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.
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.