Zen and the Art of Baseball
better things will come our way
no matter what they try to say
you were always there for me
when the sun begins to shine
I hear a song from another time
and fade away
and fade away
just close your eyes and I'll take you there
this place is warm, without a care
we'll take a swim in the deep blue sea
I go to leave and you reach for me
someone said you tried to long
someone said we got it all
someone said we tried too long
is there a place where I belong
so far, so long
so far away
so far, so wrong
so far away
when my life has passed me by
I lay around and wonder why you were always there for me
in the eyes of a passerby
I look around for another try and fade away
and fade away--"Someday" by Sugar Ray
"I got my wisdom teeth pulled at nine o'clock Thursday morning. How was I to know that was going to be the highlight of my day?"
"Thank God for the Zakim Bridge. Two bridges, no waiting."
"Now I know. The Red Sox killed my father, and now they're coming after me."
"Welcome to the club."
So what else is there to say? Plenty. After all, we all still have to decide whether or not Grady should be gone (my vote is in the affirmative), whether or not we can bear to watch even one game of this World Series (my feeling is in the negative), and for many of us, the time is now to decide whether have the constitution for this game, after all.
Can you think of any other sport with such a grind? Hundreds of games in the course of the season, dozens to decide the championship? And not only does baseball churn out a ludicrous number of contests per season (by contrast, the football regular season consists of 16 games for each team), but its season--extending from Spring Training in February to the World Series in mid-October--is the longest of them all. Add on to that the fact that it's also been around longer as a professional game than any other major sport in this country, and you're in for a long ride no matter which way you slice it. Baseball takes epic patience, both on and off the field. It requires endurance, ditto.
With so many games to win or lose, you'd think the drama and competition would fade after a while. But, if anything, baseball is more dramatic because of the way that so many factors careen together into a win or loss--and the way that quite often it is just one of the more ridiculous events that negates those weeks, months, years, and decades of work on every side of the ball. This is what we saw Thursday night, and though I'm also an avid fan of the bone-crunching NFL, there is no pain quite like what the Red Sox have brought home to roost in Boston this season. So, for a fan, baseball takes tolerance. Baseball takes forgiveness.
No, more than that. Baseball takes zen.
Zen, in my non-religious sense, means the acceptance of all things. It means the unflinching regard of circumstances without panic or unreasonable hope. It means the straight-faced suggestion that despite the heartbreak of just a few days ago, we in Boston should file into Fenway Park next season as usual. It means the loss of ego, forgoing pride, a somewhat ridiculous belief in the present moment. Zen.
Can we do it?
I know that I, for one, have one compelling reason, in the face of all the drawbacks, to find my Zen. It may suprise you. No, it's not because the Sox are a staple of my childhood. No, it's not because now I've run out of things to blog about until football season kicks into high gear. No, it's not because I feel in any way confident about that proverbial "next year." No, I'll be in attendance when baseball begins again for one reason and one reason only: our boys haven't come home yet, and we owe them a welcome.
The cruellest thing of all about Thursday's debacle wasn't even that Aaron Bleeping Boone has now taken his place next to Bucky Bleepin Dent in the Baseball Hall of Shame, or that even, as Pauly Shore (of all people) put it on the Hillmann Morning show yesterday, "Even some club-footed bum staring through the fence at Yankee Stadium last night was yelling, 'Get that guy outta there!!' " It's that it happened in the House that Ruth Built, where the crowd cheered at their dismay, rallied around their defeat. That "asshole" chants were what Pedro and Co. had to deal with walking in and walking out.
After all, as hurt as we are, they didn't deserve that. Come on. In all the bitterness about Grady and the Bullpen, can you deny that Pedro was brilliant? That Nomar came through, finally, in the pinch? That those guys with their shaved heads and fierce determination brought tears to your eyes all season? That despite their loss, Boston owes them a thank you for the beauty that was this past summer? Their play all season transcended our wildest imaginings, right up until the 11th inning of the 7th game, well past midnight. The fact of the matter is, the proverbial irresistible force had met the immovable object that night, and something, somewhere, had to give. It could just has easily been our home run in the 11th that ended the game. These men that fought hard all year with our name emblazoned across their chests deserve to return home like the heroes they are. And I'm going to keep watching because I want to be there when it happens.
That may seem crazy to you. Like I'm disregarding everything history should have taught me about the folly of being taken in by these guys. Like I'm going back to the rigged table in Vegas. Like I'm stepping back into the lion's den on purpose. Like I'm not acknowledging the painful past or the uncertain future, or what they could mean.
Zen. Now you're catching on.