I’ve been watching a lot of the baseball playoffs, because if I pay too much attention to the intensifying slide of the United States into full-blown Fascism it will make me crazy. All I’m going to say right now about that slide is that if Americans look at what is going on around them and reward the party responsible for it with continued control of the government next month then the country probably deserves to burn and I have no doubt that it will. I’m a historian. I’ve seen this movie before. It doesn’t end well.
Baseball is a nice break from that, really, even if the World Series is being contested by two teams I actively dislike.
It’s the most zen-like of our major sports, in that not much actually happens. You can let your mind wander and focus on deeper things or on nothing at all without fear of missing anything important, and there is a virtue in that I suppose. This is especially true for this post-season, where pitchers are being put in and pulled out like toddlers in a wading pool and balls that the fielders actually have to deal with are at something of a premium. The games are slow and long – last night’s 18-inning marathon was actually longer in hours and minutes than the entire 1939 World Series combined – and they could probably just get rid of everything outside of the space between the pitcher’s mound and the catcher’s mitt without anyone ever noticing.
It gives you time to chat with whoever’s watching with you.
Lauren has gotten interested in the games, so all three of us will sometimes sit and watch. She had never seen the Green Monster at Fenway before and the whole idea that baseball fields aren’t uniform across the league still comes as a bit of a surprise to her. And it is a strange thing, when you think about it. There’s a part of the wall in deep center field at Miller Park in Milwaukee where because of the way that wall bends back on itself a ball can be a home run if it’s hit a certain distance, a catchable out it it’s hit five feet further, and a home run again if it’s hit five feet further than that.
I’m not sure that’s what Abner Doubleday had in mind.
My team didn’t make the playoffs, as they are in year eight of a multi-generational rebuilding process. I checked in on them now and then this summer, just to see where they were in the standings – they actually did pretty well and were in contention for the playoffs as late as September, which as a Phillies fan was a pleasant surprise. I’m not much of a baseball person in general anymore, but I do cheer for the Phillies whenever they bob up to the surface of my mind.
Here in Wisconsin, the Brewers finally achieved relevance by making it to the NL Championship Series. The Brewers are the third team in a two-team state – once you get past the Packers and the Badgers the drop-off in interest and attention paid to sports by Wisconsinites gets dizzyingly steep (and don’t even get started on the Bucks, which I am told is an actual professional sports franchise here in the state). We watched them play their post-season games for as long as they were alive, and it was fun. They’re an interesting team to watch.
But mostly I watch it because it isn’t the news. Because in the end it doesn’t actually matter who wins or loses, or even how they play the game – the sun will rise on the morrow regardless, and the republic will soldier on unchanged by the results.
And that in itself is a valuable thing, in these parlous times.