In every young baseball player’s career there comes a moment at the crossroads. After a few years of Little League, the kid’s learned to swing a bat pretty good. He’s crushing the ball until the pitchers start to become more skilled, more intent on getting him to miss than throwing into the strike zone. And sooner or later, he will come into contact with a hanging curve ball.
The hanging curve is a pitch that breaks too late before diving into the strike zone, and an errant one looks, to a young batter, like it’s coming right at his head. To an experienced player, it’s a gift: stay on it and it will surely drop right into your wheelhouse. Everyone else just dives out of the way as the ump calls a strike.
Baseball metaphors, amirite? Where would we be without them?
In this one, you, dear reader, are the batter — a consumer of news in its myriad formats: memes and social media posts, announcements and press releases from government officials and, usually somewhere towards the bottom of the list for so many Americans, reputable and verifiable news sources.
We — that is, the purveyors of this information — are the pitcher. Except some of us are only interested in getting the ball into the strike zone, where a receptive batter can properly connect with the ball — which for our purposes is the news, in case you haven’t figured it out.
These other pitchers, though… maybe they’re not interested in giving you anything you can hit. Maybe they just want to make you think the pitch is going to smash you in the face.
The analogy pretty much falls apart here, as all of them eventually must. In baseball, a pitcher’s job is to make the hitter miss. And I wouldn’t get picked to play in a bar league if all I threw were arcing, easy-to-understand meatballs meant to be swatted out of the park.
But my point remains: If you want to play in the game, understand where your pitch is coming from, don’t just swing at anything and keep your eye out for the hanging curve.