Thursday, September 25, 2008
The events of the last few weeks have brought to mind a feeling that many of you may recall from playing baseball or softball - the long fly ball hit in your direction. This is what it must be like for Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke these days.
It all happens so fast, you barely have time to think.
Upon hearing the crack of the bat, you see the ball take flight in your general direction, sure that it was struck solidly but not certain of its trajectory.
You take off on an intercept course while keeping an eye on the ball, but your vision immediately becomes impaired from your movement. The whole world seems to be shaking up and down as you focus on the ball and you accelerate to top speed.
Center fielder Paulson immediately calls off right fielder Bernanke yelling, "I got it".
Bernanke slows his pace slightly and adjusts to a back-up route behind Paulson.
Only a few seconds have elapsed.
The ball was struck so sharply that, with the proper trajectory, it would surely be a home run. It's flight is too high to be played as a line-drive bounce off of the wall, yet not high enough to be assured of leaving the park.
For shots like these, the decision to play for the bounce too quickly or attempt the catch is what separates good outfielders from mediocre ones.
Another second has passed and Paulson decides to go for the catch, a kind of rhythm having now developed with each long stride, the jarring impact making the ball move up and down violently, yet predictably.
The warning track now comes into peripheral view and more decisions must be made.
Easing up at this point would be the prudent thing to do, however, that would risk watching the ball bounce off of the top of the wall when it could still be caught. If the ball's flight would only take it a few inches over the wall, a heroic stab could produce a spectacular result, sure to be remembered for years.
Another second has passed and it's still too close to call - the ball looks like it could have been hit just high enough to make it over the wall, yet it might still be caught.
Now you hear the sound of metal baseball cleats on the warning track.
There are only a few possibilities at this point for centerfielder Paulson:
1. Catch the ball on the warning track, brush the wall, slow to a trot, and tip your hat
2. Watch the ball sail easily over the wall, slow to a trot, and shrug your shoulders
3. Go crashing into the wall in an attempt to make the catch and secure a victory
Which one will it be?
We'll probably find out in the next few days.
There is perhaps one more possibility, one that most ball players would never contemplate in fear that it might actually happen:
4. Collide with Ben Bernanke on the warning track knocking both outfielders to the ground, partially unconscious, as the ball bounces off the wall, back toward the infield, slowing quickly on the outfield grass to almost a complete stop as infielders rush toward it and the batter leisurely completes an inside-the-park home run.