I always take at least a small interest in the World Series. That’s a holdover from my boyhood, when it really mattered a lot, because (like most kids) I was brainwashed.
I know better now, but it’s still fun to root for a team, a uniform – to imagine that one set of colors is somehow more deserving or at least less offensive than the other.
This year was tough because I found both teams offensive – the Atlanta Braves for their racist name and appalling “tomahawk chop” cheer, and the Houston Astros because they cheated in the Series a few years ago (look it up) and they’re from Texas, and I have some issues right now with Texas.
Anyway, what’s really astonishing about the World Series, and the National Football League, and the National Basketball Association is the massive, madly riveted crowds they draw — not just the hundreds of thousands who pack the stands, but also the tens of millions who watch on TV, as well as the untold tens of thousands who gather together in public places to watch on huge screens and scream their heads off as one.
Of course there was a much, MUCH bigger game going on this past week in Glasgow, Scotland, where world leaders met to figure out if they really want to save human civilization from catastrophic climate change, and if there is even a way to do that.
But relatively few eyes were on that game, compared to the World Series.
We Americans don’t just escape reality – we escape it fiercely, with great conviction and enthusiasm.
(I bet if someone took a survey, they would find that something like ten times as many Americans could name the teams who just played in the World Series as could name which country hosted the global climate summit. No way of knowing of course; that’s just my gut feeling.)
A Different Game
Now I want to tell a very vague story, with as few details as possible – only the bare minimum to get the gist of it across.
So here’s the situation. I am a member of a small team working to create an event. There is also a certain person involved, in a relatively indirect but significant way, with whom I recently had an unpleasant conversation.
If I choose not to speak to this person again, the event can still go forward, though that could make it more difficult – emotionally and logistically — for one or two of my project partners. And it could also conceivably make it more difficult for the event to succeed.
The idea of re-engaging with the individual in question is distasteful to me. At first I thought I should do it – that is, set my personal feelings aside and do what’s best for everyone concerned. But then I thought, “Wait a minute. Does it really ultimately work for the good of all if I don’t honor myself? Maybe I should simply let the cards fall as they will, rather than dilute my integrity by ‘negotiating’ with this person whom I dislike.”
But then I thought about President Biden, and all the people he deals with – some of whom he must revile – as he confronts the hard reality of climate change at home and in the international arena. He must detest some of those world leaders. Maybe he feels he has to abase himself to negotiate with them — not to mention the likes of Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, of whom he speaks respectfully in public, even as they undermine his stature and play capriciously with his agenda. In order to accomplish anything, the guy has to keep eating his pride. At least that’s what it looks like to me.
I like Biden. Here’s a guy who walks around with a bunch of holes in his heart (metaphorically). You don’t recover from wounds like his. He’s not in government service for his ego.
And to be effective on behalf of the public he seeks to serve, he has to communicate levelly and respectfully with dishonorable individuals of all stripes.
So who am I to stand on ceremony? It’s not self-disrespect to do something uncomfortable (even if it feels a little icky) for a worthy cause. Down with purity! Up with elasticity!
They call it “sausage making” in politics – the art of getting something done. I’m a vegetarian so the phrase “sausage making” grosses me out a little, but that phrasing is just another little compromise I can live with.
The Biggest Game
I’ve been thinking lately about this concept of “showing up.” I probably shouldn’t quote Woody Allen – his fall from grace has been unsettling and glaringly public, but he is the guy who said “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Words to live by, if I’ve ever heard any.
So how do we show up, and what do we show up for?
What is worth showing up for?
If life can be framed as a variety of games, what are the games that really matter to us?
Another View (from Susan)
Marc, I think you’re a little hard on sports fans! It took me a long time to figure out that sports are wonderful because they’re so real, and so meaningless, at the same time. On the one hand, individual people using their minds, skills, bodies. What’s more real (or fascinating) than that?
On the other, the goal is generally meaningless (a trophy? seriously?) and possibly somewhat absurd, and the winning or losing is utterly inconsequential in the general scheme of what matters.
Hence, the beauty of sport. The ability to absorb oneself in a very real competition… that has zero real-world consequences… is a luxury. And one that even the least advantaged can usually enjoy.