James  Phil   Oliver Department of Philosophy Middle Tennessee State University [email_address] " Delight Springs &qu...
Baseball in Literature and Culture, 2010 MTSU, 3.26.10 –  From Gibson to McGwire:  Reflections from a Cardinals fan on chi...
Last year it was an unmixed joy to speak here of two undisputed heroes,  in their respective domains, already secure on th...
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sadly, there are  lots more of these ...
And let's confess, there  is  plenty to laugh about in this scandal. It's serious, it sends disappointing messages to kids...
“ Child abuse” is a harsh phrase, “childhood indoctrination” only slightly less so... And I'm only half-serious about this...
Steroid.  A fat-soluble organic compound with specific physiological action; specif., anabolic steroid, a synthetic deriva...
Steroid-adjusted number  (SAN).  A statistic proposed by  Jim Bouton  ( NYTimes, 4.1.07 ) that would take into account the...
Steroid Era . The period lasting from  Approximately 1985 through the release of the  Mitchell Report  in Dec. 2007... Ste...
“ The Steroid Era as we knew it-- the days when anyone could juice up with impunity, which meant everyone was under suspic...
“ I don’t forgive him.” That was our older daughter’s dismissive reaction to Mark McGwire’s teary confession that he'd bee...
“ We” St. Louisans, I mean. I grew up there. My earliest baseball memory is of listening to  Harry Caray 's call of the fi...
Bob Gibson Robert Gibson (Hoot and Gibby)  born Pack Robert Gibson Position: Pitcher  Bats: Right, Throws: Right  Height: ...
Fergie Jenkins Ferguson Arthur Jenkins Position: Pitcher  Bats: Right, Throws: Right  Height: 6' 5", Weight: 205 lb. ...
Were these guys really better heroes than the scandal-ridden Steroids Era players, McGwire and Sosa et al? Or were we,  ar...
Of course it does. And it matters that record-breaking seasons were juiced, whether the juicers wants to admit it or not. ...
He cheated, he lied, he won’t concede the cheating might’ve inflated his numbers and given him an unfair performance edge ...
I generally enjoy following baseball’s hot-stove developments in the off-season, but the McGwire story is no fun at all. I...
"my team" In Plato's Euthyphro, Socrates poses a stumper question:  The point which I should first wish to under...
“ Allegiance to a sports team can give meaning to a life — if not taken too seriously. I am a Red Sox fan, simply because ...
So we’ve got ourselves caught in a hypocrisy trap, and there is no clear path out. Are we like the families in which the a...
Is that the best we can do? Is it not tragic that so many people around the world find themselves enlisted against their w...
Plato's dialogue  Euthyphro  raises classic questions about free-thinking and loyalty to received traditions and authoriti...
Arbitrariness has its place, I guess. Who else should you root for than "your team"? But is life really a ballga...
There is a marvelous moment in the film  Manhattan  when Woody Allen's alter ego wonders why life is worth living. He comp...
A long time ago in America, there was a beautiful game called baseball. This was before 30 major-league teams were scatter...
...The young should know that there was once a time when Willie Mays lived among the people who came to the ballpark. That...
Ray’s bat March 7, 2010 by osopher Spring Break inevitably puts me in mind of Spring Training, which it looks like Older D...
Jupiter, Florida . Spring home of the St. Louis Cardinals. Older Daughter, age 5, was the world’s biggest Mark McGwire fan...
That could’ve ruined her day, but thanks to McGwire’s teaammate Ray Lankford (a very good centerfielder, 238  career HRs) ...
Skeeter Barnes ...circle in the outfield straining to get a bead on a small black dot a city block or more high, a dark st...
Cheering baseball/architectural news from the  Whippets' biggest fan ...
"We Minnesotans have been watching baseball in a basement for 28 years, under a fabric dome on a plastic field design...
That this beauty was accomplished through public financing — $392 million of the $544 million total paid through a sales t...
And up from its ashes, renewed hope for a  new park  in my town too...
Only a game So what's my tentative answer to the question: can a disillusioned Cardinals' fan-- disillusioned by the game'...
I'm relieved to find: I'm really not too worried about patching things up between my “Say it ain't so” inner child, my dis...
What I also realize, with relief, is that the adults who make a living playing games and yakking about them all have littl...
The thrill of the grass is irresistible. It happens every spring. And I bleed Cardinal red because I was six years old whe...
That's not exactly sinister indoctrination, it's just what happens when you live in a place and events occur. Maybe most f...
Thing is, I never hated the Cubs. (Unlike Bill Murray, who never misses a chance to tell the world how much he hates the C...
And that was before I moved to Tennessee, and before Harry Caray went to Chicago. Then,  I surprised myself by feeling sec...
And just last Fall I experimented during the playoffs: the Dodgers topped the Cards in the NLCS. Instead of sulking throug...
For now, though, I'm a lifer, a Cards fan in spite of myself (or in spite of Big Mac and his patron Tony). But I've picked...
 
zest By osopher The AL continues its ridiculous dominance of the NL, in a meaningless game-within-a meaningless game. But ...
Who cares? By osopher The home run derby wasn’t very compelling, but St. Louis sure looked good from the blimp. Glad they ...
But somehow, only Joe conveys a winking but unspoken concession that this is just a game, that it’s kind of silly for grow...
My definition of spirituality : whatever sense of attachment or relatedness gives you-- you in particular-- a feeling of b...
Sam Harris says “moderation” gives cover to extremists.
Stephen Jay Gould & other very intelligent baseball partisans... why don't they know better?
Willie Mays, the Say Hey Kid This account of Willie Mays’s career concentrates on the baseball brilliance, reminding us of...
Fans still love their sports, but think twice about  hero worship . http://usat.me?37677212
McGwire saddened by  brother's book
Poets have channeled the baseball muse. Whitman was probably the first to champion “our game”... William Carlos Williams c...
What is the special appeal of this game, for intellectuals? Giamatti said it may be the only game slow enough for them to ...
"The game is a repository of age-old American verities . . . and yet at the same time a mirror of the present moment....
Among the literary stars featured in the Library of America's baseball volume: Damon Runyan Carl Sandburg William Carlos W...
What I do know is that this belonging and caring is what our games are all about; this is what we come for. It is foolish ...
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5
×

From Gibson to McGwire

1,074 views

Published on

An old Cards' fan's reflections on childhood indoctrination, adult disillusion, and the Steroids era... a slideshow presentation on March 26, 2010 at the 15th annual Conference on Baseball in Literature and Culture, hosted by Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreeesboro TN.

Published in: Sports
0 Comments
0 Likes
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Views
Total views
1,074
On SlideShare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
10
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
2
Comments
0
Likes
0
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

From Gibson to McGwire

  1. 1. James Phil Oliver Department of Philosophy Middle Tennessee State University [email_address] " Delight Springs " - http://delightsprings.blogspot.com/ " [email_address] " - http://osopher.wordpress.com/ And follow me on Twitter @osopher * * but of course ( as Brian Cohen said ) you don't have to follow me, you don't have to follow anybody. "With few exceptions, there is no need to invent new values. What we need to invent, or rather reinvent, is a new fidelity to the values that have been handed down to us, which it is our responsibility to pass on. In effect, we have contracted a debt to the past that can be repaid only to the future." Andre Comte-Sponville, Little Book of Atheist Spirituality
  2. 2. Baseball in Literature and Culture, 2010 MTSU, 3.26.10 – From Gibson to McGwire: Reflections from a Cardinals fan on childhood indoctrination, adult disillusion, and the Steroid Era It's a pleasure to be back for my sophomore season as a participant in this conference, which has quickly become for me a harbinger of Spring rivaling even Spring Training. It was just another short trip down the hall for me, so to all of you who've journeyed a distance to get here: again it's my pleasure to welcome you to the building, the campus, and the hometown of Grantland Rice.
