Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tony Trigilio's coda to our Spirit & Series conversation

I'll be writing my own coda soon.

Hi Susan--
As giddy as I am after Sox’s World Series victory, I’m sorry the Cardinals were the team they beat.  I would’ve much rather seen them win against at a group of ballplayers I disdain.  I could’ve seen ex-Sox villains like Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett moping in the Dodgers’ dugout, and the schadenfreude would’ve been more satisfying than seeing Yadier Molina consoling Michael Wacha after he was leaving the mound after the Sox had blown open the game.  How can a fan not like Wacha, or Molina, a backstop maestro?  Even as I write this opening paragraph, it’s clear to me that baseball is still a space where I allow myself to revel in attachment.  My remarks on Gonzalez, Crawford, and Beckett were literal, not metaphoric, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I really would’ve taken pleasure in their misery, as I did watching A-Rod’s face after Pokey Reese scooped up the final out of the 2004 ALCS and A-Rod realized the Sox had just come back from a 3-0 series deficit and the Yankees had completed the most profound choke in the history of baseball’s postseason.  But, of course, ballplayers are millionaires in Ayn Rand’s America, and they don’t really feel something as strong as “misery,” I think, when they lose.
This baseball fandom—at its worst, it’s like jingoism, and I understand that, at a spiritual level, it can be as obscene as fetishizing a national flag.  Writing about it, though, helps me understand the need to channel our desires rather than try to avoid them.  What happens if I take this desire and, like you did with the giving and receiving of Tonglen practice, turn it into something that is communal rather than divisive.  Putting myself in front of my laptop after every game and writing about my spiritual and psychological reactions—rather than just clicking my heels at a Sox win, or cursing the Sox when they lost (OK, but I’m still holding a grudge against Saltalamacchia)—helped me see, however temporarily, how the energy of my sports fanaticism can be redirected.
I’m sad to see our Spirit & Series exchange ending.  The back-and-forth of our emails helped me avoid a total, unmitigated attachment/addiction to the Sox during their high moments, and prevented the displaced, out-of-body aversion that comes when they look more like WoeSox than Bosox.  But I have a long way to go.  Our cats, Simon and Schuster, kept a wary distance from me during games (all those unpredictable, jerky movements I make during a game—all my shouting when someone hits a homer or obstructs another player from running to home plate—and all they ever want is a little pinch of catnip to smooth the rough edges of the day).  Shimmy was a paranoiac—who could blame her, when G.W. Bush used to break into her litterbox and bury her copy of the Constitution in the sand and clumps of waste—and she had no patience for my postseason clapping and hollering.  She hid under the bed after each game's first clap and shout.  Thank you, by the way, for mentioning her in your recent posting.  Shimmy’s ashes looked down on me with disappointment, I’m sure, that I couldn’t stop cussing when the Sox swung and missed. 
I’m grateful that our exchange spurred me to root around in my imagination—the creative imagination and the spiritual imagination—to try to make peace with baseball attachments while in the act of experiencing them.  After Game 6 ended, Fox showed an image from behind home plate of the final out.  I thought about how often I would sneak into the behind-home-plate seats at Fenway during blowouts or at the end of rain-delayed games—in short, anytime the more well-heeled paying customers had already left.  I remember one time in particular, early 1989, with my dear friend Mitch (who, bless his heart, texted me Saturday from the Sox’s victory parade), when we slid into seats two rows from the backstop in the ninth inning of a Sox/A’s game.  The start of the game had been delayed by rain.  The Sox were up 2-1 in the top of the ninth, and closer Lee Smith was trying to end it.  Dave Parker, instead, bashed a gigantic, game-tying home run over the Wall—one of the most impressive homers I’ve ever seen, and it landed somewhere in western Massachusetts later that morning.  Fox's camera Wednesday showed the same view, behind the plate at Fenway, in their replay of Koji’s final strikeout.  Seeing the Sox jump like giddy children after the final out, feeling the camera shake slightly from the crowd reaction, I realized that I never once envisioned the Sox winning a World Series at Fenway.  No matter how rich my imagination might be, I never thought to imagine what a Series-clinching game would look like at Fenway.  I never visualized what it would be like to see the Sox’s shortstop leap into the air after the final out, with the Wall behind him in left, staid and stoic yet drunkenly eccentric, towering now 37 feet above a World Series win.  All the games I’ve seen at Fenway—and, as I mentioned earlier, all the papers I’ve graded at Fenway—and I never pretended to envision what a World Series clinching win would look like there.  Blake once wrote that “what is now proved was once only imagined.”  But this final shot of Koji reminded me, humbly, that sometimes what is true (in this case, a Sox championship clinched at Fenway) was once absolutely unimaginable. 

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