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Daily Notes: Three Pleasures of the Carib. Series Title Game

Table of Contents
Today’s edition of the Daily Notes has no table of contents, it appears.

Three Pleasures of the Caribbean Series Title Game
The Caribbean Series title game took place on Thursday night between the champions of the Dominican and Mexican winter leagues — Leones de Escogido and Yaquis de Obregon, respectively. To say, however, that it took place “Thursday night” isn’t entirely accurate: while the contest began at 9pm ET, it did not end until 18 innings and seven-plus hours later. In between, there were over 500 pitches thrown, three dramatic game-tying hits, and a game-winning cuadrangular by a native of Springfield, Massachusetts. In the end, the representatives of host country Mexico won 4-3 (box).

If the point of baseball as spectator sport is for it to be enjoyed — in all the ways, I mean, that humans are capable of enjoying things (a definition broad enough to include even the peculiar and flagellant experience that is Mariners fandom) — then this game succeeded in that regard.

In fact, the game succeeded in no fewer than three ways, I’d suggest — upon which ways I will now wax authoritative.

Surprising Narrative
One of the main ways humans experience joy is by way of surprise. Peekaboo is the an early example of this: the child sees one thing (hands), and then another, different thing (a face), and is pleased by the change. I’ve been led to believe by a combination of the internet and Ken Arneson that our brain’s reward system responds to surprises like these by producing dopamine in the brain, a chemical responsible for the feeling of joy in our bodies. The production of dopamine in response to surprise helps to reinforce learning — surprise itself being generally a product of our capacities, first, to recognize patterns, and then, second, to recognize any sort of departure from those patterns. When an unlikely event occurs (a game-tying home run in the bottom of the 9th inning by Ricardo Nanita) rather than a more likely one (Ricardo Nanito not doing that), we are pleased by that sequence.

People Celebrating Everywhere
Watching people celebrate is pleasant. I’ll assume the reader goes through his or her day in much the same manner as the author does: burdened by the constant reminder of his or her own mortality and insignificance in the universe. Depictions of celebratory behavior — especially among large groups of people simultaneously — facilitate, I think, a temporary sense of victory over life’s inevitable horrors. Karim Garcia will certainly die someday, for example, but that was probably not foremost in his mind as he finished rounding the bases following a go-ahead home run in the 14th inning in front of his countrymen. Indeed, both Garcia himself and those who’ve witnessed his home run are able to forget in unison the workaday atrocity that is life.

To wit:

Garcia Celebrate

Technological Nostalgia
Those who have most popularly crafted the narratives surrounding baseball have made a particular point of — and, in many cases, have profited from — emphasizing the nostalgia-inducing qualities of the game. In most cases, these efforts take the form of overwritten prose* regarding masculine identity or heavyhanded video montages juxtaposing present heroes with past. One enduring and less repulsive motif from the game’s past, however, is that of people gathered expectantly near a transistor radio while listening to an important game. There is something pleasing in that image — of so much relying on a scratchy and weak signal. For the present author, the Caribbean Series title game — snatched illicitly from the internet and consumed in darkness at my living-room table — there was some real sense of that same experience, one that is generally absent from the way in which major-league baseball is consumed, on account of the latter is “on a television” and “legally acquired.”

*As opposed to the present sort of prose, which might be characterized as “desperate to be sophisticated.”