  3. 3. Last year it was an unmixed joy to speak here of two undisputed heroes, in their respective domains, already secure on their pedestals: literary lion John Updike, and his baseball hero Ted Williams. (“Lit Fans Bid Rabbit Adieu”) This year I turn to one hero I hope will remain undisputed, Bob Gibson, and another whose star is tarnished as he re-enters the MLB arena as a coach, Mark McGwire. Gibson was the hero of my pre-adolescence, McGwire of my older daughter's. She's already had to absorb her worst disillusion. I haven't yet dropped the hope that I won't have to. (If Fergie Jenkins has stories to tell on his old peer, I hope they'll all be gentle. Or edited.)
  4. 10. Sadly, there are lots more of these ...
  5. 11. And let's confess, there is plenty to laugh about in this scandal. It's serious, it sends disappointing messages to kids, but it also unmasks the comic pretensions and insecurities of accomplished athletes who, we'd have thought, were already the lords of life who didn't really need to angle for a little extra advantage. We have to keep reminding ourselves: it's a business, sure, but at bottom it's only a game. That said... I'm concerned about the parallels between childhood sports infatuation and the kinds of allegiances we all form in other avenues of life-- religion and politics not least. By encouraging our kids to idolize athletes (or not discouraging them), do we lay precedent for what may become a pattern of non-critical narrowness and partisanship? Maybe someone should have grabbed me by the scruff of the neck in 1963 and said: you don't have to follow the Cardinals. You don't have to follow anybody. The fact that no one did, it might be argued, reflects a pervasive form of neglect we continue to transmit, generation by generation. Some intemperate observers-- probably not sports fans-- might even be tempted to call it a form of “abuse.”
  6. 12. “ Child abuse” is a harsh phrase, “childhood indoctrination” only slightly less so... And I'm only half-serious about this, as applied to sports. But I'm entirely serious in wondering if there isn't a continuum of critical thinking that must begin early if it is ever to stick. Sports might just offer the ideal training ground.
  7. 13. Steroid. A fat-soluble organic compound with specific physiological action; specif., anabolic steroid, a synthetic derivative of testosterone used by some ballplayers to enhance performance by stimulating muscle growth and thereby increasing their weight and strength, and to help players recover from injuries more quickly. Steroids can be rubbed on the body or swallowed, but are usually injected. The primary effect of steroid use in baseball is an increase in the number of home runs. Using steroids in the United States is illegal without a prescription. Although Major League Baseball banned steroids in 1991, the commissioner's office and team front offices took a “see-no-evil” approach to steroids, and the players' union refused to submit to a testing program. Congressional hearings on steroid use in baseball were held on March 17, 2005. - Dickson Baseball Dictionary
  8. 14. Steroid-adjusted number (SAN). A statistic proposed by Jim Bouton ( NYTimes, 4.1.07 ) that would take into account the effect of steroids on the number of a player's home runs as determined by a “blue ribbon panel.” The statistic would be placed in parentheses in the record books next to the actual number of home runs hit. - Dickson Baseball Dictionary
  9. 15. Steroid Era . The period lasting from Approximately 1985 through the release of the Mitchell Report in Dec. 2007... Steroid usage in major league baseball began around 1983, and nonprescription distribution and possession of anabolic steroids became a crime in the United States in Nov. 1988. MLB added steroids to its list of banned substances (but without testing) in June 1991. However, steroid usage in baseball became widespread after the '94-95 work stoppage; the effect of its use increased until its peak in 1999-2001. Baseball instituted its first random testing program, with penalties, in Apr. 2001 (for minor leaguers) and 2004 (for major leaguers). MLB and the players union agreed on a testing policy in Jan. 2005. - Dickson Baseball Dictionary (Google: 2d ed .)
