Friday, July 31, 2009

Hope and hopelessness

Today the official trade deadline ends for professional baseball. This deadline generates its own season within the seasons of baseball. For weeks up to the deadline, teams and fans calibrate whether their team has a chance to make the playoffs. They debate about whether they should seeks a trade to "go for it" and trade prospects for sure fire veterans in order to stay competitive. Each team and fan base goes through the same gyrations. If one team acts, it creates a domino effect where others must keep up or give up.

It matters to fans because of the symbolic importance. If a team decides to sell, like the hopeless Pirates who are unloading their wonderful infield, it essentially throws in the towel for this year--for some teams this is already done given how far back they are. But for others on the cusp of competing or staying in a race, it matters profoundly for attendance, fan interest and fan hope or sinking into hopeless, maybe next year.

"Maybe next year" is critical to sport as it is to life. It offers the hope of things getting better. It assumes that some people are thinking long term rather than how to win in the short term. It invites hope, but it also can induce hopelessness. If waiting for next year goes on forever, say 17 years in the Pirates' case, "wait til next year" becomes waiting for Godot.

So the frenzied season of obscure prospects being traded among obscure teams, or hot veterans traded to be the last piece of the puzzle, usually for other obscure and maybe some day famous players continues. It offers hope for some, but reminds others that being committed to a team in sport is as much an act of faith and identity as hope.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Why We Care about Sports-1

My dad loved to yell at the television when the Chiefs played. Come to think of it all my brothers and sisters yell at the TV when their teams play. He'd scream at a great catch or compliment a block. He'd groan when the bad guys scored a touchdown. He'd never cease to tell the coach how stupid it was to go to a prevent defense and then watch the hapless Chiefs lose another game in the last two minutes.

Dad's experience reveals alot about why we care about sports. A friend recently showed me a feminist critique of sports that argued watching sports is a way for men to get vicarious support for their need for domination and to enjoy the subordination of others. Watching dad--I don't believe it's true.

One reason we care about sports is that follwing a team invites us to identify with our local community or keep in touch with our home community. No one who has rooted for the Kansas City Chiefs for twenty years follows them out of lust for domination. For that matter no one who follows the Chicago Cubs or who followed the Boston Red Sox, up until six years ago, followed them for the joys of dominating others. Sox, Cubs, Chiefs and so many other fans follow teams out of loyalty and memory.

Americans move so much and travel so much, that we struggle to have a stable sense of identity that anchors our self and our past and present. One way we do this is through following sports teams, not out of a vicious need for superiority, but to stay connected to our past and be comfortable with our home. Every day I follow the Mariners, but each day I also check the Kansas City Royals. Not because the Royals win, far from it, but to stay connected to my roots and my home and my fellow family members just like my Cubs and Red Sox fans who follow, suffer and enjoy not just the beauty of the sport, but the importance of memory, connection and identity in a chaotic world.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Welcome to Point of the Game


I'm starting a blog to talk about sports and how sport influences and reflects our lives.

I love sport and its beauty and striving and importance for so many people. I think that it can teach us to dream of being better human beings. It provides a way for us to identify ourselves with each other and to support each other in common endeavors.

At its best sports can make us proud to be human.

I hope to explore the relation of sports to our culture and ethics with you on this blog.