As I sit watching major league baseball players wearing their necklaces, I almost long for the day when they used to spit tobacco juice all over the dugout in full view of the television cameras.
Yes, that’s right, necklaces. They aren’t delicate gold necklaces crusted with diamonds. It isn’t the intent of the players to become pretty. And a good thing, too. No small number of baseball players tend toward rough-hewn beards and stringy hair.
If they were simply trying to look great, where are their hairdressers? We know these young millionaires can afford the best hair stylists in the large cities where they work.
But a pleasing appearance isn’t their aim. And no wonder. They earn their living by constantly throwing themselves into the dirt, the grass and against the outfield walls. It’s dirty work, not pretty work.
So you know when you see a baseball player wearing a necklace while playing the game that fancy appearance isn’t the goal. That’s especially true of the necklaces in question. They are some kind of fat, braided, rope-looking thing the boys of summer have started wearing around their necks in recent years.
The necklaces are new but there is nothing new in baseball about the real reason the players wear those things. It’s plain old-fashioned superstition.
The necklaces are said to help circulation and ease tense muscles. That’s scientifically ludicrous on the face of it. But this is another example of the traditional baseball search for a magic gimmick that will improve performance.
The young suckers who fall for such magic are so eager to improve their hitting and pitching and fielding that they will reach for anything that might augment their chance of playing better in a highly competitive business.
The necklace craze is similar to using steroids for the same reason. But the necklaces are harmless, except perhaps for being a slight distraction flopping around their necks like a dead bull snake while they are trying to play the game.
Steroids, by comparison, are not only an unfair advantage but a potentially harmful advantage for the players who dare use them. Necklaces are just silly.
It is a timeworn baseball tradition for players to seek paranormal help to enhance performance. The most common trick over the decades involves dirty clothing. Players have been known to refuse to change their socks or to bathe or to shave in an attempt to keep a hitting streak alive.
In my sandlot days, I was one of the worst baseball players in the neighborhood, so I understand the appeal of a magic necklace. As a kid, I would have worn my sister’s earrings if it would have helped me stop striking out.
But I wonder these days, watching one major leaguer after another botch a bunt, if more bunting practice wouldn’t do them more good than a baseball collar.
Nonetheless, I identify with their superstitious impulse. Just as baseball players have inexplicable hitting streaks and slumps, writers have days when the words just come to you like magic and other days when you struggle to write your own name.
I suspect that kind of thinking is true of most people in their jobs. Maybe we all wonder why somebody can’t come up with a harmless potion that will keep us constantly at our highest level of performance.
It’s not cheating when you merely wish to be as smart every day as you were born to be. We aren’t asking to be better than we are.
(I should confess something at this point. If you enjoyed this column, then you should know that it is a joint achievement of me and three cups of strong coffee.)Bill Hall can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501