Holy Mother of Things No Living Human has Seen. I don't know if science will bring back the dodo or the dino, but it seems a whole lot more possible after Wednesday night. Everything good, great, grand, fine, glorious and wonderful that baseball has to offer was included somewhere in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. America's Pastime, or the dreams of countless past times achieving fulfillment... there is ecstatic euphoria in Chicago. Coast to coast, the nation bought into fulfillment of an impossible dream. And that may have exhausted the full supply of genuine joy in America this November.
There is purpose in noting the value of how you play the game, with integrity and character. Not just in baseball, but in our politics and society, and beyond Chicago.
This isn't a sports report, but there is purpose in noting the value of how you play the game, with integrity and character. Not just in baseball, but in our politics and society, and beyond Chicago. George Will has long known that baseball has plenty to teach politics. We humbly think his standard conservative commentary about that needs company on the progressive side. First, we'd love to ask him if he took a break during the Series for Halloween, and if he found the same little burning bag that this election has placed on America's front porches everywhere.
Because of Wednesday night's five-hour spectacle of sport that concluded one long season? The other endless season of 2016 can find some mitigation in the mind. One of the two is a welcome reminder of something worthwhile—recognition that individual and collective dedication can produce comfort and joy for the self and the masses when it's based on inspiring feats of prowess, honestly undertaken. Of course, that should be true for both. But it's not.
Let's face it: thoughts of the enthusiastic cheers from the first Wednesday of November are a welcome alternative to the disgust and disillusionment baked-in to the pungent cowpie coming next Tuesday.
America is temperamentally predisposed to a period of celebration for our sports championships. Especially for a contest between the two athletic entities with the longest championship droughts in history, the Chicago Cubs, who last won in 1908, and the Cleveland Indians, who haven't won since 1948. And we do tend to lose ourselves in celebrations undertaken with the vigor of binge drunkenness, then forgotten with similar short attention spans. But when it's time to celebrate, we do. And there are lasting aspects more meaningful than a hangover.
Cleveland partisans find satisfaction in the performance of their tribe taking it to extra innings in Game 7. And some measure of their satisfaction inherently extends to Chicago. Empathy based on shared experience is a basis for understanding. That's characteristically human. Cleveland's manager, Terry Francona, showed the world why he is a beloved figure in the game as he epitomized high ideals and respect for everyone—both teams—who got to the game's ultimate contest. His impromptu words were non-patronizing and wholly appropriate remarks even as he dealt with his team's loss by a single run in an overtime inning.
That display of classiness and graciousness was worthy of what he worked to put on the field, worthy of what he asked fans to support ,all season.
It surely will have no match in words, sentiment, or demeanor from whichever of the major corporate political party's candidates loses on November 8th. No one doubts that, regardless of Tuesday's outcome.
Seeking more universal meaning from a baseball championship could get silly. Still, it's a moment to savor sport as escapism from the reality of the reviled. It's no coincidence that many of America's greatest newspaper journalists were sportswriters. They left us a formidable legacy, a long transcendence of society's woes and strife by projecting their readers' hopes and aspirations into physical contests on playing fields. Thus, sports are our central celebratory cliché of things specifically cited "as American as baseball and apple pie."
It affords an opportunity to consider if our politics can be as worthy of our people as our ideals of athletic endeavors. Our society is partly defined by assumed identities of larger-than-life pride, team logos expensively emblazoned on hats and jackets and worn by those with no actual connection to a team owned by some millionaire, or the sport and its league organization controlled by a bunch of millionaire team owners. Yet it becomes as vital as, or a replacement for, flag and country. That can await another time for proper exploration, but it is something we must touch as we round the bases.
Certainly there are bizarre contradictions here, some as simple as paying more to wear a logo that advertises and promotes at the wearer's expense somebody else's commercial enterprise. Others are more complex. Including our willingness to accept a colliding creed of values and behavior that we don't tolerate in contests of sport, but that we accept as a ubiquitous resident infection, indeed an infestation, in our politics and financial institutions and corporate boardrooms.
