The baseball playoffs couldn't have come at a better time, don't you think?
What a week of news it has been for those of us who read and watch the news as our daily diet of sustainable food. But gate-crashing at the White House, hijinks on the West Side Highway, and hoarding like we never would foresee in a suburban home in Fairfield County have certainly rattled us. All of this is set against the backdrop of a squabbling Congress whose shutdown of many areas of the government is creating a domino-effect in the economy.
Go Red Sox!
That's about all I can or want to think about, for how can we understand a 34-year-old Stamford mother getting into her car with her toddler daughter strapped in the backseat, driving to Washington, D.C., and crashing her car on the White House grounds. How can we understand the mentality of the adolescent minds of middle-aged men on motorcycles thinking they are riding footloose on horseback in the wide open spaces in a John Wayne western taking over a Manhattan highway only to terrorize a young family, pull the father from the driver's seat, slam him to the ground and pound his head with a bike helmet. And, when they aggressively move toward the driver's wife and 2-year-old, they are thwarted by bystanders.
Then, there's the 69-year-old chemist, entrepreneur and pilot living alone in his home in an affluent Fairfield neighborhood surrounded by explosives, chemicals and a cache of ammunition until he calls police to report a burglary. Yes, we often do not know what goes on in our neighbor's house.
These heart-stopping events were all carried out against the backdrop of the workings of our elected officials in Congress who manage to turn debate into a debacle.
So, I turn to baseball and the reading of the late A. Bartlett Giamatti's "A Great And Glorious Game." The former Yale president and Major League Baseball commissioner died in 1989 at age 51, a week after his decision to ban Pete Rose from baseball. As Dr. Kenneth Robson, a psychiatrist, said in his Introduction to the book, Giamatti "cared deeply about the vanishing American values of Honor and Civility as intrinsic to baseball and to life ... for baseball was a parable for life."
Robson quotes New York Times writer Michiko Kakutani, who notes that sports provides many of the "same emotional satisfactions as art, including" the consolations of order and lots of vicarious thrills -- all of this in real time. Anyone who watched last Sunday's NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Denver Broncos can understand "vicarious thrills." The game's commentator called it one of the highest-scoring games in NFL history.
While I found myself unexpectedly watching the NFL because the Red Sox and Tampa Bay playoff game had been rained out, the two previous playoff games brought the so needed calm to my life and distracted me from the real life aggressiveness of individuals toward their fellow man.
I can empathize with Giamatti when he writes: "Whatever the reason, it seemed to me that I was investing more and more in baseball, making the game do more of the work that keeps time fat and slow and lazy. I was counting on the game's deep patterns, three strikes, three outs, three times three innings, and its deepest impulse, to go out and back, to leave and to return home, to see the order of the day and to organize the daylight."
I like that. I, too, like the order of the game and the order of the day. I like the expected and, of course, the unexpected, the "vicarious thrills." I also like the theater of it all, especially what's happening at Fenway, with the young men of baseball growing long beards like old men. The Red Sox players' beards have garnered lots of attention, not only from the media but the fans as well. Men, women and children are sporting fake beards as they sit in the stands.
I will miss the end of this baseball season, but there will be another. And may we stand with Giamatti in his belief that the game continue to "strive for excellence in all things and to promote the highest ideals."
Now, if only we could convince our lawmakers of such goals.
Rita Papazian is a freelance writer and can be reached at email@example.com.