FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Hello Baseball, Goodbye Brain

by CLANCY SIGAL

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 clancy@jsasoc.com.  His web site is clancysigal.com

 

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

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

August 31, 2016
NEVE GORDON - NICOLA PERUGINI
Human Shields as Preemptive Legal Defense for Killing Civilians
Jim Kavanagh
Turkey Invades Syria, America Spins The Bottle
Dave Lindorff
Ukraine and the Dumbed-Down New York Times Columnist
Pepe Escobar
Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, a Woman of Honor, Confronts Senate of Scoundrels
Jeff Mackler
Playing the Lesser Evil Game to the Hilt
Steve Horn
Dakota Access Pipeline Tribal Liaison Formerly Worked For Agency Issuing Permit
Patrick Cockburn
Has Turkey Overplayed Its Hand in Syria?
John Chuckman
Why Hillary is the Perfect Person to Secure Obama’s Legacy
Manuel E. Yepe
The New Cold War Between the US and China
Stephen Cooper
Ending California’s Machinery of Death
Stacy Keltner - Ashley McFarland
Women, Party Politics, and the Power of the Naked Body
Hiroyuki Hamada - Ikuko Isa
A Letter from Takae, Okinawa
Aidan O'Brien
How Did Syria and the Rest Do in the Olympics?
David Swanson
Arms Dealing Is Subject of Hollywood Comedy
Jesse Jackson
The Politics of Bigotry: Trump and the Black Voter
August 30, 2016
Russell Mokhiber
Matt Funiciello and the Giant Sucking Sound Coming Off Lake Champlain
Mike Whitney
Three Cheers for Kaepernick: Is Sitting During the National Anthem an Acceptable Form of Protest?
Alice Bach
Sorrow and Grace in Palestine
Sam Husseini
Why We Should All Remain Seated: the Anti-Muslim Origins of “The Star-Spangled Banner”
Richard Moser
Transformative Movement Culture and the Inside/Outside Strategy: Do We Want to Win the Argument or Build the Movement?
Nozomi Hayase
Pathology, Incorporated: the Facade of American Democracy
David Swanson
Fredric Jameson’s War Machine
Jan Oberg
How Did the West Survive a Much Stronger Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact?
Linda Gunter
The Racism of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima Bombings
Dmitry Kovalevich
In Ukraine: Independence From the People
Omar Kassem
Turkey Breaks Out in Jarablus as Fear and Loathing Grip Europe
George Wuerthner
A Birthday Gift to the National Parks: the Maine Woods National Monument
Logan Glitterbomb
Indigenous Property Rights and the Dakota Access Pipeline
National Lawyers Guild
Solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe against Dakota Access Pipeline
Paul Messersmith-Glavin
100 in Anarchist Years
August 29, 2016
Eric Draitser
Hillary and the Clinton Foundation: Exemplars of America’s Political Rot
Patrick Timmons
Dildos on Campus, Gun in the Library: the New York Times and the Texas Gun War
Jack Rasmus
Bernie Sanders ‘OR’ Revolution: a Statement or a Question?
Richard Moser
Strategic Choreography and Inside/Outside Organizers
Nigel Clarke
President Obama’s “Now Watch This Drive” Moment
Robert Fisk
Iraq’s Willing Executioners
Wahid Azal
The Banality of Evil and the Ivory Tower Masterminds of the 1953 Coup d’Etat in Iran
Farzana Versey
Romancing the Activist
Frances Madeson
Meet the Geronimos: Apache Leader’s Descendants Talk About Living With the Legacy
Nauman Sadiq
The War on Terror and the Carter Doctrine
Lawrence Wittner
Does the Democratic Party Have a Progressive Platform–and Does It Matter?
Marjorie Cohn
Death to the Death Penalty in California
Winslow Myers
Asking the Right Questions
Rivera Sun
The Sane Candidate: Which Representatives Will End the Endless Wars?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia District Attorney Hammered for Hypocrisy
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail