Monday, July 2, 2012

The Halfway Mark


The baseball season reaches the halfway mark this week with the usual mixture of predictability (Yanks and Rangers in 1st place) and surprise (Nationals also in 1st!), emergence of new stars (Strasburg) and the fading away of the old  (Posada). The Red Sox are in transformation like a ruthlessly efficient unregulated marketplace. More than of half of last years discontented and underp6erforming roster has been honorably retired (Wakefield, Varitek), signed elsewhere (Paplebon), unceremoniously traded (Scutaro,Youkilis) or banished to the minors (Bard) or the disabled list (Crawford, Ellsbury, and a tidal wave of others). Meanwhile a stream of new, young hungry replacements has appeared, some fulfilling expectations (Middlebrooks), some redeeming unfulfilled promise (Morales) and some shocking us, and probably themselves, with unexpected displays of excellence (Nava, Ross). From the 6th place the Old Town Team has now claimed into 3rd, a rounding number away from the 2nd wild card spot.

The presidential race has entered a sort of halfway point too as we enter the summer doldrums and the candidates and their handlers position themselves for display like mannequins in a shop window. Here we see the opposite of innovation, creativity, recognition of the essential nature of change, and courage. Against all evidence to the contrary, the President hopes that he can capture the zeitgeist of the the previous campaign. The challenger and his handlers just as clearly think they have enough time and resources to convince the imbeciles among us, also known as persuadable voters, that he and he alone is the man to right things and send us off into a new paroxysm of prosperity, all the while saying less than nothing about just how he plans to do it. Every little bit of silliness is magnified into an earth shattering moment as the chattering class yammers away in effort to entertain us and hold onto their jobs. The rest of us are left to nurse our sour uncertainty about where the hell we are going and how we are going to get there.

The parallel between sports and politics, and the reason that we watch them, is that they remain among the few arenas of contemporary life where the outcome is unknown. But these days the political arena could earn a few lessons from the diamond. In baseball the consequence of every decision is plain to see, failure cannot be hidden or disguised, decisions cannot be delayed, cowardice is punished, and luck, good and bad, is accepted as part of the process.

Maybe the ballplayers and the politicians should trade places for a week. My guess is that the country would not be the worse for it, and it sure would be a hoot to see John Boehner trying to throw one past Nancy Pelosi.


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