really makes the game beautiful.


Suffering in the face of death: the devastating violence for both the spectators and
athletes is another fascination according to Gumbrecht (158). In baseball, the closeness to death
comes from the extreme physical exhaustion of the player. It is of note baseball entails a
considerably high level of physical tiredness, and this is another important reason that makes the
performance of a baseball athlete really worthy of praise. The fact that the baseball athletes
suffer so much in spite of death because of too much exhaustion makes this game really
beautiful. Embodied forms and plays as epiphanies: Gumbrecht (177) stated that “a beautiful
game in baseball, that particular element of fascination on whose every expert fan can concur,
independently of the defeat or victory of the team for which they are supporting, is essentially
the epiphany of an intricate and embodied form”. As an epiphany, Gumbrecht (182) stated that
“a beautiful play is usually an event because the viewers may never predict when or whether it
would emerge. If it really emerges, one does not know how it would look like, and it undoes
itself as it emerges.” A baseball game can be seen as epiphany in that the spectators can never
predict which team will win or lose, and this aspect of baseball sports contributes to making the
game beautiful. Just like other ballgames, baseball has fascinated large crowds throughout the
world; baseball is highly popular in Korea, the Caribbean, Japan, and the United States.
Tools that improve the potential of the body: a tool is important to an athlete as it
enhances his human abilities. Athletes also adapt their bodies to the movements, form or function
of the tool (Gumbrecht 175). Success in baseball depends on an intrinsic paradox: the more
rightly a player manages to adapt his body to both the movements and form of a bat and the ball,
the better this athlete will control them and the more he will make the most of the effectiveness
of his body. This important aspect makes the performance of a baseball athlete actually worthy
of praise. A baseball player knows that to win, he must score runs by hitting the ball as hard as


possible using a bat thrown at him by the pitcher and then he must run counter-clockwise
encircling 4 bases: 1 st , 2 nd , 3 rd , and home plate. A run will be scored when a player moves round
the bases and comes back to the home plate. Good timing: in a game of baseball, the spectators
admire the good timing that is involved when a shortstop stretches for a line drive and throws to
first base for a double play in a continuous pivot. In addition, they also think highly of the
execution of a strategic play at home plate. In essence, a number of fascinations can, and
commonly do, come together as a spectator watches a baseball game. Baseball, besides
emphasizing the grace of the players of the two teams, also makes those watching the game to be
ardently aware of the agony as well as exhaustion that those players suffer, and this makes the
game beautiful (Gumbrecht 152).

The role of gratitude in watching baseball

Gratitude is of major importance in watching baseball. Gumbretch (231) stated that
gratitude is the main source of beauty in athletics and it is in fact the impetus for praising athletes
as well their achievements. According to Gumbretch (231) on gratitude, “watching sports is
essentially a way of waiting for something that may rarely occur; something that is not
guaranteed to take place since it is not within the pre-calculated limits of human performance.”
To let occur and to see occur, infrequently, what people have no right to anticipate, this might
without a doubt be the sort of experience towards which fans are open when they are watching a
baseball game. Gratitude is the ultimate source of fascination in baseball. There is a sort of
gratitude which ties the spectators to the presence as well as to the memory of their favorite
athletes such as Robinson Cano of Seattle Mariners, Joe Mauer of Minnesota Twins, Albert
Pujols of Los Angeles Angels, and Brian McCann of Ney York Yankees to name just a few.


The appeal of a National League Championship Series (NLCS) tournament lies exactly in
the possibility of the unanticipated happening several times or sometime during the event. This
occurrence could be a superior baseball team such as Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals or
the New York Yankees somehow getting defeated by the underdog team, or a score being made
within the last seconds of the match to seal victory. In essence, the baseball tournament every
year provides moments when the fantastical, unexpected conclusion becomes a reality. In his
explanation of gratitude, Gumbrecht (235) points that “for all the strategy and statistics involved
in sports which are included to create a body of sports knowledge as well as rational
anticipations, both for the competitors and watchers, it is the very possibility of the irrational
occurrence that inexorably glues the viewer to his/her seat.” As a result, in a baseball game, the
happening of what at first appeared not possible will unglue the watcher from that seat, throwing
him/her into joyful gusto for having seen the feat. Thoughtful reflection will then replace this
excitement when the ecstasy of the moment subsides, and the baseball fan will then become
thankful for having the privilege of seeing the event – this is the gratitude of watching the
baseball match.



Work Cited

Gumbrecht, Hans Ulrich. In Praise of Athletic Beauty. Boston, MA: Harvard University Press.
Print. 2006.

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