Last Thursday, our Fearless Leader provided rumination on dreaming, or the unfulfilled and limitless potential of the future, as the game’s greatest strength. (If you haven’t read it, please take a moment to go do so; otherwise, my rebuttal won’t make much sense.) I’d like to take this opportunity to present an alternative viewpoint, in defense of the past.
I’ve always struggled with the present tense. We’re often cajoled, by motivational posters and the ghost of Satchel Paige, to live in the moment; but by the time that moment has happened, we’ve received the data, interpreted it and understood it, it’s long since passed. We’re always a fraction of a step behind reality. To cross that already treacherous boundary into the future, and to make predictions, sometimes feels incomprehensible to me. My own inability to dream, to imagine the unformed possibilities beyond the event horizon, probably says a lot about me, or at least my failures as a novelist. It might also say something about my home team, whose future and past are all too often similarly dressed.
But it’s not so terrible. Baseball, like life, needs its historians as well as its poets. In the comments of Cistulli’s piece, Illinois glass M. Michael Sheets makes my case quite eloquently, noting that every moment “is made possible by all previous moments.” In some sense, we need to make meaning out of what has already happened, understand the reality we live in, in order to fashion some sense of perfection from it.
As a relativist, I tend to shy away from the concept of perfection, and as a cynic, I tend to worry about those who like to talk about it. Cistulli impugns reality as a sort of prison with only one possible interpretation; this may be true in the box score, but in the stands during the game, there are as many realities as they are viewpoints.
But I do believe in baseball as a method for creating shared meaning, pulling us out of our own little individual universes into something that we can agree upon, despite our different perspectives. We can disagree on the statistics, and even our methods for measuring them, but the San Francisco Giants as 2012 World Champions is immutable and universal. It gives us, as we navigate the realities of the people around us, a place to start.
My job, such as it is, is to find these commonalities between us and reveal the absurdities in them. Because of all of our different desires and perspectives, the future, for all its hope and promise, isn’t particularly funny. If the blackbird could sound like anything, what is there left to talk about?
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