  10. 16. “ The Steroid Era as we knew it-- the days when anyone could juice up with impunity, which meant everyone was under suspicion-- appears to be over. Maybe now we will allow ourselves to believe that what we see is genuine.” -Tom Verducci , Sports Illustrated 2.1.05 “ The Steroid Era is over in baseball. A period that began almost 20 years ago has quietly receded while few were watching.” -Tom Boswell, Washington Post 9.1.07 “ I'm not here to talk about the past .” “ Turn the page.” -Mark McGwire
  11. 17. “ I don’t forgive him.” That was our older daughter’s dismissive reaction to Mark McGwire’s teary confession that he'd been a steady user of performance-enhancing drugs for years, including the record-breaking one. The revelation came to most of us as about as shocking as Popeye’s that he used to eat a lot of spinach. But at least Popeye gave the spinach some credit for boosting his strength and enabling his more impressive achievements. It may have been a contrite and bathetic-enough mea culpa to extract a few more standing O’s out of parochial red-clad Bud-loving St. Louisans this year, and may even win some sympathy from Oprah’s vast and selectively-forgiving audience. We do love to forgive sinners who cry on cue (it makes us feel so smugly superior), and we want to feel good about our un-indicted, non-inducted hitting coach.
  12. 18. “ We” St. Louisans, I mean. I grew up there. My earliest baseball memory is of listening to Harry Caray 's call of the final outs of the Cards-Yanks series in '64 over the Public Address speakers in my grade-school classroom. By '67 I was a confirmed, devout Cardinals fan, doting particularly on Bob Gibson.
  13. 19. Bob Gibson Robert Gibson (Hoot and Gibby) born Pack Robert Gibson Position: Pitcher Bats: Right, Throws: Right Height: 6' 1", Weight: 189 lb. Born: November 9, 1935 in Omaha, NE High School: Technical (Omaha, NE) School: Creighton University Signed by the St. Louis Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1957. (All Transactions) Debut: April 15, 1959 Team: Cardinals 1959-1975 Final Game: September 3, 1975 Inducted into the Hall of Fame by BBWAA as Player in 1981 (337/401 ballots). Pitching stats 1968: 22-9,1.12 ERA, 28 CG 13 shutouts, Cy Young and MVP Awards
  14. 20. Fergie Jenkins Ferguson Arthur Jenkins Position: Pitcher Bats: Right, Throws: Right Height: 6' 5", Weight: 205 lb. Born: December 13, 1942 in Chatham, Ontario, CAN High School: Vocational (Chatham, ON) Signed by the Philadelphia Phillies as an amateur free agent in 1962. (All Transactions) Debut: September 10, 1965 Teams (by GP): Cubs/Rangers/RedSox/Phillies 1965-1983 Final Game: September 26, 1983 Inducted into the Hall of Fame by BBWAA as Player in 1991 (334/443 ballots). Pitching stats
  15. 21. Were these guys really better heroes than the scandal-ridden Steroids Era players, McGwire and Sosa et al? Or were we, are we– meaning we fans of many decades– just naive? And does it matter? Can we appreciate athletic excellence for its own sake, on the field, without worrying about what kinds of persons, with what “enhancements,” are wearing the uniforms? This mirrors an issue we raise in philosophy class: does the character and the biography of the philosopher matter? Does it matter that Heidegger was a Nazi, that James was prone to depression, that Nietzsche had trouble relating to women?
  16. 22. Of course it does. And it matters that record-breaking seasons were juiced, whether the juicers wants to admit it or not. Does it matter enough to make me question my continued interest in the game, or re-consider ancient admirations formed in childhood? Yes, certainly enough to question . That's my vocation, after all. Looks like it's my avocation too. So: can the pre-critical attachments of childhood survive the critical scrutiny of adulthood? Sapere aude , said Kant. Alright then, let's think about it.
  17. 23. He cheated, he lied, he won’t concede the cheating might’ve inflated his numbers and given him an unfair performance edge in ‘98. His contrition is incomplete and unpersuasive. He’s out. (Curiously, though, “A-rod”-- even post-confession -- is not.) Forgiveness may be divine, but the High School girl who was Big Mac’s biggest fan at age five (when she and her family gazed appreciatively at the not-yet-fallen hero’s Cooperstown display) has lost her baseball religion-- or at least the part of it that might have sponsored acceptance of her former hero's feet of clay.
