Why Is A NotGraphs


[Author's Note: Due to forces totally within the author's control, such as the fact that he went to see a show last night, the results of Villanelle Week will be posted on Monday. This gives you a couple of days to polish off your half-finished poem or, alternately, a few extra days of suspense. Please schedule your lives accordingly.]

As evidenced by the Call to Action made by our Fearless Leader on Tuesday, we have in the midst of our poetics taken a moment to consider the essentials of our being. That is, we have asked ourselves and all of you, that defining question: “What is a NotGraphs?” You answered, dear readers, and you answered pithily.

Now I’d like to take a moment, if it pleases you, and if it doesn’t, to follow with a second query: “Why is a NotGraphs?” But first, an aside.

After the spectacle of the last couple of days, the one thing we can all agree on (if indeed one remains) is that baseball is kind of dumb. Not that this is an indictment in itself: dumb things are useful, in their dumb way. They keep people from stabbing each other in bar fights, and help distract us from our otherwise aimless, unfulfilled lives.

As of late, however, the sport seems to grow less diverting even as it grows increasingly silly. With all the arrests, drug violations, and actual tragedy, sports headlines have grown indistinguishable from real news headlines. We know more, and we care more, about baseball than we ever have. This seems like a good thing, but it’s actually a problem, because we’re (almost) as powerless as ever over the game we love so much, and this means it can hurt us more.

Non-sports fans, such as my wife, often like to tease us about caring about baseball. They ridicule us for investing ourselves emotionally in a force that cares so little for us in return. I counter: how different is this than the rest of life?

We live in a remote, unfeeling world, where tragedy strikes with little sense or warning. We are swept along the winds of fate, tangled in metaphorical brambles, beaten and beleaguered. Sometimes our metaphors even become mixed. And yet we soldier on, making some feeble attempt to organize our lives and even, unaccountably, to forge some small happiness out of it. The odds against us are astronomical, and yet we persist. This is not altogether unlike following the Mariners.

French philosopher and professional beret-wearer Albert Camus recounts this struggle in his essay, “The Myth of Sisyphus.” In it he recreates the Greek myth in which the eponymous hero rolls a boulder up a hill, only to have it tumble down at the last second and force him to start again. Such is life, Camus intones; we are miserable, our actions largely inconsequential, and yet we fear death. Our only choice, then, is to live, and roll rocks.

It’s not the pushing part that Camus cares about; that part is easy. We can absorb ourselves in the task. It’s the part where we chase our boulder back down to the bottom that gets his attention. How do we pick ourselves up and start over? How do we deal with the absurdity of it all?

We do it, dear reader, with NotGraphs. Well, and other things, sometimes.

There is no fixing the absurdity, according to the existentialists. We can analyze to the best of our abilities, predict our way out of the most harm possible. But in the end, our best laid plans crumble, our evenings and seasons spent watching a losing effort. The only thing to be done is to reconcile ourselves with the madness, create ourselves out of response to it.

That, to me, is what our fair site is all about: not actual facts, not how to know baseball, but how to deal with it. Sometimes baseball reflects on society, sometimes popular culture, and sometimes ourselves, but it has to reflect on something, or else it’s just eighteen dudes playing in a field over and over again. And when it does tell us something, the best way to react, the best way to stir up thought, is generally to laugh at it.

Except for this post. This post is totally serious, guys.

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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.

7 Responses to “Why Is A NotGraphs”

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  1. Kyle says:

    As Mr. Cistulli so disgustingly proffered on the most recent FanGraphs Audio, with your last few months of posting, Mr. Dubuque, you are indeed “coming into your own.”

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  2. AC of DC says:

    Wait, isn’t “investing [oneself] emotionally in a force that cares so little … in return” essentially the definition of marrying a woman? Try that line out and let us know the mileage.

    Incidentally, I met Sisyphus, and he was just as much of a jerk as the legends say.

    Yes, this comment was beneath the dignity of the article to which it is attached. No, you should not have read it.

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  3. eric says:

    I’m not saying that the full weight of this post’s insight into the crushing rocks of futility we are pushing up our existential hills caused me to enter a metaphorically mixed fetal position. But neither am I saying it didn’t. Time to chase that rock down the hill again.

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  4. dp says:

    I would move that ‘scouring the absolute bottom of whatever ocean trench lies beneath dignity’ is the raison d’etre of NotGraphs. It is not enough to accept Being. Action in the service of exploration, however Perryesque it may be, is nevertheless an acknowledgement of both our innate depravity & the power of mindless ambition to hurtle ourselves out of, and back into, ambiguous oblivion. It’s exactly what being a Mets fan is like, only with less glee at the prospect of deliverance from misfortune. NotGraphs knows better than to put stock in such pittances as hope.

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  5. rjackson says:

    Terrific read and I sincerely thank you for this offering. I cannot help but to ponder, however…if Dave Cameron is the boss of the one and semi-amicable yet aplomb Mr. Carson who is, as he points out, quite literally the boss of you, is it wise to poke fun of that pithy little club he adores so much?

    “This is not altogether unlike following the Mariners.”

    Wise move or not, I got a kick out of it because of the aforementioned facts.

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  6. baseball for president says:

    I like to think Fangraphs is the objective and rational analysis of how to best carry rocks up hills, and Notgraphs is the wild puppy-dog joy of trying to race your rock back down. I wouldn’t dare speculate as to which is more important

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