RIP Corey Lidle

Terrible, terrible news today. Former Blue Jay, sometimes great, often mediocre, and famously controversial pitcher dies when his plane crashes into a building in Manhattan.

Many, including his former pitching coach (and present Mets pitching coach), Rick Peterson are saying that “this puts into perspective” the relative importance of baseball in the grand scheme of things.

I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean.

Encounters with death do put into perspective the preciousness of time and the stupidity of wasting it on petty grievances or overwhelmed by things which are trifles, etc.

Yet, they do not take any of the meaning of joy and excellence and passion and love and friendship and achievement away. And baseball is a sport, and Major League Baseball, as all professional (and world class amateur) sports is about joy, it’s about marvelling at the excellence of the human as a physical actor, it’s about bringing communities together around a common cause, it’s about bringing people together around a common interest, it’s about the beauty and intellectual stimulation of a geniusly designed game, it’s about the achievement of greatness at something difficult and the invitation to us unwashed masses to participate vicariously in those great achievements—owning the athlete as one of us, as connected to us, and representing us.

How much love has been shared around baseball? How many people all alone in the world or worked into the ground or physically sick themselves take refuge and vicarious victory in the comforts of the game?

Major League Baseball, as other sports, is there for people. It’s a source of comfort, a source of joy, a rallying point for community, it’s a mythic representation of the drive and need to overcome adversity and achieve greatness and of the possibilities for futility and failure and destruction. It is in that way a tremendous role model for our lives and vicarious participation quite mythically in the struggle for greatness, for victory, for overcoming, that constitutes life. It’s something to love.

Encountering death only reminds me to appreciate that I have baseball while I’m alive. Encountering the death of a ballplayer I once was a fan of and then rooted against eagerly reminds me of my gratitude to these world class professionals who not only entertain but inspire millions, including myself. I’m not talking about them as role models off the field or “good people” off the field. I’m talking about what they do as mythic heroes. All of them, the noble and villainous contribute so much.

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • bix

    I think you have to realize that to a baseball professional, especially a coach or an executive, baseball is first and foremost something that you stress about–you worry about winning and losing, about possibly losing your job, about what the press has said about you, etc. So when someone like that says that a death puts the relative importance of baseball in perspective, what he is probably thinking is along the lines of what you had in mind when you wrote: “the stupidity of wasting it on petty grievances or overwhelmed by things which are trifles.” They dont mean that enjoying baseball is a waste, they mean that worrying about it as much as they probably do is a waste. A possibility.

  • Daniel Fincke

    On that level, that would be fine. I guess it was the tone like “well, it’s JUST a game, and it makes you realize how trivial the losses are.” I guess, to me, if the wins and losses aren’t “serious” when you think about death then you don’t really value wholeheartedly achievement and doing something with your life.The realization the ballplayer will die should spur the ballplayer to want to win the World Series before that comes! I don’t think that’s a trivial priority for someone whose life and sphere of achievement is that of a world class athlete.I might be quibbling, but it seems to me that the realization of death should inspire any one, including ballplayers, to focus on achieving what they have the most potential to do and to love more earnestly what they most love. Fans should love baseball more and the ballplayer want to achieve more. And, yeah, part of that is “not sweating the small stuff.”Just because world peace doesn’t hinge on the ballplayer’s achievements doesn’t mean that he should shrug and say, “I guess what I’m striving so hard to achieve and driving myself crazy over is kind of inconsequential considering we’re all gonna die anyway.” I like to think they represent something more than that, as ideals of human physical capability and mythic figures that millions identify with, and that they are important and not just “entertainment” as a few people in baseball said today. Which part I take it you got with the part about them not intending to say it’s a Waste.

  • wendy

    “They dont mean that enjoying baseball is a waste, they mean that worrying about it as much as they probably do is a waste.”I think bix is on the right track here. I’ve never liked baseball being referred to as “entertainment.” To me, it trivializes something that I love and care about deeply. (Of course, there’s the argument–clearly one to which you don’t subscribe, either–that it IS trivial, but, really, why is it any more trivial than much of what people care about?)