Thursday, May 19, 2005

Sox vs. Cubs: Fun and Harmless Fanaticism?

That time of year has again arrived here in Chicago. Sides are being chosen. Reputations are being staked. The very social fabric of the city is being strained at several points. What is this? Political strife? Protest against injustice? Economic disadvantage taking arms against the oppressor?

Not even close. It is the first Sox/Cubs baseball weekend.

This is one issue that I allow the waves of fanaticism rush over me as I take up a position without consideration, debate or reason. I am a Sox fan. Simple as that. Why do I hate the Cubs and their fans? Because I do, that's why. They are different and wrong and should all weep and gnash their teeth at the thought of the loss they will suffer.

Why am I like this about baseball? The reason is actually quite simple. Sports are so insignificant in the greater picture of thigs, so devoid of actual meaning, that such unabashed blind faith is allowable. There is one condition: you must understand that this sort of behavior must be quarantined and not allowed to invade other areas of your brain. If not, then you become Ann Coulter, and no one wants that now, do they?

I realize that there are sociocultural meanings to baseball, most notably pointed out in George Will's 1987 book Men at Work. Will was, in my opinion, streching the point in arguing that baseball is a metaphor for life. Some of it worked, but most of it was awkward, ethereal and ultimately making too much of a really simple thing. I allow myself to become a raving loon for just a bit, get it out of the old system doing something brainless (like watching sports) then return to the more important questions of life. I think this perspective dovetails nicely with the piece that I wrote a few days ago about Dumarsais and the intellectual in society.

Sports are nothing more than an extension of meaningless media culture transmuted into ritualized combat whereby the fans identify with an ego mass and can be driven to frenzy by this identification and considerable amounts of intoxicating agents. I enter myself into this world confident in the fact that it is compartmentalized into its proper place. Then I can join in the craziness and emerge the same person, hung-over but essentially the same. It is rather cathartic if kept in perspective.

My life will not be materially changed by the outcome of these games. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about others of my townsmen. To them I say: gain perspective and think about your actions. Understand them for what they are and let that be that.

If not, then this mindset can and will spread to other areas of your brain, making you an inflexible dupe.

Have your fun, but keep your head about you. Leisure can become more than just fun.

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