  18. 24. I generally enjoy following baseball’s hot-stove developments in the off-season, but the McGwire story is no fun at all. I prefer my countdown to Opening Day unmarred by distractions like steroids and human growth hormone. But the only way around this roadblock may be through it. So, what can we learn from the McGwire saga about player and team loyalty, about the hazards and fortunes of encouraging children to be indoctrinated as fawning fans of players and teams, and about the disillusion that sets in for adults who've declared many times that they won't get fooled again... and again? And: were stars really more worthy of our unstinting admiration back in the Gibson era? Can a lifelong fan, indoctrinated before the Age of Reason, even hope to answer that question honestly and objectively? And can he be excited again for the new season, and opening day?
  19. 25. "my team" In Plato's Euthyphro, Socrates poses a stumper question: The point which I should first wish to understand is whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved of the gods. Euthyphro responds: I do not understand your meaning, Socrates. Maybe a baseball analogy would help. Dan Dennett wrote:
  20. 26. “ Allegiance to a sports team can give meaning to a life — if not taken too seriously. I am a Red Sox fan, simply because I grew up in the Boston area and have happy memories of Ted Williams, Jimmy Piersall, Carl Yastrzemski, Pudge Fisk, and Wade Boggs, among others. My allegiance to the Red Sox is enthusiastic, but cheerfully arbitrary and undeluded. The Red Sox aren’t my team because they are, in fact, the Best; they are the Best (in my eyes) because they are my team.That is a kind of love, but not the rabid love that leads people to lie,and torture, and kill.” Dennett's target: those insular True Believers of every tradition, cult, and ideology whose love of god or mammon or self drives them to malign and injure other human beings. The concluding lines of this excerpt, adapted for the Chronicle of Higher Education (Volume 52, Issue 20), channel the spirit of Socrates in Euthyphro. The bit about the Red Sox plays cutely with that dialogue’s confusing inversions too:
  21. 27. So we’ve got ourselves caught in a hypocrisy trap, and there is no clear path out. Are we like the families in which the adults go through all the motions of believing in Santa Claus for the sake of the kids, and the kids all pretend still to believe in Santa Claus so as not to spoil the adults’ fun? If only our current predicament were as innocuous and even comical as that! In the adult world of religion, people are dying and killing, with the moderates cowed into silence by the intransigence of the radicals in their own faiths, and many adherents afraid to acknowledge what they actually believe for fear of breaking Granny’s heart, or offending their neighbors to the point of getting run out of town, or worse.If that is the precious meaning our lives are vouchsafed thanks to our allegiance to one religion or another, it is not such a bargain.
  22. 28. Is that the best we can do? Is it not tragic that so many people around the world find themselves enlisted against their will in a conspiracy of silence? What alternatives are there? There are moderates who revere the tradition they were raised in, simply because it is their tradition, and who are prepared to campaign, tentatively, for the details of their tradition,simply because, in the marketplace of ideas, somebody should stick up for each tradition until we can sort out the good from the better and settle for the best we can find, all things considered... There is only one way to respect the substance of any purported God-given moral edict. Consider it conscientiously in the full light of reason, using all the evidence at our command. No God pleased by displays of unreasoning love is worthy of worship.
  23. 29. Plato's dialogue Euthyphro raises classic questions about free-thinking and loyalty to received traditions and authorities...
  24. 30. Arbitrariness has its place, I guess. Who else should you root for than "your team"? But is life really a ballgame? Well, sure it is. To a point. But the perspective of years reminds the mature fan: when the last out is recorded, and the game's in the books, life goes on. Win or lose. And though there are no guarantees, so far there's always been another game and another season to come.
