According to a Wall Street Journal analysis this week, the typical baseball game has only 14 minutes of actual baseball action. This calculation includes each time a pitcher lifts his leg to begin his pitching motion. The timing stops when the ball hits the catcher’s mitt or, if it is put into play, when the presiding umpire makes a call or the players all stop moving. Pickoff attempts and steals also count as action.
Surprising, I thought. Though we enjoy watching a 9 – inning ball game for a couple of hours or so, it’s only a small percentage of the game’s time that matters. The Wall Street Journal article by David Biderman quotes sportscaster Bob Costas who breaks the action down even further. “Let’s be honest – there’s action, and then there’s meaningful action.”
Off the ball field, this raises a question. How much of what we do is meaningful? What percentage of our days and weeks make a difference or determine an outcome? Are there at least 14 consequential minutes in every couple of hours of our days? Depending on our work and our interests, there probably are. But what if we’re spending too much time standing around, waiting, or planning for what might happen?
A favorite rabbinic teaching comes to mind. “It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you free to neglect it.” (Pirkei Avot 2:21) For Judaism, not to waste time is a religious imperative. Bitul z’man is a Jewish value concept that reminds us to use our time wisely, not to squander too much of it in trivial pursuits.
I attended a seminar last year during which the lecturer said his favorite number was 168. Why? There are 168 hours in a week. “Decide how to allot them,” he urged. Live with intention. Live with purpose.
The Hebrew month of Heshvan is one of only two months in the Jewish year without a holiday or traditional occasion to observe. Heshvan (October 9 though November 7, 2010) is a 30 day month of full weeks and busy routine. 720 hours. Heshvan is a good month in which to think about how much of what we do has an impact.
This month I’m going to strive for as many moments of meaningful action as I can. I’ll also be watching for those 14 minutes of game action during the baseball playoffs and World Series.