Sports have no patience for anyone who cheats and blames others. Try blaming the Russians for your failure to maintain a decent batting average. Or your inability to meet public expectations in the sport for which you are paid more than a hundred of the average fans who come to see you play. You'll get rebuff, resentment and ridicule. Sports, from coaches to fans to sports reporters, won't put up with evasive blame games any more than they'll tolerate tax cheats among key multimillionaire players. Now, if you're ready to jump up with a rebuttal of that star pitcher, suspended for weeks for alleged abuse of a domestic partner? Okay, just ask, as well, what penalties we exact from our political figures for robbing, cheating, beating, grabbing by intimate parts of the anatomy, accepting quid pro quos with favors granted through public office, or compromising or exploiting innocent others on the way to seeking high office.
Sure, we pay our sports stars obscene amounts of money and we bestow pampered celebrity privileges upon them. But at least everyone is reasonably honest about it. When's the last time you saw the words "disclosure," 'honest," and "politician" used together?
Sports analogies still appeal to the aspirational. Those relating politics to life have become increasingly limited and usually steeped in negative contexts. Parallels of sport to every other arena of life, by contrast, are expansive and appear quite often. Sure, they may be stretched and convoluted, overdrawn and hyperventilated. But society consciously keeps all the heroic sports allusions alive -- we need arenas of the physical world and the mind to create and to cite inspiring endeavor.
Even if we demand that football get serious about protecting against concussions and the Olympics reject performance-enhancing drugs? We still need the Boys of Summer to take their places in time for our barbecues and bike rides and beer at the ballpark. Those needs of ours are powered by their exploits of leaping and diving and running and striving. Because we know that they, and by extension, we, are better than what we are regimented to accept in our mundane endeavors the rest of the time.
This treatise would miss the point if we cite only the celebratory moments. It isn't that the wait for a championship ended for Chicago after one hundred and eight years. Any more than it's "wait 'til next year" in Cleveland, which last saw a championship in 1948. Each team knew, going in, what it would need to overcome—and there was no provision or allowance for disgraceful behavior that would need to be hidden at all costs. No contrived vilifications to dehumanize an opponent. No preplanned discrediting of disclosures of that which could not be known. No plan to brand whistle-blowing messengers as worse than the secreted information they revealed.
We value sports achievement more because it is devoid of parsed equivocation. Sport does not seek to convolute and misrepresent one's own failures as success and someone else's successes as failures. To attempt that would bring outrage. There is no place for induced bewilderment or willful obfuscation or reinterpretation of a straight line as a pretzel. That pitch is a strike or it's not. The runner is safe at first or out. A run scores or it doesn't.
Someone is screaming that real life is far more complicated than the rules of a singular game. We respond that there is a difference between inherent complexity and contrived difficulty. And it is worth noting that part of the Trump phenomenon derives from an instinctual sense that a lot of the latter has been institutionalized by people who seek to exploit it for private gain.
In sports, we can celebrate the integrity of a quest partly because no one is seeking dishonest means to reach it. Cheating brings absolute ostracism. Thus, there is no question that some measure of nobility of the human spirit is observable in athletic endeavor, and it has been there continuously through each of those years when the championship went somewhere else.
In sport, there was never a sense that some lesser of evils was to become a replacement worthy of accolade. That's anathema.
It's part of why Wednesday was fulfilling, and why Tuesday will bring a hollow sense with a resoundingly bitter taste. An irony is, while we can see positive traits in athletic performance that are absent from the smoke and mirrors and cordite and dusty drone-war rubble of our politics? Our society's embrace of -- and often full-blown infatuation with -- sports, drives us to internalize cheerleading in the same wrong ways that produce our miserable politics and confusion that we must "support our troops" which leads to unquestioning de facto support for endless war which we must, of course, "win."
And if the yes/no, safe/out, strike/ball nature of sport is too oversimplified? What of the "win" "lose" nature we accept from our politics?
We are concerned who "won" and who "lost" a debate, rather than whether meaningful issues were even raised in that debate. We are easily susceptible to reducing complex multi-actor global or regional conflicts to "us" and "them." Too often, we hasten to identify the "team" (of our "coalition partners") most likely to win so we can rally to the winning side, making that "our" side and "our" team.
We know it makes no sense, but we do it. You must root for somebody or they might not let you go to the tailgate party. It's as ingrained as Pavlov's dogs, salivating when the bell rings. When the add-water-and-stir brew of the blue or the red Koolade is served. How else does one explain the record high disapproval ratings for the two major party candidates, yet miniscule support numbers for perfectly honest third party candidates?
Being on the "winning" team. Even if they are reviled. even if they cheat. Even if they're dangerous.
Whether it's about rocket launchers in the backs of mini pickups or cheering for college football teams that come from campuses where we have never set foot. It is vitally important that we get to wave our pom-poms because we must secure our status as part of the "winners." So we can cheer "our" winning coach when "our" winning team douses him or her in Gatorade. No less than we figuratively douse ourselves in carefully crafted proxies of ideology, and rush to get ourselves drunk on that blue or red Koolade of partisanship. We guzzle. While never stepping back for a decent overview, or to assess the larger situation. Or to posit a question whether "winning" is as devoid of meaningful issues as all those debates where mainstream corporate media emphatically declares that "our" side "won" or "lost." We don't ask, based on what, if no real issues were considered?
In fact, this entire idea of "winning" in a nebulous forum of fear-based thinking assures no possibility of felling good about the outcome. Being focused on winning for winning's sake instead assures an ultimate realization that we have been played as suckers. Suckers, and therefore, losers. Fated to be lost upon a landscape of deluded losers. Among vast sectors of the American people, and by extension, global humanity and some portion -- perhaps a major portion -- of the natural world. Maybe all of it. Certainly the corporate mainstream media is trying to invoke a rah-rah tailgate party football game mentality -- without a need for anyone on the field displaying admirable qualities we would want to emulate.
So we get no attention to global climate change or to escalating conflicts with Russia. No bat swings and hits a ball to deep centerfield for a double and a run batted in. No bat is swung at all, and the pitch that's made isn't from anyone on the mound. It's a grifter's pitch, a dog-and-pony show complete with plate-spinning and who-can-lie-the-best line of BS. Acts of prowess are replaced by theatre of the absurd.
With no actual swing of the bat, there are no actual issues. No need to address months that are consistently warmer than ever before in history, including the natural history catalogued from ice cores going back more than 60,000 years. No consideration of energy infrastructure. Given the limits of what corporatocracy will permit, the political Neros fiddle while the forests, and the grasslands, and the atmosphere itself, burns. There is no bold commitment to anything. There has been no detailed debate by candidates of what's wrong with TPP, TTIP, the Dakota Access Pipeline, fracking, and everything else that makes a mockery of one candidate's supposed commitment to reversing Climate Change, and the other's renouncing it as a plot by the Chinese to cripple American industry.
An umpire would have ejected any player who takes the field and refuses to behave with acceptable decorum, or even to acknowledge there are rules when they are on the field. Our politics desperately needed a staff of umpires, and we need to put some in place before this happens again. It'll be late March before we next hear the words "Play ball!" The major party candidates never heard them at the beginning of the season of whatever game they've been playing for more than a year. At least they were never playing by any kind of rules we've always required before, for honest and thorough debate and behaving with integrity. And with plenty of distraction from mainstream media, we let them get away with it.
So now, one of the two big party candidates will seize the big trophy next Tuesday. It won't be an MVP trophy, though we could call it Most Reviled Player and be within two people of being right. Because it won't have been earned by standing squarely at the plate and facing the pitches and swinging the bat. Just by throwing a lot of curveballs in the dirt.