Archive for March 11th, 2022

The Game is Back

GC Myers-The Playing Field

The Playing Field– At Little Gems, West End Gallery

But purity has a brutal side. Sometimes a strikeout means that the slugger’s girlfriend just ran off with the UPS driver. Sometimes a muffed ground ball means that the shortstop’s baby daughter has a pain in her head that won’t go away. And handicapping is for amateur golfers, not ballplayers. Pitchers don’t ease off on the cleanup hitter because of the lumps just discovered in his wife’s breast. Baseball is not life. It is a fiction, a metaphor. And a ballplayer is a man who agrees to uphold that metaphor as though lives were at stake.

Perhaps they are. I cherish a theory I once heard propounded by G.Q. Durham that professional baseball is inherently antiwar. The most overlooked cause of war, his theory runs, is that it’s so damned interesting. It takes hard effort, skill, love and a little luck to make times of peace consistently interesting. About all it takes to make war interesting is a life. The appeal of trying to kill others without being killed yourself, according to Gale, is that it brings suspense, terror, honor, disgrace, rage, tragedy, treachery and occasionally even heroism within range of guys who, in times of peace, might lead lives of unmitigated blandness. But baseball, he says, is one activity that is able to generate suspense and excitement on a national scale, just like war. And baseball can only be played in peace. Hence G.Q.’s thesis that pro ball-players—little as some of them may want to hear it—are basically just a bunch of unusually well-coordinated guys working hard and artfully to prevent wars, by making peace more interesting.

― David James Duncan, The Brothers K

Hearing yesterday that major league baseball was going to resume once more after this last lockout made me happier than I had expected. It was easy to downplay the game and to find fault in greedy owners and wealthy players especially when the world is coping with a pandemic that refuses to leave and an unjustified war in Ukraine that is flirting on being genocidal.

Cynicism comes pretty easy. I mean, why should anyone care about a stupid game in times like these?

There might not be a satisfactory answer to that question.

All I know is that it made me feel a little lighter, filled with me with the anticipation of seeing games again, of reading box scores and comparing stats. Gave me some small but long sought sense of normality.

And that’s a good thing.

Maybe the excerpt above from The Brothers K, a 1992 novel from author David James Duncan, captures the true purpose of the game. Maybe it is a placeholder, a metaphorical diversion that fills in the void of aggression and the other emotional motivators that drive us to war.

I could believe that. Any reason that keeps people from wanting to physically decimate other people is fine with me. I would prefer a world where a video of a towering home run is much more common than one of a bombed out hospital or mass graves.

I can hope, right?

With that hope in hand and the prospect of the highs, lows and ultimate disappointment that baseball– and life– offers, let’s listen to a short clip of the late great Nina Simone doing a bit of Baseball Boogie. This bit focuses on Jackie Robinson which seems relevant since April 15 marks the 75th anniversary of him breaking the color barrier in baseball. It’s hard to believe it’s only been that long, seems like it should be even further removed in time but baseball, being a metaphor for many things in life, is sometimes unjust and unfair.

Let’s hope for sunny days, smoother infields and fair play in the days ahead.

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