Today was supposed to be Opening Day for Major League Baseball but, like so many things over the past few weeks, it fell victim to Corvid-19. Or else this is payback for the Red Sox trading Mookie Betts. I grew up as an amazingly average athlete and the son of a man for whom sports was the primary metaphor for life. While we sat up late at night in Africa listening to games on Armed Forces Radio, he taught me to love baseball. And, because he loved the Yankees, I became a Red Sox fan.
Football has become the most popular sport, but baseball is our pastime. And there is a big difference , as George Carlin points out.
Bart Giamatti, who, among other things, was the commissioner of baseball, wrote,
That is why it breaks my heart, that game–not because in New York they could win because Boston lost; in that, there is a rough justice, and a reminder to the Yankees of how slight and fragile are the circumstances that exalt one group of human beings over another. It breaks my heart because it was meant to, because it was meant to foster in me again the illusion that there was something abiding, some pattern and some impulse that could come together to make a reality that would resist the corrosion; and because, after it had fostered again that most hungered-for illusion, the game was meant to stop, and betray precisely what it promised.
Of course, there are those who learn after the first few times. They grow out of sports. And there are others who were born with the wisdom to know that nothing lasts. These are the truly tough among us, the ones who can live without illusion, or without even the hope of illusion. I am not that grown-up or up-to-date. I am a simpler creature, tied to more primitive patterns and cycles. I need to think something lasts forever, and it might as well be that state of being that is a game; it might as well be that, in a green field, in the sun.
In my favorite baseball movie, Field of Dreams, Terrance Mann says,
The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.
By the time I came to live in America for good, my chance to play baseball had come and gone–not that I would have ever actually gotten to play. The closest I got was church softball, and even then I ended up in right field. So this song by Peter, Paul, and Mary holds a special place for me.
playing right field, its easy you know,
you can be awkward, you can be slow,
that’s why I’m here in right field,
just watching the dandelions grow
But then along came Steve Earle and sang a song about baseball that has been an anthem for me: “Some Dreams.”
well, just because you’ve been around
and had your poor heart broken
that’s no excuse for lyin’ down
before the last word’s spoken
‘cause some dreams don’t ever come true
don’t ever come true
aw, but some dreams do
If it’s the middle of the eighth inning at Fenway, the crowd is going to sing “Sweet Caroline” and when we do, good times truly never seem so good. This week, Neil Diamond rewrote the words in the wake of Corvid-19; that feels like a good way to close out.