The Story is not the Same

Work has been overwhelming of late, and I have been ignoring my blog and my friends. Sorry about that.

I have been following baseball more closely this summer than I have recently--its my lunch hour obsession. In addition to maintaining a fantasy team, I've been reading up on some of the new statistical analysis over at Baseball Prospectus. I find it really interesting stuff--and indicative of how complexity theory complicates traditional methods of assessment, but I'll save those posts for another day.

Today, I just wanted to share an email I sent to a former student and Cub fan. I had earlier expressed my empathy for the Cubs slow start this season, to which he responded that it was nothing new, and that losing builds "character." My response:

To think this word "character" a bit differently-- as a Red Sox fan, it is striking to me how much their World Series victory rocked Red Sox nation. Of course there was jubilation, but there was also a profound sense of loss, I think. And the second victory only punctuated that sense. At a psychologically unconscious level, I think winning the WS was quite disturbing for Sox fans since it robbed us of our identity, our character, our way of relating to the world.

Eventually, I firmly believe, the Cubs will win. They have grown into one of baseball's exclusive "large market" teams, providing them with a considerable financial advantage. As with the Red Sox, this will translate into a World Series victory. It will likely take a figure of Curt Schilling's stature--a leadership personality who commands the locker room, in the face of all that losing tradition, to envision and capture victory. Someone needs to wack a figurative bloody sock upside the billy goat's face, and the Cub's just don't have that guy--especially not when their best player can't keep his cool. But in the ESPN era, money does tend to translate into success (though sustaining success is a different matter).

So, to conjure up a quote that just doesn't mean to me what it used to, "keep the faith."

I might use this example later this summer--I am teaching a section of Introductory Composition and plan on using Jim Corder's "Argument as Emergence, Rhetoric as Love." Losing the narrative of the "lovable losers" has been difficult for me--and I think traces of this difficulty can be read across Red Sox nation. All I can say is that, while I still watch baseball, something isn't there anymore, the experience feels uncanny, and I believe, in that moment, I am experiencing the withdrawal of what I thought was myself, so that, what is really missing is the me I thought myself to be.


Rhetorical Thoughts on Michael Vick

This started as a comment on FB, but I figured I'd post it here. I've been thinking about this for about a week--what Michael Vick needs to do to "prove his remorse." (I assumed that this is what spurred Cody Lumpkins' FB post--remembering him to be a Falcons fan). My idea is that all he needs to do is offer a short Public Service Announcement, something like this:

"Dear America, I am truly sorry for the suffering I caused each and every animal. I have had two years in prison to reflect on the seriousness of my crimes. I hope that this message will help convince young people out there to stay away from the heinousness of dog fighting. While I ask for your forgiveness, I urge that none of us forget this incident--that it serves to help end animal cruelty."

That's all he has to say. Then, he has to do some more PSA's and donate some time to animal cruelty. In fact, Cody, I think the question becomes "how CAN'T one show remorse"--for the answer to that question, see PacMan Jones. Everyone who matters in football is ready to give this guy a second chance--Goodell, Arthur Blank, Tony Dungy (who's words probably carry the most weight).

I think his rhetorical situation needs to be informed by the failures of A-Rod's steroids apology. Beyond the fact that A-Rod lied (d'oh for thinking that the American baseball media wouldn't look into the story of someone they already despise--they/we only ignore the facts when they/we like someone), he transfered blame to a "something" other than himself. In A-Rod's case, it was "youth." "Young and stupid." Well, at least one of those were true.

Vick could go the same route, and talk about "culture"--being brought up in a culture that values dog fighting. Were I defending him (postmodernist that I am), this is the route I would go--that the outrage against Vick is a bit excessive if viewed across the access of cultural difference. We can certainly still identify it as wrong, but hopefully such an identification would come with less venom if we undermine the absolute "natural" foundation for such an indentification. A few players tried to go the "culturally relative" route, by noting that there's not much difference between dog fighting and hunting, and they were publicly lambasted. And while I agree that there is a difference between dog fighting and hunting, I would say that its not that big a difference.... BUT

This is not the rhetorical route for Vick to go. Because I believe that many people do not care about dog fighting to the degree the media would have us believe. The truly, picket-carrying outraged are out there--and they will reject Vick no matter what. But I think the majority of the public audience would be willing to give Vick a chance so long as his remorse seems heartfelt (pathos) and as long as he "owns" his misdeed (instead of projecting the wrong-doing onto an era in sports, the stupidity of youth, his brother's pharmacist, etc.). I believe Vick deserves a second chance--and I believe all the rhetorical markers are in place for him to actually get one. What remains to be seen is whether or not he will waste it.


We've Run Out of TV

Meg and I are regular TV watchers, but, through the magic of netflix, we're running out of quality TV. Lost--season over. House--season over. Battlestar Galactica--gone forever (its still to soon for me to talk about it). Dexter--we're all caught up. 4400--cancelled. Criminal Minds--season over. Eureka--Sci-fi still has original programing? United States of Tara--season over. Weeds--new season doesn't start for another month (I think).

