If Tim Parks, author of A Season with Verona (i.e. a real book that real people can really read) is to be believed, the fans of Italian football club Hellas Verona frequently chant — when they’re not making moderately to very racist remarks — frequently chant the words “facci sognare,” an Italian expression meaning “make us dream.”
It’s likely that readers of NotGraphs and FanGraphs, etc., follow baseball for a number of reasons. For the present author, however, it’s the sport’s capacity to facilitate dreaming that is its greatest strength. Offseason projections, prospect analysis, every Max Scherzer start: each is an exercise in the art of the possible. And each, I think, gestures at a version of a future that is perfect.
This, of course, is the problem with the present (and certainly with the past): there’s no opportunity for perfection in it. And even if there were — and I’d suggest, for example, that the Red Sox’ four consecutive victories over the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS at least approaches the perfect in sport — that perfection is always behind us, suggesting that the only direction in which one might proceed is downhill from these otherwise high heights.
What is happening and what has happened is necessarily tainted by the banality of fact. Reality is fascist in this way: it allows for only one possible outcome, when the prospect of many potential outcomes is in itself the pleasure of dreaming.
For this reason, I’ve always considered Wallace Stevens’ dilemma regarding blackbirds to be a false one. Stevens writes: “I do not know which to prefer, / The beauty of inflections / Or the beauty of innuendoes, / The blackbird whistling / Or just after.” In fact, the beauty he should prefer — or, at least, that I prefer — is the moment before the blackbird whistles. It could sound like anything, one imagines.
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