  25. 31. There is a marvelous moment in the film Manhattan when Woody Allen's alter ego wonders why life is worth living. He compiles a list including, among other "things that make it worthwhile," Willie Mays …
  26. 32. A long time ago in America, there was a beautiful game called baseball. This was before 30 major-league teams were scattered in a blurry variety of divisions; before 162-game seasons and extended playoffs and fans who watched World Series games in thick down jackets; before the D.H. came to the American League; before AstroTurf on baseball fields and aluminum bats on sandlots; before complete games by pitchers were a rarity; before ballparks were named for corporations instead of individuals; and long, long before the innocence of the game was permanently stained by the filthy deception of steroids... Pete Hamill “ The Catch ”
  27. 33. ...The young should know that there was once a time when Willie Mays lived among the people who came to the ballpark. That on Harlem summer days he would join the kids playing stickball on St. Nicholas Place in Sugar Hill and hold a broom-handle bat in his large hands, wait for the pink rubber spaldeen to be pitched, and routinely hit it four sewers. Above all, the story of Willie Mays reminds us of a time when the only performance-enhancing drug was joy.
  28. 34. Ray’s bat March 7, 2010 by osopher Spring Break inevitably puts me in mind of Spring Training, which it looks like Older Daughter and I won’t be visiting this year after all. Alas. I’d been looking forward to connecting the dots: ten years ago the whole family went to Jupiter.
  29. 35. Jupiter, Florida . Spring home of the St. Louis Cardinals. Older Daughter, age 5, was the world’s biggest Mark McGwire fan. He was just off his second consecutive monster season. Nobody yet suspected anything illicit about his performance. We ambled into the public access area between practice fields (along with Younger Daughter, still in stroller) and observed the red-clad stars and aspirants taking batting and fielding practice, jogging and stretching in the crisp March sun, and slowly waking to the possibilities of a new season. Next year was almost here. McGwire eventually joined his teammates on one of the fields, and Older Daughter patiently awaited her opportunity to request an autograph. Finally it came. And just as quickly went. The star mumbled something about club rules preventing him from obliging his young fans, and was suddenly gone.
  30. 36. That could’ve ruined her day, but thanks to McGwire’s teaammate Ray Lankford (a very good centerfielder, 238 career HRs) she instead collected the coolest possible souvenir from Spring Training: his bat. He spotted her behind the screen and, when his round of BP concluded, unceremoniously handed it to her. It’s in her closet now. I got to thinking about Ray yesterday when I ran into my old pal at the bookstore, there to gather my Spring Break leisure reading, and he reminded me of another gracious old ballplayer named Skeeter. Thanks to people like them, people like Mark McGwire don’t ruin the game for people like Older Daughter and me. Thanks to them, we’ll look forward to Spring Training. Maybe next year.
  31. 37. Skeeter Barnes ...circle in the outfield straining to get a bead on a small black dot a city block or more high, a dark star that could fall on your head like a leaden meteor “ Not as easy as it looks”
  32. 38. Cheering baseball/architectural news from the Whippets' biggest fan ...
  33. 39. "We Minnesotans have been watching baseball in a basement for 28 years, under a fabric dome on a plastic field designed for football, and come April, we'll be sitting in sunlight, or under the stars, with the handsome towers of downtown Minneapolis just beyond center field, and we'll mill on the great concourse just behind the loge seats and eyeball the game while ordering a steak sandwich or an old-fashioned Schweigert hot dog. Hallelujah. Wowser...
  34. 40. That this beauty was accomplished through public financing — $392 million of the $544 million total paid through a sales tax approved by the legislature — is some sort of triumph, and to an old Democrat like me, who believes that government can indeed do some good things right and is not a blight upon the land, this ballpark is an enormous pleasure, and so I headed south to my favorite medical clinic to make sure I'd live until Opening Day... They opened the gate and slapped my haunch and I raced north toward the city, toward April 12, toward spring and summer and the bright future of the beloved country." Mr. Keillor's point: the game is bigger than any of its heroes or villains, or teams. I'll always bleed Cardinal red, but that doesn't mean I have to swear a loyalty oath to Tony LaRussa or his coaching staff. Hope does spring eternal...
  35. 41. And up from its ashes, renewed hope for a new park in my town too...
  36. 42. Only a game So what's my tentative answer to the question: can a disillusioned Cardinals' fan-- disillusioned by the game's failure to enforce its own rules and by his team's cynical hire of delusional* substance abuser Mark McGwire as hitting coach-- turn the page and get excited about the coming season? (*"Delusional" for insisting he'd have hit 70 home runs in '98 without any chemical assist at all. No one else thinks that. Barry Bonds doesn't, for sure.) Well, honestly... there was never any doubt about it. The season opener will arrive with April, hope will spring eternal once more, and I'll be paying close attention. I'll be happy when the Red Birds soar, disappointed when they flop, and pleased when the hitting coach succeeds in imparting most of what he knows about smacking the round ball square with a stick.
  37. 43. I'm relieved to find: I'm really not too worried about patching things up between my “Say it ain't so” inner child, my disillusioned adult critic, my old team, and the grand old game. It's more than big enough to survive a few clay-footed dopers who, in a more sympathetic light, were just looking for an edge. That's what gamers do. That's why there are umpires. The trouble really only gets serious when the umps start cheating. And I'm pretty sure I still have enough little boy in me to trust the long season. It's not only the players who've got to have a lot of that.
  38. 44. What I also realize, with relief, is that the adults who make a living playing games and yakking about them all have little kids inside, who will always implore: “play ball”!
  39. 45. The thrill of the grass is irresistible. It happens every spring. And I bleed Cardinal red because I was six years old when my home-town team, behind ace competitor Bob Gibson, beat the Yankees in seven in '64. Everybody in my world was a Cardinals' fan. I had no choice.
  40. 46. That's not exactly sinister indoctrination, it's just what happens when you live in a place and events occur. Maybe most forms of indoctrination-- religious, political-- begin just that casually and benignly. The result in sports is pretty innocent: Yankees fans and Red Sox fans insult one another, with little malice aforethought. As do Cards' and Cubs' fans. Nobody gets hurt, typically.
  41. 47. Thing is, I never hated the Cubs. (Unlike Bill Murray, who never misses a chance to tell the world how much he hates the Cardinals.) I always felt bad for them, silently, when they came close to the flag but then faltered. I thought Fergie Jenkins was cool. And Billy Williams. And especially Ernie Banks.
  42. 48. And that was before I moved to Tennessee, and before Harry Caray went to Chicago. Then, I surprised myself by feeling secretly pleased when the BoSox beat the Cards in '04 and put the Bambino's curse to rest for good. They were still my team, just not the only team. I wasn't mad at them then, either, just glad to see perennial also-rans begin to get their share of the spotlight. Holy cow!
  43. 49. And just last Fall I experimented during the playoffs: the Dodgers topped the Cards in the NLCS. Instead of sulking through the rest of the post-season, I decided to try a new team on for size. Actually bought a Dodgers cap and put it on-- giving moral support to my old hero Joe Torre, was my cover-story-- 'til they were bounced out too. Do sports fans have to be bitterly partisan? Does it diminish the thrill of victory (or leaven the agony of defeat) to adopt a more cosmopolitan stance? The whole verdict is still out.
  44. 50. For now, though, I'm a lifer, a Cards fan in spite of myself (or in spite of Big Mac and his patron Tony). But I've picked up a minor share in the Dodgers, I retain my still-mostly-secret interest in the Cubbies (they don't read this in Missouri, I think), and will even admit a small warm spot for the Sox . It feels good to diversify the portfolio. After all, it's only a game. That's what I didn't quite get, in 1968 … and had to remind myself again this very Spring. Now I'm ready.
  45. 52. zest By osopher The AL continues its ridiculous dominance of the NL, in a meaningless game-within-a meaningless game. But it was closely played and hard-fought, the President seemed to have a good time (I’ m really glad he’s a Sox and not a Cubs fan), my old town looked alive, and the confluence of it all created something of value. Granny Rice was right about winning and losing, and I’m sure he would have thought we all won this one. The look on Ichiro’s face in the clubhouse, getting his ball autographed by the visiting President, was delightful. The President, handing it back: “There you go, Hall of Famer.” Remember: “wherever a process of life communicates an eagerness (etc.) there is the zest, the tingle, the excitement of reality; and there is ‘importance’…” It was exciting and, as midsummer night diversions go, real and important enough for me.
  46. 53. Who cares? By osopher The home run derby wasn’t very compelling, but St. Louis sure looked good from the blimp. Glad they cleaned up the mess left in old Busch Stadium’s footprint. (An odd thing to say about a place that was a sacred destination of childhood, but in 2006 it was just a big ugly hole in the ground.) My favorite moment was the appearance of Joe Buck talking about his Dad Jack, who I grew up listening to on KMOX’s 50,000 red-hot watts. While I was a fledgling fan in the 60s I thought Jack was boring, compared with his partner Harry Caray. When Harry left and Mike Shannon came up from the field to join Jack, I gained a new appreciation for Jack’s relative urbanity and wit. But Joe’s better than any of them. There are other very good baseball broadcasters. Vin Scully is wonderful, Jon Miller is funny, Bob Costas is great.
  47. 54. But somehow, only Joe conveys a winking but unspoken concession that this is just a game, that it’s kind of silly for grown-ups to care so much about it and to dote on doltish one-dimensional athletes, but… But what? That we need to care about something, that caring is a virtue, that caring about this game in particular can hone our caring skills and repay us with happiness and memories for a lifetime. I get that from Roger Angell’s writing, too. I don’t get it from watching inarticulate men pound batting practice lollypops into the upper deck, much as I envy their ability to do so. And Joe’s right, in St. Louis baseball is a way of life. Just try to shake it.
  48. 55. My definition of spirituality : whatever sense of attachment or relatedness gives you-- you in particular-- a feeling of being at home in your world. For me, in particular : it's a feeling of continuity with the long chain of life, stretching far into the pre-human past and projected to stretch far into the remote, unimaginably long future.
  49. 56. Sam Harris says “moderation” gives cover to extremists.
  50. 57. Stephen Jay Gould & other very intelligent baseball partisans... why don't they know better?
  51. 58. Willie Mays, the Say Hey Kid This account of Willie Mays’s career concentrates on the baseball brilliance, reminding us of when the only performance-enhancing drug was joy. http://s.nyt.com/u/GeF
  52. 59. Fans still love their sports, but think twice about hero worship . http://usat.me?37677212
  53. 60. McGwire saddened by brother's book
  54. 61. Poets have channeled the baseball muse. Whitman was probably the first to champion “our game”... William Carlos Williams celebrated its marvelous "spirit of uselessness" - The crowd at the ball game Is moved uniformly by a spirit of uselessness which delights them...
  55. 62. What is the special appeal of this game, for intellectuals? Giamatti said it may be the only game slow enough for them to understand. (No insult intended.) [E] Some grow out of sports. Others were born with the wisdom to know that nothing lasts. I am a simpler creature... I need to think something lasts forever, and it might as well be a game... in a green field, in the sun. A. Bartlett Giamatti (1938-1989)
  56. 63. "The game is a repository of age-old American verities . . . and yet at the same time a mirror of the present moment..." Ken Burns [E] A short lineup of baseball intellectuals - Robert Frost A. Bartlett Giamatti Doris Kearns Goodwin Stephen Jay Gould David Halberstam Donald Hall Christopher Lehmann-Haupt Bernard Malamud John Updike William Carlos Williams Morris R. Cohen...
  57. 64. Among the literary stars featured in the Library of America's baseball volume: Damon Runyan Carl Sandburg William Carlos Williams Thomas Wolfe James Thurber Nelson Algren Bernard Malamud Robert Frost Willie Morris Philip Roth Annie Dillard Richard Ford Don DeLillo
  58. 65. What I do know is that this belonging and caring is what our games are all about; this is what we come for. It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitative as a professional sports team... [But] caring deeply and passionately, really caring— is a capacity or emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. [ENTER] Naivete—the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the hap-hazardous flight of a distant ball—seems a small price to pay for such a gift. -from Five Seasons

×