An Open Letter from John Ruskin to Baseball

John-Ruskin

Celebrate yourself and sing yourself, O baseball automatons. Bathe in your empty praise, your victories. Conform through your universal applause.

For as you and your ilk seek to perfect the game with your numbers and deeds, to “win”, you are in reality sucking the marrow from its bones and withering its husk like some sort of desiccated meat-plant, some hideous affront to nature. This is your doing, you titans; baseball’s carnelian plant-blood drips from your hands.

For what is perfection, in truth, but a misunderstanding of the ends of art? Perfect art is not art. It is the child labor of a creosote-encrusted factory. It is a paper-backed, ten-cent Horatio Alger novel. It is paint-by-numbers. It is a man doing pushups, and it is other people counting those pushups, and then the man no longer doing pushups. That is what winning is.

When one stands in awe of a gothic cathedral, a punishing and uncompromising bestial groan of man, one is not struck by any sense of perfection. Such a state of culmination, of relaxation, is paramount to death itself. What is alive and vibrant is dynamic: it is not a love of knowledge, but a love of change. The power of the gothic nature is its disquietude, its insatiability, its everlasting thirst. Art is never satisfied.

Art is what saves baseball from being the same soporific, repetitive ballast that weighs down the rest of our lives. Those fools who watch a baseball game and declare it boring are not those who fail to understand it, or even fail to appreciate it: they fail to imagine it. Each moment is pregnant with potentialities, of alternate timelines and alternate heroes. To choose one over the others, to pronounce it as “perfect”, is unadulterated fascism.

So stand there in your little white boxes, or on your little white rectangles, and do as you are instructed. Play the game “the right way”, or “the optimal way”, or whichever way frees you from the responsibility of original expression. Fear the masked men in their oversized vests, scrape and bow to them. Perhaps you have already forgotten how to express yourself in any original way, beyond a faux-rakish tilt to the brim of your cap, a child’s rebellion. Perhaps you have understood and shied away from true courage, defeated in the knowledge that you have been taught to reproduce results rather than create them.

You must either make a tool of the creature, or a man of him, I tell you, O baseball heroes. You cannot make him both. And so it is that I ask you: which are you, pray tell? Which are you?

Yours truly,

John Ruskin
Art critic / dashing philanthropist




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Patrick Dubuque writes for NotGraphs and The Hardball Times, and he served as former Bill Spaceman Lee Visiting Professor for Baseball Exploration at Pitchers & Poets. Follow him on Twitter @euqubud.


One Response to “An Open Letter from John Ruskin to Baseball”

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  1. Donnie Veal says:

    Paragraph 5 elicits unhindered manly tears.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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