The desire is for this all to be an escape. Horrors and atrocities surround us in almost the exact equal portion as our helplessness to effect any real change on them. Baseball, your favorite website, new music, a video game, baseball, these are the things we use to distract ourselves from the realities waiting to swallow whole whatever optimism or positivity we can claw out of our day by day existence.
I find it easy, and hollowing, to ignore the sorrows and woes that whip past me on a daily basis. "It's about baseball" I'll say to myself, as I type out another five-hundred or so words on the minutia of the game, or my relationship with it. But you can only do that for so long, before you find yourself so full of your own bullshit that you have to take a moment to acknowledge it, to deal with the wholeness of reality, and that is that baseball, writing, music, games, everything are preposterously corrupted enterprises. They are vast resources of beauty, passion, creativity, and innovation, and if there is one thing we are good at in our present age it is figuring out the best way to strip mine these resources for profit until they are no more.
Living through the dark, wet Pacific Northwest winters it's easy to emphasize the mythos and romance of baseball. Take one look at Safeco Field in the summer, step outside in the sun and field a ground ball, scream as Kyle Seager saves a no-hitter in the 8th with a great play, and we just know this game is special. It's different, it is something greater than ourselves, which is something many of us spend most of our lives searching for.
Like so many of the narratives I attempt to construct though, that's all nonsense. Baseball is a game preposterously flawed, filled to the brim with corruption, racism, segregation, class warfare, cheating, gambling, and any and all other forms of weakness and evil we as a species have managed to discover, and we have found quite a few so far. This is the game that forced African-Americans to try and pass themselves off as dark skinned Native Americans to play professionally. It's the sport that somehow got itself excluded from anti-trust laws, and has used that exclusion to stamp out competition and make its owners obscenely wealthy. It's a game that saw Ty Cobb jump into the crowd and beat a handicapped man viciously, a horrific act that perversely led to one of baseball's first labor strikes as Cobb's teammates walked away in protest of his suspension. I try to use baseball as a shield from all the sadness, but it turns out it's just a mirror, reflecting it all back at me.
As easy as it can be to ignore the bad things all around us, it can be simple to allow our final acknowledgement of them to fill our field of vision entirely. The truth, the real truth, is that baseball contains good and bad, almost in equal measure. It tests us, daily, to decide what we focus on, what we will lament, and what we will allow ourselves the courage to celebrate.
It's segregation and the triumph of Jackie Robinson, the viciousness of Ty Cobb and the compassion of Roberto Clemente. Baseball is a soulless, autocratic monopoly, and my kids rounding third on a dirt patch in my hometown, on the field across from the home where I grew up. It is nothing but a stupid, silly game that we've allowed to dominate far too much of our time and energy, and it is a multi-generational identifier, a crossing of culture and time perhaps greater than anything in our country's history.
It is, simply, in every good and bad way, us. And it is coming.