The best thing about the late winter may be the promise that baseball is just around the corner.
Think of it. The crack of the bat. The roar of the crowd. The crowds and the teams, divided in loyalty, yet united in a love of the game and a conviction that the umpire is always wrong …
Whoops. Wait a second. Hold that thought about unity.
At least, until after you see this bit out of Reuters.
“A baseball game between Cuba’s national team and a South Korean professional club had to be called off when they could not agree on which ball to use …”
That’s right. They argued over the baseballs.
Sometimes I wonder about humanity.
If you wonder what the big deal is, join the club. Apparently, it’s common practice for each team in an international game to supply its own baseballs for pitching and fielding, so that no one gets hurt handling a ball they’re not used to. Odd, but reasonable.
But this time, the Cubans put their foot down. Our spheroids or none at all. And when the Koreans said “no thanks,” the Cubans canceled the game.
Why does this sound familiar?
Oh, yeah. That’s right. Our other great American pastime. The one that spends money by the bale and fills television with images guaranteed to generate exasperation and anger.
No, I don’t mean football.
Let me start by saying that anyone looking for peace and harmony in American politics is either doomed to a long and fruitless search, or destined to write fiction. We have been, from the beginning, a nation of arguers. One historian, studying the colonial period, was struck by how many petty lawsuits were clogging the courts. Ours may be a nation of the people, by the people, for the people, but it’s also one where a lot can stand between the people.
All right. Fair enough. A free country’s about debate, right?
Well, yes. Absolutely. Just like baseball, having competition is part of the game. If you have a stadium where one team offers no opposition to the other … well, you have last year’s Colorado Rockies. But back to my point.
In the end, a game is about resolution: someone wins, loses or gets rained out. Political debates don’t have to be that cut-and-dried, but it’s still supposed to be about getting somewhere, reaching a decision, coming to a compromise, getting something done – or sometimes, not done, if that’s the best thing for everyone concerned.
But that only works if everyone wants it to. If you take your ball and go home, there’s no game. If you say ‘My way or no way’ to everything, there’s no debate.
There’s just noise.
Admittedly, we’re overcoming a lot here. There’s a recent theory among social scientists that we didn’t develop reason to find truth, but to better insist on our version of it. We may actually be hardwired to insist on what we want in the face of all evidence, a tendency that only gets reinforced when our social networks, both real and virtual, start filling up with people who agree with us.
But the wiring isn’t unbeatable. We have made it work. We have played the game. Often with great acrimony, but we’ve played it.
Is it so unthinkable that we could do it again?
There are over 400 friends on my Facebook page. Some go about as far left or right as a person can without insisting on totalitarianism. But even when we’ve argued, I haven’t dropped them.
They make me think. Sometimes what they make me think is “You’re crazy.” But if I have to examine my own preconceptions, even for a second, it’s worthwhile.
That’s how I beat the circuits. Or at least give them a fight.
If enough of us do the same, maybe even Washington can become useful again.
Hey. It’s a season for dreams.