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Why Voting Is Like Baseball (Hint: Both Matter)

Get yer butt out and support yer team, whichever team it may be

Claire McCaskill And Josh Hawley Campaign In Hotly Contested Missouri Senate Race
Crowd comparable to that of a Twins game ca. 2000
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

“Boring.” “Too complicated.” Heard these complaints before? They’re exactly the same reasons people give for not voting and for not watching baseball. Let’s break them down, shall we?

One vote never decided anything, so mine isn’t important

Yes, political elections are never decided by one vote. But aspiring politicians look at the results of voting returns. If somebody is elected by a gazillion votes, politicians pay attention to this. Same thing if somebody loses but does better than expected.

Just as baseball teams copy what other teams have done successfully, politicians copy what other politicians have done.

Aaron Gleeman once said the difference between a 75-win team and an 80-win team is huge for free agents, and he was right, because free agents want A) money and B) the chance to win. They’re competitive athletes, they want to win, and politicians are no different.

It’s too boring

Well, sure, most things are if you don’t know a lot about them. And that’s fine! Nobody has the time to learn about everything.

Baseball is absolutely bizarre if you come from a background that doesn’t know anything about it. I remember, once, working at a health-care facility, I was watching a Twins game with one of the people who lived there, and a co-worker came in. Tried to figure out why we two liked it.

Great co-worker, one of the best I’ve ever met, but her home country wasn’t into baseball. (If you’re not from America, Japan, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, etc., you’re not into baseball.)

I was helpless trying to explain the rules. “Well, if the batter hits a ball foul, that’s okay, but it he bunts it foul with two strikes, he’s out.” Etc., etc. Baseball’s rules are insanely complex. (In soccer, once you understand offsides, you basically have the rules down.)

Politics is like that. It’s nutsball complex. Forget the “aargh!” TV commercials, the real work is about legislation. Does that mean it’s not worth paying attention to? No, it doesn’t.

When in doubt, root for the team you like better. You’re all old enough to know who the recent Presidents were, and which party they represented. Go with that. Vote for other people in that party. It’s better than not voting!

(And, yes, you can skip the stuff that doesn’t have party labels on it if you don’t know anything about the candidates in Sewage Maintenance District #27. Look them up next time. Your ballot will still count.)

If I just ignore it, that sends a statement

Yes, it does, just not the statement you think. In both baseball and politics, teams want to win. In baseball, if fans stop coming, teams will generally fire the GM or manager (whomever was hired less recently). They are not going to spend more money to hire better players, they have a budget. The Twins will never be the Yankees, New York is bigger than here.

In politics, if you don’t vote, politicians won’t take it as a statement about your frustration with the system. They assume you’re too dumb to care. You’re not dumb, you’re annoyed, but that’s not how political parties see it. If you don’t participate, they don’t give a fart about you.

Old political trope: because most people don’t contact their elected representatives, those representatives regard every contact as indicating what other constituents think. A written letter counts way more than a phone call, which counts more than an email. Each takes more effort than the other.

If you don’t make the effort to vote, they Do. Not. Give. A. Poop.

None of them do anything for me, personality-wise

Joe Mauer is so prototypically bland-Minnesota that his sponsorship contract with a dairy company created the “Mauer + Milk” meme. Who the heck cares, worth a darn, by gosh golly?

What matters is production on the field for baseball players, and legislation passed by politicians.

It’s too much effort

Not really! Just as, if you’ve ever bought a Twins ticket online, TicketMaster will never forget you — well, if you’ve ever voted in Minnesota, you’re registered. Your voting place may have changed since then, but here’s where you check it out:

If you’ve never voted before, you’ll have to register at the polls, but it’s not hard. (Not in Minnesota. It’s harder in some other states, for historical reasons I won’t go into here.) This is how you do it. And you can do it, I promise.

Baseball games take three hours to finish. Voting does not take anywhere near that long. And voting has a heck of a lot more impact on your future than the outcome of a baseball game.

In the long run, it makes no difference to me

I can’t argue with this. In the long run, you and I will both be dead. (My birthday always shows up on or near Election Day, so that’s a whole barrel of happy fun. I hate getting older.)

The decisions your elected representatives make can have huge repercussions very, very far down the road, long after you’ve become worm food or elevated to a higher plane (depending on your point of view).

In my not-so-humble-opinion, baseball is the greatest American sport because it has the most sense of history, how stats compare between eras, the neverending battle between owners and players for salaries. The fascinating characters who embody that history.

History lives. Always.

Be your role in history. Vote.

Even if it means you’re a Willians Astudillo instead of a Joe Mauer — voting gives you a part to play.