Bread and Circus

An online journal of culture

Category: Red Sox

Baseball: Finding Misery in Other People’s Joy

by Editors


baseball-skyline.jpg

BASEBALL NOTES

Finding Misery in Other People’s Joy

By Frank J. Colagiovanni

On Monday afternoon, the day after the Boston Red Sox won the American League Pennant, I was clicking through a few stories on the local newspaper web sites. I was at the game, had a great time and wanted to read about it in an effort to keep the good feelings going. In the Boston Herald, I came across a letter to the editor that I read, re-read, and then read a third time.

The writer, a woman from Brookline, Massachusetts, opens her missive to Red Sox fans-let’s be clear about that-with a statement so obtuse, so filled with arrogance and condescension that it actually took my Red Sox “buzz” known a notch.

She begins,

“Each October (barring the anomaly of 2004), as I see hubris and idol-worship shatter around me, I wonder: Will Sox fans put all that precious time and energy to better use, such as by working to help save our environment, improve our educational system, stem urban violence or stop global genocide?”

Reading this, I wonder — are these mutually exclusive? If I devote precious time and energy — and don’t forget money — to enjoying the Red Sox, do I do so at the exclusion of everything else? Does the time I spend at Fenway in October — or in July for that matter — negate the time I spend volunteering? Does the writer spend all her time devoted to the causes she listed?

And then she continues:

“Will they realize that big money rules every aspect of baseball? Will they (and especially, their kids) realize that second or third place still matters? That the “World” is actually the North American Series? That social workers, teachers, health care providers, community organizers and First Responders are the true heroes and heroines of society?”

And while the money involved with baseball is staggering, should that chase all enjoyment from it? If a ticket for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Pops, or the Boston Ballet — all well endowed organizations to be sure — goes for a price the writer deems too high, does that change the sound of the music? Does that make it ruled by big money? The Kroc family donated $200 million of the McDonald’s restaurant fortune to National Public Radio; is NPR ruled by “big money?” Wang computers donated the money for the Wang Center. Bill and Melinda Gates have given millions upon millions to different organizations-and you can’t get much more “big money” then them.

The Boston Red Sox have, over the past 50 plus years, donated and facilitated the donation of millions to fight childhood cancer through the Jimmy Fund. I’d call that big money.

And the fact is, it is a World Series. The best players from around the globe come to the United States to play in the Major Leagues for the very reason that this is the summit of the sport. She might notice that David Ortiz, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima don’t have Hyde Park Boston accents. The guy with that accent is Manny Delcarmen, drafted by the Red Sox out of West Roxbury high school. The Red Sox, like most teams, are made up of the very best, no matter where they come from.

There’s nothing wrong with second or third place. Second and third still matter, but that doesn’t mean that striving for first is a bad thing. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but you still need to try-just ask every Red Sox team from 1918 through 2004. Isn’t that a good lesson for kids and adults?

As for the notion that enjoying the Red Sox represents precious time and energy that should be put to better use, how much time? Is there an equation? Who gets to make that determination? How much time does she spend? I know for a fact that there in the stands over the past few nights there were there the everyday “heroes” the writer speaks of. In the first few seats of my row were a teacher, a pee-wee hockey referee, and a boy scout leader. A few sections over sat a Boston firefighter and former active duty Unites States Marine; he likely would have been joined by one of his childhood friends, but that guy had to go to work, as a police office in Roxbury.

These fans are all regular folks who give and have given their time and energy to do the very things she wonders about. Do those people who work to save our environment, improve our educational system, stem urban violence and stop global genocide deserve to enjoy themselves?

The arrogance it takes to deride people, good people, for finding enjoyment is a game speaks a lot more about the writer than about the people celebrating in the stands or cheering in front of their televisions.

Perhaps she should do a little less wondering and open her eyes to her own hubris.

_______________________
Frank J. Colagiovanni is an award-winning freelance copywriter and contributing writer for Bread and Circus.

Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Number 756

by Editors

SPORTS EXTRA

Forgive Me Father, for I have sinned:

Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Number 756

By Frank J. Colagiovanni

I’d say a prayer. Then I’d throw two pitches.

The first, a message pitch, high and tight—chin music—brushing him off the plate. The second, to put him on base, I’d plunk him right where he carries his wallet—possibly where he sticks his needles. That’s how I’d keep Barry bonds from hitting home runs.

But I’m not a Major League pitcher.

Now as a matter of full disclosure, I don’t like Barry Bonds, never really have. But, until his head began to grow three sizes, and he started dumping dingers into McCovey Cove, I never needed to pay him much attention. He’s in a different league, in a different city, on a different coast. And as a practicing member of the First Congregation of the Church of Fenway Park, I’ve regarded what goes on in the National League as a Catholic might view an Episcopalian: similar, but not the same. Their church might resemble my church, but their service involves a lot of bunting, that and weak bats in the seven, eight and nine holes.

But Barry Bonds become the elephant on the altar, too hard to ignore, storming heaven by assaulting the most hallowed record in the Game. When this baseball blasphemy is completed, he will have passed Hank Aaron as baseball’s all-time home run leader. 755 will no longer be the number. And Aaron, who took the crown, earned the crown, from Ruth, will no longer be on top of the list—sitting at the head of all baseball tables.

At the time of this writing Bonds has 747, eight away from the record, seven away from breaking it. In a recent interview at the site of his record-setting home run, Hank Aaron, one of the true Olympians of the sport, told the press that he wouldn’t be there when Bonds broke his record.

Records were made to be broken, especially in baseball where everything is measure by numbers. But numbers are stubborn things, like facts, and they mean something. 755 has represented the fact that Aaron was the best, consistently. 756 will represent the fact that that Barry Bonds cheated. He allegedly admitted it to a Grand Jury, his numbers are tainted. There have been others who have cheated, compromised the integrity of the Game, and we know them by name. And we know the facts of their fall from grace. How is Bonds worthy of inclusion in the Pantheon of baseball if Jackson and Rose are not?

And frankly, bagging Bonds might just serve the greater good. Banning Pete Rose from baseball has likely dissuaded others from betting on the game, just as the Chicago Black Sox Scandal and the fact that Joe Jackson left baseball in disgrace has done the same. Both Rose and Jackson had Hall of Fame careers, but neither were called to the Hall because they broke the rules—cheated the game.

What makes it even more maddening is that Bonds was bound for the Hall without going on the Juice. The rare 5-tool player he could hit for average, hit for power, run the bases, throw accurately and field the ball better than almost any player of his time.

But Rose and Jackson had Hall worthy careers before their transgressions; Rose wasn’t even playing when he was banned. He was a manager. But Pete Rose was banned from baseball for life and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson was tossed out of the Game in 1920, never to return. Both remain on baseball’s Ineligible List to this day. Bonds should be out as well.

The perfect should not be the enemy of the good.

The fact that men will always cheat, that there will always be those who choose to break the rules should not mitigate the fact that when you catch one, you should punish him.

Because we can’t catch all bank robbers doesn’t mean bank robbery should be legal. Because we can’t catch all steroids users doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye.

On June 15th, 16th and 17th Bonds and the Giants come to Fenway, and while I have tickets I won’t be there. Other than to boo him or turn my back when he comes to the plate, I don’t want any part of Barry Bonds. It’s sometimes said that you are to hate the sin but love the sinner, but I feel contrition needs to be in there somewhere. With Bonds I don’t see any. And I don’t want to see that kind of blasphemy in my church.

Aaron won’t be there, and neither will I.

_____________________________
Frank J. Colagiovanni (www.colagiovanni.com) is an award-winning freelance copywriter and special contributing writer for Bread and Circus.