Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Hello Baseball, Goodbye Brain


The opening day of the major league baseball season is when I start to live again until October when pro basketball and NFL football take over and the fan in me goes into a long winter sleep.  I’m not a full-time fan of anything I haven’t tried to play.  (Hence no ice hockey or lacrosse.)  Traumatically, when it dawned on me as a kid that I wasn’t going to be the next Chicago Cubs pitching whiz – yes, the all-time loser Cubs! – I beamed myself down to being a mere avid spectator, first at live games at Wrigley, Ebbets and Chavez Ravine’s Dodger field, now couch-potatoing on TV.

Spectating has its own peculiar thrills.  Even though I’m not a Dodger fan, just a follower, Clayton Kershaw’s opening day, extraordinary eighth inning home run to break a tie against arch-rival Giants was something, if only to watch him scamper around the bases as if he expected to be arrested at any moment.  Everyone including ace Kershaw knows pitchers can’t hit, right?  (It was his first and perhaps last career homer.)

Being a Chicago Cubs fanatic – they haven’t won a World Series in 104 years and their last pennant was in 1945 – means you learn valuable lessons early.  Such as, the virtue of stoicism in the face of defeat, and the meaning of inevitable tragedy.  It’s a loser’s world, and the sooner you learn this the better.  And, if anyone has forgotten what playthings we are of Tyche, the Greek goddess of luck, there’s the notorious incident when a young over-enthusiastic Cub fan, Steve Bartman, reached down from the stands to brazenly interfere with left fielder Moses Alou’s catch of a foul ball thus ruining the club’s pennant hopes in 2003.  (In Chicago Bartman and the umpire who made the bad call rank somewhere between Judas and Benedict Arnold; for a long time young Bartman had police protection, probably against fans like me.)

Even rabid fans know in their hearts that their games have been stolen from them by Borgia-like owners, agents,out-of-sight player salaries, all-round greed, and “performance enhancements” (dope) not to speak of the ever moveable strike zone.  So we take refuge in backward looking nostalgia, by mentally downloading images of the Cardinals’ “Stan the Man” Musial’s amazing hitting history, Pittsburgh Steeler Lynn Swann’s ballet-like catches, and a far-gone time when Jews not African Americans dominated basketball, and Jackie Robinson’s super-aggressive base stealing.  And also when the geographic frontier of major league baseball extended no further than Chicago and St Louis.  To this day I can’t get it up for the expansion teams.  The Toronto what?

Just as well baseball comes along this year to divert me from the unutterably boring political game where, unlike an election year, the important stuff gets done in incomprehensible language at committees behind closed doors.  “Chained CPI” anybody?

Last year it was temporarily exciting to watch Obama kick Romney’s ass at the polling booth; how deflating it is to see him, holding a strong poker hand, blow it with his parroting the Republican line about “entitlements”.  To prepare us for the shock just before he unwraps his next budget, he’s sending up flaming trial balloons to see how much beating-up we will take, such as his crazy idea of cutting Social Security by $112 billion over the next decade.  Being a Cubs fan armors me slightly against the Democrats betraying us yet again.  Like the Cubs they do it to us year after year.

I tune into Rachel Maddow and she’s still at it, robot-like, gabble gabble, drawing our attention to the Republican corpse rather than to the crimes of cowardice of her darling, weak-kneed, insufferably corrupt Democrats who can do no wrong on MSNBC.  Only ever-reliable Fox News refuses to concede, and that’s refreshing.  The rightwingers have it right: never retreat, never apologize, keep banging on that old drum no matter.  Maybe Roger Ailes and his gang are the true Cubs-in-spirit fans.

Yes, Obama is “good” about guns, promoting women, gay marriage – full marks to him.  But on the only two inter-related issues that really matter, our economic impoverishment and funding unnecessary wars, he is the best Republican liberal we voted for.  The fix is in.  Obama is the most skillful three-card monte trickster in the Oval Office since Reagan, and without a real enemy, the GOP piñata, to hit and hit again, most of us have subsided like me into spectators rather than active fans.

Is it subversive to suggest that gun-control and gay marriage are…side issues…compared to Obama being our “food stamp president” with a record high of 47 million Americans now dependent on welfare; one in four children going hungry if not for (and perhaps even with) food stamps; the whittling away of Medicare and Social Security disability – in other words the Democrats and Obama undermining our safety net while prattling on about the false issue of “deficit spending”.  Washington’s policies are directly responsible for the crushing meth plague in rural America, triggered by farm disasters and small town factory closures.

I have great respect for the former labor secretary Robert Reich but is he ever wrong when he protests, “”Mr. President…a cut to Social Securiy benefits that would hurt seniors – it’s an idea not befitting a Democratic president.”  Oh, Mr Reich, the point is, that’s what Democratic presidents do, enact Republican platforms while we remain in a state of liberal narcosis. President, the chained CPI is a cut to Social Security benefits that would hurt seniors—it’s an idea not befitting a Democratic president.”r. President, the chained CPI is a cut to Social Security benefits that would hurt seniors—it’s an idea not befitting a Democratic president.”

Meanwhile, Obama’s favorite executioner, former senator Alan Simpson, axe in hand, co-chair of the presidential “budget commission”, calls people like me, indeed all Americans who unlike him don’t have a 50-year career on the public dole, as “the greediest generation”.

Instead of fixing on what’s important we run around fixing this or protesting that – which is great, it keeps us alive as participating citizens.  But the fact remains that it is in both parties’ interest to three-card shuffle us into a kind of distracted boredom which helps explain the astonishing popularity of professional sports today.  We know every detail of Kevin Ware’s gruesome basketball injury and Tiger Woods dating Lindsay Vonn, and the Rutgers coach who pulverized his scholarship players, and the scandal-ridden National Collegiate Athletic Association’s ruthless exploitation of young athletes.  And, if we’re truly alert fans, the high school, collegiate and professional athletes’ rape culture.  But since pols like Alan Simpson don’t dunk in Nike trainers we’re blind and deaf to his nastiness.

So I look forward to this baseball season even if I still don’t really understand “wild card” playoffs, the same way I’ve never got the offside rule in pro soccer.  This season keep your eye on the Cubs’ Dominican-born shortstop Starlin Castro who will – I promise!- take us to the World Series not next but THIS year.  And pray for a miracle that, in time to raise a rumpus, we take one tiny part of our sports-obsssed brain and refocus on how and why our money is being stolen not at the corporate sports stadium but at the corporate White House.

CLANCY SIGAL is a novelist and screenwriter in Los Angeles. His latest book, Hemingway Lives!, will be published this spring by OR Books. He can be reached at  His web site is


Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Hemingway Lives

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Tom Clifford
Duterte’s Gambit: the Philippines’s Pivot to China
Reyes Mata III
Scaling Camelot’s Walls: an Essay Regarding Donald Trump
Raouf Halaby
Away from the Fray: From Election Frenzy to an Interlude in Paradise
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
David Yearsley
Trump and Hitchcock in the Age of Conspiracies
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”