For no apparent reason, Werner Herzog, icon of depressive existentialist cinema, recently sat down and discussed America’s pastime with Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith. In particular, they discussed baseball strategy, fundamentals, and the grueling experience of being a baseball fan, season after season.
In case you missed the conversation, here’s a choice Herzogian nugget:
“Ozzie always says [playing baseball is] full of erotic elements. I don’t see it so much erotic for the fan. I see it more full of obscenity. It makes a person vile and base. I wouldn’t see anything erotical in the stands or the living rooms. I would see fornication with delusion and asphyxiation and choking and fighting to believe in a losing team, I would see hope growing and then just rotting away.
“Of course, for the losers there’s a lot of misery. But it is the same misery that is all around us daily. The players here are in misery, and the fans are in misery. I don’t think the fans cheer very late into the season. They just screech in pain. It seems as though it is always unfinished, being a fan, even if your teams wins. It feels prehistorical — the only thing that is lacking is the dinosaurs here, to eat every fan’s heart.
“It’s like a curse weighing on the entirety of the American landscape. And whoever goes too deep into a baseball season with substantial hope has his or her share of this curse. So we are cursed with what we are watching and consuming here, with baseball. It’s a sport that God, if he exists, has created in anger. The baseball diamond is primitive — on it, creation of misery is yet unfinished.
“Taking a close look at what’s around us here in the stands or on our couches at home — there is some sort of a harmony. It is the harmony of overwhelming and collective murder: each fan murdering the fans of other teams, murdering players in their minds. It is not unlike the cruel harmony of nature, the harmony of the jungle, which I have shown in one or two of my films.
“And we in comparison to the articulate vileness and baseness and obscenity of this jungle of baseball, baseball fanaticism — we as solitary fans in comparison to that enormous articulation — we only sound and look like badly pronounced and half-finished sentences out of a stupid suburban novel. A cheap novel. We have to become humble in the face of this overwhelming misery and our fornication with useless hope, the overwhelming growth of hope and its rotting away to abject despair, the overwhelming lack of order. Even the stars up here in the sky look like a mess. There is no harmony in the baseball season, not for the baseball fan. We have to get acquainted to this idea that there is no real harmony as we have conceived it, only this harmony of overwhelming and collective murder.
“But when I say this, I say this all full of admiration for baseball and the baseball fan. It is not that I hate it, I love it. I love it very much. But I love it against my better judgment.”