I’m hardly the first person to note the commonalities of baseball and politics, but as the current seasons of both grind to a close and resolutions — oh, winners and losers, dashed hopes, that sort of thing — come into view, you can find yourself feeling similar emotions. Strongest among them: For God’s sake, get it over with!
Admittedly, I’m an analysis junkie. If you’ve got an opinion, I’m ready to hear it. Likewise, I follow at least a dozen newspaper columnists and an equal number of television pundits who suggest their considerations of why Pitcher A hung a curveball in the middle of the plate for a guy who can — and did — deposit same in stands 450 feet away, or why Politician B whispered to a colleague that his great uncle was a commie sympathizer, only to be caught doing so on a cellphone camera. It’s not that I’m so interested in the actual act, it’s what people think of the act. I like to hear what they have to say.
And I’m not alone in this. If you follow, say, Paul Krugman in the New York Times, you know that his column is always the subject of comment by as many as 150 readers who email their reactions, which run from the thoughtful to decidedly moronic. To a degree, it’s akin to a town hall meeting where the attendees get — and use — a chance to sound off.
My addiction — you might say– to this comes from a grandfather who thought reader commentary in the form of letters to the editor was the primary reason for opening up a newspaper. At least that was his counsel to his son and grandsons.
Now were you there for the games or political events, you’d probably make up your own mind regarding perceived actions and impact. Years ago I was at a Yankees game in New York, and the loud discussion between innings in, yep, the men’s room, was whether or not a pitch that was missed by the catcher was a wild pitch or a “passed bawl.” The writer for the game in the next day’s Times had his own view and analysis.
And so it goes for candidates and ball players alike, with, I swear, hotter feelings in sporting venues, remembering that “fan” is short for fanatic. You rarely hear about shoving matches outside the polling booth, but there have been times following a close game between rivals where guys have been shot. And that’s why the tone of Tea Party gatherings has been so striking. The emotional content is often close to that of stadium parking lots (where people are wielding cars, a “deadly weapon”).
So the fan in either case is well-advised to keep in mind that’s all a game. In the political game, whoever gains the upper hand in government moves slowly, with change an incremental thing; i.e., wins one year are typically countered the next by a new cast of characters. In sports, there are always new seasons and fans who simply forget (Quick: Who won the 2008 World Series?).
The fun, it turns out, is in the story. Last year’s ogre who left office with his tail between his legs is now playing the senior statesman at the world disaster of your choice, and the quarterback who threw what might have been the game-winning pass into the hands of the opposition has moved on to another team with new hopes and acceptance. What remains is what people have to say about it all, via commentator or around the water cooler. What you get is a new telling of events, and this time, always with a laugh.