rough notes

baseball and the human condition

with one comment

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to baseball. The local newspaper tells me that spring is in the air, spring training has begun, spring is in our step, and spring has sprung. All across that great nation which straddles our southern flank, sporting fans are spending their days engrossed in the magic and pathos that is the NCAA Final Four, but know full well that in merely one week’s time, their attentions will, nay must, divert to their National Pastime.

The newspapers (such a term is not soulless, as “the media” is) are reporting on the swings, the hits, the throws and the catches that are cutting through the air of Florida and Arizona with hardly a world devoted to the that post-human struggle: steroids and human growth hormone. We’ll keep those stories for the middle of the season, when the bland All*Star Game offers us a home-run derby to demonstrate the power in the pythons of our heroes. No, for now, we’ll take in baseball as it is every spring: a reconstitution of the human spirit and a recounting of everything that was right, and still is right in America. How nostalgic of us.

The Washington Nationals, formerly the Montreal Expos, have a new stadium. The inaugural pitch in the park will be thrown by none other than current president George W. Bush. The Papers (I must reinforce their soul if their writers are determined to do the same with America) note that the capital’s former team, the Washington Senators – now the Texas Rangers – once had an inaugural pitch thrown in their own park by the late John F. Kennedy. I’ll leave the politics out of the politics for once, as the importance lies not in any similarity or difference between the two presidents, but in the fact that the newspapers feel obliged to use the president’s pitch as their own “pitch.” One way to reinforce the nostalgia of America’s pastime and of America’s heritage is to constantly reinforce America. Nostalgia’s power lies partly in its circularity.

Many people, or at least many men, own one baseball cap or another. I wear a New York Yankees ballcap from time to time; my friend Will once wore a ([Los Angeles{,}) California] Angels (of Anaheim) ballcap. I wear the Yankees’ cap merely because it looks nice on my head. Will wore the Angels cap, or at least professed to wear it, because the Angels were his team. I haven’t really ever understood the allegiance to teams, especially to teams outside of one’s region, but I haven’t ever questioned it, either. Regardless, The Angels were (or are) his team, but I take on a Yankees logo only for vanity. (I nearly made the switch to Boston, and often almost do, but I always fall back on Steinbrenner’s boys. Or at least Steinbrenner’s logo). I have an utmost respect for Will’s choice in teams without having any idea about his team in the first place. That respect lies in his choosing a team and nothing more. It sounds hollow, and in most ways it probably is, but I do appreciate that at some level he has bought in to this interesting social dynamic when I choose to sit on the sidelines.

That is not to say that I don’t take any interest in “The Game” at all. On the contrary, one of my favourite pastimes involves sitting down and listening to this Great American Game on the radio. There’s nothing like listening to the ballgame on an AM receiver in the late-afternoon sun. In fact, it can only get better with a beer in hand and the odd cicada or lawnmower making noise in the distance. This is a dream-state – the American Dream-state. After a long week of work, one can sit in his back yard and listen to the Great American Game as it is reported in the air from stadia many miles, if not many states away. It speaks of fulfillment and peace. There is nothing left to do in the day but to listen to the reportage of adults playing games. Being able to find peace in a moment such as that requires one to accept the premise that America and the West is not a land of empty promises, but a space to be filled with peace after prosperity, with repose and relaxation after one’s labours are through, and a reward of the simple life for one’s hard efforts.

In spite of my many, many criticisms of America and Late Capital, I still recognize that this premise of ‘peace for one’s hard efforts’, as encapsulated by the American Dream, is not too different from the desires and wishes of some of our earliest thinkers in the west. Lucretius, a Roman philosopher in the 1st century BC(E), wrote a beautiful poem about the natural sciences called de Rerum Natura, or “The Nature of Things” (a title many of you Suzuki fans will recognize). Lucretius’s text, which postulates on the nature of the known world, the universe, and of the atom, ends with the philosopher arguing that regardless of how correct he may be, all his speculations are worthless in the face of a dreamlife of being able to lean back and relax against the trunk of a tree at the end of the day, of having the chance to sit back in quiet, content contemplation after a day of work. What matters is your personal space, how you fill it, and how you will enjoy it.

Now, before you retort that ancient Rome laid the foundation of the western world, realize that (1) you are wrong – the ancient world “link” you are thinking of lies in Greek Philosophy and not in the Roman state, let alone in Roman philosophy (which is but a mere third-rate derivative of the Greeks), and (2), Lucretius wrote his work more than was 2000 years ago, and a lot of stuff has happened since then, especially in the past 150 years, even 30 or so years, to affect our sense of self and our sense of self-in-society. Lucretius was on to something, and whatever it is, the American dream looks for it, too. “Whatever it is” is likely closer to “the human condition” (whatever that is) than Christianity, Capitalism, or The Theatre will ever explain. So I’ll take my yankees cap, and my Olive Grove, thank you very much.

Batter up?


Written by mitchellirons

April 1, 2008 at 10:41 pm

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I want my hat back!


    April 3, 2008 at 8:05 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: