Hello Baseball, Goodbye Brain: Wouldn't It Be Great If We Could Channel Our Sports Passion Toward the Theft Going on in Washington?
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The opening day of the major league baseball season is when I start to live again until October when pro basketball and NFL football take over and the fan in me goes into a long winter sleep. I’m not a full-time fan of anything I haven’t tried to play. (Hence no ice hockey or lacrosse.) Traumatically, when it dawned on me as a kid that I wasn’t going to be the next Chicago Cubs pitching whiz – yes, the all-time loser Cubs! – I beamed myself down to being a mere avid spectator, first at live games at Wrigley, Ebbets and Chavez Ravine’s Dodger field, now couch-potatoing on TV.
Spectating has its own peculiar thrills. Even though I’m not a Dodger fan, just a follower, Clayton Kershaw’s opening day, extraordinary eighth inning home run to break a tie against arch-rival Giants was something, if only to watch him scamper around the bases as if he expected to be arrested at any moment. Everyone including ace Kershaw knows pitchers can’t hit, right? (It was his first and perhaps last career homer.)
Being a Chicago Cubs fanatic – they haven’t won a World Series in 104 years and their last pennant was in 1945 – means you learn valuable lessons early. Such as, the virtue of stoicism in the face of defeat, and the meaning of inevitable tragedy. It’s a loser’s world, and the sooner you learn this the better. And, if anyone has forgotten what playthings we are of Tyche, the Greek goddess of luck, there’s the notorious incident when a young over-enthusiastic Cub fan, Steve Bartman, reached down from the stands to brazenly interfere with left fielder Moses Alou’s catch of a foul ball thus ruining the club’s pennant hopes in 2003. (In Chicago Bartman and the umpire who made the bad call rank somewhere between Judas and Benedict Arnold; for a long time young Bartman had police protection, probably against fans like me.)
Even rabid fans know in their hearts that their games have been stolen from them by Borgia-like owners, agents,out-of-sight player salaries, all-round greed, and “performance enhancements” (dope) not to speak of the ever moveable strike zone. So we take refuge in backward looking nostalgia, by mentally downloading images of the Cardinals’ “Stan the Man” Musial’s amazing hitting history, Pittsburgh Steeler Lynn Swann’s ballet-like catches, and a far-gone time when Jews not African Americans dominated basketball, and Jackie Robinson’s super-aggressive base stealing. And also when the geographic frontier of major league baseball extended no further than Chicago and St Louis. To this day I can’t get it up for the expansion teams. The Toronto what?
Just as well baseball comes along this year to divert me from the unutterably boring political game where, unlike an election year, the important stuff gets done in incomprehensible language at committees behind closed doors. ”Chained CPI” anybody?
Last year it was temporarily exciting to watch Obama kick Romney’s ass at the polling booth; how deflating it is to see him, holding a strong poker hand, blow it with his parroting the Republican line about “entitlements”. To prepare us for the shock just before he unwraps his next budget, he’s sending up flaming trial balloons to see how much beating-up we will take, such as his crazy idea of cutting Social Security by $112 billion over the next decade. Being a Cubs fan armors me slightly against the Democrats betraying us yet again. Like the Cubs they do it to us year after year.
I tune into Rachel Maddow and she’s still at it, robot-like, gabble gabble, drawing our attention to the Republican corpse rather than to the crimes of cowardice of her darling, weak-kneed, insufferably corrupt Democrats who can do no wrong on MSNBC. Only ever-reliable Fox News refuses to concede, and that’s refreshing. The rightwingers have it right: never retreat, never apologize, keep banging on that old drum no matter. Maybe Roger Ailes and his gang are the true Cubs-in-spirit fans.