Baseball is the national pastime and a metaphor for life – and marketing. Really.
If football proves that brawn overwhelms skill, baseball shows spunky little guys can be all-stars. You can be in the Baseball Hall of Fame despite failing at bat two out of three times over a career. A slugger can pulverize a pitch 400 feet and make an out, while a slap hitter can turn a 45-foot infield single into an RBI, game-winning single. A batter can look like a louse by striking out, then come up the next time and hit a homerun. A pitcher can strike out the side, then lose the game by giving up a homerun that wins the game foe the other team.
Pretty impressive life lessons: Player size doesn’t determine success. Failure doesn’t deny greatness. Everyday singles mean as much or more than towering homeruns.
Many people deride baseball as boring. It is anything but. The game is freighted with strategy. Nine players trying to find a harmony in defense on every pitch versus a single player trying to defy the odds and hit the ball safely in the field or over the fence. Pitchers employ deception with fast balls, curve balls and screw balls. Batters are like bettors picking the perfect pitch to hit. They are exemplars of everyman.
Jacob Cashman wrote a blog with four examples of how baseball is a metaphor for life.
- As Yogi Berra observed, “The game isn’t over until the fat lady sings.” Cashman paraphrased Berra with, “What happens at the beginning might have no relevance at the end.” Baseball teams play nine innings and a lot can happen. The same is true in marketing. You may strike out at first, but you can adjust and double down at your next at-bat. One of the advantages of digital media is the ability to track results so you can see in real time what works and what doesn’t and adjust accordingly.
- High achievers in baseball fail a lot. You can be all-star by getting hit three out of every 10 times you bat. But unless you get into the batter’s box and take your cuts, you won’t have any batting average. Failing is just part of the game – in baseball and in marketing.
- Baseball players aren’t all the same. The skills it takes to play shortstop are different than what it takes to be a catcher. Pitchers are a whole different animal. But on a team, they blend their skills to score runs and prevent their opponents from scoring more runs. What differentiates baseball from football, for example, is that individual players at the same position can vary enormously. Left tackles in football universally have to be big and agile because they protect the blind side of the quarterback. An outfielder in baseball can be like 6-foot, 7-inch Aaron Judge or 5-foot, 11-inch Brett Gardner. In a recent Yankees game, Judge hit a single and walked while Gardner hit a grand slam homerun. Don’t judge a talent by their looks. Find out how they can play.
- One of the longest winning streaks in Major League Baseball history belongs to the Oakland A’s, a team that runs on a meager budget and tends to collect baseball misfits. Oakland won its 20th straight game when a player no other team wanted – and Oakland’s manager doubted could be a Big League contributor – hit the game-winning homerun. Don’t bet on miracles, but don’t bet against them, either. Sometimes the miraculous can occur by handing someone a bat and giving them a chance to contribute. They could make you look like the marketing manager of the year.