We're starting Trueblood soon (I managed to see a few episodes thanks to some free hotel HBO). But, already, I miss my programs. And I miss the regularity of living in New England in the summer time, where the Red Sox are on every night.


I (Still) Love You Papi

This is uncomfortable. I don't want to break up or anything, but I think we need to take a break from each other. Or, at least, think about moving things around. Maybe you could get your own place...

In short: its probably time for the Sox to move Papi out of the three hole in the lineup. His tenure at that spot has outlasted more than a few marriages (the average first marriage to end in divorce reaches 8 years). Papi's been hitting third since 2003-4); over his five years in the most pivotal spot for any batting order, Papi has helped the Sox win two titles and cemented a place in the "Greatest Clutch Hitters of All-Time" department. But...

0-7 with 3ks and 12 LOB hurts. Literally, it hurts me to think about it. Thankfully, the game wasn't televised in Florida yesterday, so I didn't have to watch it. But please, please, Terry, help temper the hurt. You had to do it with Tek last year, and the numbers would indicate its probably time for a change this year, too. Do this to help Papi recover his swing without the added pressures of hitting in the three hole. He's not just in a slump. He's lost his swing, his timing, his mechanics. I hope he can get it back (although his problem seems to stem from bat-speed--meaning its initially physical, not mental). Perhaps he should have had the surgery last season? Perhaps the rumors of PEDs should be paid more heed? Perhaps the whispers that he is an unathletic player who has always relied on natural talent rather than physical training will grow louder? There will certainly be a compulsion to track down the origin of Ortiz's slump. I don't really care why he's struggling--but I don't think we can deny that this struggle is physiological in nature--and I don't think he's likely to pull out of it anytime soon.

Francona's resistance probably stems from the fact that the Sox don't have another powerful lefty on the team--a real rarity for them. Francona is a hard-core discipline of the L-R-L-R lineup, so he'll hesitate to replace Papi with Bay once Youk comes back. This would translate into a line-up of Ellsbury (L), Pedroia (R), Bay (R), Youk (R), Drew (L), Lowell (R), Papi (L). Personally, I don't think having 3 right-handers in a row is as much of a problem as having three left-handers in a row (you don't hear about specialty right-handed relievers, do you?). These are righties who can hit fellow righties--Pedroia's career OPS is higher against righties than lefties, Bay's is only 30 points below, and Youk's OPS vs. righties this year is a solid 1.149 and for his career he only has a .009 differential between R and L. Put simply, these guys can hit anyone--you are not giving up a huge strategic disadvantage by stacking them.

But this is very sad for me--its been awhile since I've been in this position: having to watch a true Boston hero breakdown in the Boston uniform. Lately, thanks to free agency and frugal franchises, my heroes have broken down in other uniforms. Or at least outside of the spotlight. I felt some of this with Varitek last season, but I never primarily valued Tek for his offense--to me, he was a leader, a signal caller, and the guy that punched A-Rod in the face (this alone should secure him induction into the Red Sox Hall of Fame).

Papi, however, was a hitter, a pure (Designated) hitter. His lumbering stance and blood shot eyes symbolized pure intimidation. Now, these symbols are erased by the frustration of check swing dribblers and missed 88 mile an hour fastballs. The pathos of watching him hit right now is overwhelming.

Please, Terry, make it stop. Or at least do something to lessen the pain. 12 LOB. Yeesh.


Lost reference

In the spirit of playing the game (and thus, Casey might say, denying the experience), I'll posit that Jacob reading a book drawing its title from a radical Christian teleologist is probably not coincidental. Especially given Jacob's line about how everything just progresses them toward the end.

So what is Jacob? No idea. Jack: "The machine gets stuck. I guess it just needed a little push."


Some Thoughts on Lost

Before tonight's show, I wanted to share my theory on this season: that Jack has already "missed" his opportunity. I believe the entire series now revolves around Jack saving the young Benjamin Linus, preventing him from ever joining the others. Jack refused to save Linus because he knew, positively, that Linus was evil. Had he believed in Locke (the character not the philosopher--its his allegiance to the positive philosophy that's got him in all this trouble), he might have allowed the other to overflow his certainty, to interrupt his self-assurance. He might have given his-self over, face to face. (You didn't think I would get through this without a trace of Levinas, did you?)

This is why his character now seems so, well, lost. Or useless. He has missed his purpose. My guess is that we will eventually see Jack back in time again, in front of a young dying Benjamin Linus. And by that time he will come to believe in Locke, in something beyond positive knowledge, in taking a chance on something other than what he knows.

On a causal side-note: I believe the island designed Sayid to shoot Linus to present Jack with this opportunity. But, this doesn't actually break a linear possibility for time: in the previous past, Linus could have reached the other's any other way. All I am saying is that the island wants to undo Linus' affiliation with the others (perhaps to purify them?). I believe this reading coincides with how the show is revealing much of the island's history from the others's perspective--and, if you were paying attention last week, implying that, if left to their scientific-utopian devices, the Darhma Initiative likely would have undone the island's space-time continuum.

A final note: I think the fact that Sayid's name can be presented as "Say-id," given his compulsive, animalistic, lustful, and emotional nature is probably not coincidental. Then again, perhaps I'm analyzing this a bit too much.