When Your Mind Cracks in Half, Play Ball!

Koufax Pitches to Mays—Can't We All Just Get Along?

F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Now, F. Scott was probably too busy circling a gin rickey to elaborate precisely what he meant by the ability to function—did he mean the second-rate dualists would put their pants on their heads in the morning, or inadvertently make the sound of a bugle when they meant to ask to have the butter passed? Or did he mean some high-level functioning, such as a captain of industry perhaps being able to fire half his workforce at noon and discuss the hard plight of humankind at afternoon tea?

I ask this not in theory, but in fear. For here in central California, birds are freely speaking their morning minds, and bushes are bountifully budding. It’s the advent of spring, and with it, the ritual beginnings of the most cherished of contests—spring training. Now you might dismiss baseball with a lofty wave, sniff at the prancings of overpaid egotists acting out meaningless maneuvers in a silly sport. But it’s a sport with more than a century of history, its movements and moments have run parallel with the thread of our times, its iconic figures have embodied tragic folly and immortal fame. It’s that history that harkens to my confession, the source of my fear, the undoing of my second-rate intelligence: I am both a Dodgers and a Giants fan.

For those of you who are one or the other, you know my position is an abomination, a fish with wheels, a thing with no moral compass. Two ideas, forever opposed.

History with Heat
You see, the Dodgers and Giants have been feuding for more than 100 years, harkening back to their New York roots, where they vied for the hearts and wallets of National League fans, until both teams were transplanted to the West Coast in 1958. The teams have continued to revile each other since, and it’s been blood sport at times, such as when Juan Marichal took a swing with his bat at John Roseboro’s head, rather than the ball. Being from LA, my team allegiance held steady with the Dodgers, the Boys in Blue, the feisty teams of the 60s filling my dreaming head, with Tommy and Willie Davis, Maury Wills, Wes Parker, Don Drysdale, and the Titan among them all, the incomparable Sandy Koufax, the most dominant pitcher ever.

And yet. My favorite non-pitcher, the person I considered the best baseball player of all time? Willie Mays, a magic man, whose on-field “flow” was matchless, who performed every aspect of the game at magnificent levels, and who smiled while doing it. The only problem was that he was a Giant. And we Dodger fans hated the Giants. Thus, a crack in my intelligence. The crack deepened when I moved up to the Bay Area, and lost access to most of the Dodger broadcasts (those from the mouth of Vin Scully, as glowing in the booth as any of the greatest players on the field) in favor of Giants games. Now I’ve lived up here much longer than I lived down south and I’ve become that sports leper: a Dodger/Giant fan. I’m the thing that I’d suggest shooting years ago.

I’ll Take a Hot Dog with My Schizophrenia, Please
I still cherish my first love, but this is now the air I breathe. (Note that I’m not trying to excuse my disease, but just explain the origin of the condition.) F. Scott might say I’ve lost the ability to function.

For you non-baseball people, at least you don’t recognize just how loathsome I am. Aside from my schizophrenia prompted by these opposed ideas, it’s moving toward spring, and that’s a fine thing.

Play ball!

12 thoughts on “When Your Mind Cracks in Half, Play Ball!

  1. Oh my! Three thoughts, Tom:

    1- “I’m the thing that I’d suggest shooting years ago.” is my favourite phrase of 2012 thus far. Gobsmacking! Thank you for that.

    2- These teams are corporations, in business primarily to make a profit. They trade human beings like cattle. They’ll threaten to move again as soon as their host city doesn’t ante up with whatever they desire, at any time. So relax. Root for both. It’s no different than owning a PC and an iPod. Or perhaps an American Standard toilet with Kohler fittings.

    3- I like both Spitfires and Me 109s. I feel fine.

    Now I’m going to have a Gack&Bacon Ltd Heisenberg Uncertainty Bock, the one with the goat on the label and the goat not on the label. (The same label, that is.)

  2. Hrmph. When I wandered into The Pig & Trebuchet for said beer, I found that the one I was thinking of is actually called Shrodinger’s CatBock, and the label both has, and does not have, a cat on it.

    The other one is their Heisenberg Uncertainty IPA. They’re insanely strong. The idea is, if you have a few of them, you can know where the floor is, but not how fast your face is going to hit it.

  3. Rick, thank you for the sound advice, but there’s nothing sound about sports fans. This is a Hatfield/McCoys–Montegues/Capulets kind of thing. With beer. Though I’m well aware of the pimply corporate underpinnings of professional sports, I do still like the green of the grass, the crack of the bats.

    Speaking of beer, I do wish there was a way to leave a comment with a sound effect. Your second effort did truly deserve a “bah dum dum tss” rejoinder. CatBock indeed.

  4. Thanks Tom. CatBock is going in the book fer sure.

    And, well, you’re quite right, that’s what saves baseball: Bat-Cracking and Grass-Greening. My defenses against the forces of corporate greed and interchangeable treatment of people are:

    -Just pay attention to the game itself, none of the media stuff, dugout drama or contract negotiations, and

    -Go to Minor League games too.

    Heisenberg, by the way, didn’t like baseball at all. He tried to play back in his younger days, but he always swung too early and when fielding he missed a lot of fly balls.

    You know, because of the uncertainty…

  5. OK – this is your big sister talking! Quit trying to legitimatize your flaky position by quoting famous authors! You are just wrong to ever like the Giants! You can like Willie Mays (I like him too) but NEVER the team.
    Now, write something better the next time!
    Love, me

  6. Oh for crying out loud—I knew SHE would have something to say, since her pajamas are Dodger Blue. Lemme see, there must be a filter here somewhere that blanks out comments from your siblings…

  7. Oh dear, seems I’m late to the party, but a fine party it is.

    No need to worry about your baseball mixed feelings. My mom was a Giants fan (back when they were in NY, and was on a Giants radio program once). Now, I’ve transformed her into a Yankee fan. Mwahhhahaa

    CatBock: I’m certain I love it.

  8. Jodi, thank you for sanctioning the horrid hobgoblin of the divided baseball mind (though it still must be some kind of diagnosable condition). I would have loved to have gone to games back in the Polo Grounds, Ebbet’s Field and the old Yankee Stadium for sure.

  9. Heisenweimer was almost right: the teams don’t matter. Just the players, and the game.

    When people ask if I’m a sports fan I say no, I like baseball.

    Rick, if it will stop you telling those jokes, could you go find out why there’s a toilet named after the Bible?

    Segue after segue: during my presentation to a group of fiction authors the other night, while gently mocking everyone’s favorite “publishing through persistence” stories I mentioned the eleven million times Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected, and how God couldn’t get the Bible published until he brought in ghost writers . . .

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