Dubuque: Students of the game

From Patrick Dubuque at The Hardball Times on April 21, 2014:

A while back, a colleague of mine asked me to read a short essay by Walker Percy entitled, “The Loss of the Creature.” Percy wrote his essay about teaching in the way that this essay is written about baseball: he devotes the first half of his essay to talking about vacations. The first person to discover a place, he says, sees it for what it really is, but any followers receive only an incomplete picture, one they must fight to recover. Secondhand knowledge is always an inferior copy.

The situation: Bob goes and sees the Grand Canyon. He takes a tour bus, walks up the edge, looks in, feels appropriately awed, has lunch at a sandwich place, and heads back to Vegas. Bob is pleased by what he experiences, but he does not actually experience the Grand Canyon. Instead, he’s experiencing his own expectations of the Grand Canyon fulfilled, expectations created by movies, television, stories, Wikipedia entries. Not only is he pleased by the view because of how it compares to the postcards, he can’t imagine it without the postcards. They have, through their years of tenancy within Bob’s brain, come to define reality; the actual trip either meets this standard or fails it.

This is what we all encounter when we travel; we want our experience to be authentic, just as we want our lives to be authentic. We stray from the beaten path as far as we can while feeling safe. But we’re constantly shackled by the context with which we define authenticity; as the physicists lament, we change reality by observing it. Since we can’t gain objectivity on our own, we turn to the travel writers, the television hosts, and the experts to define reality for us. We have lost sovereignty over what we consider real; the standard is left to the experts to create and for us merely to interpret.


So, finally, to baseball. And in baseball, it isn’t the science but the numbers that have become, to some degree, magic. I do my best to stay on top of the formulas; I know, for example, what wRC+ represents, even if I had to look up what the w stood for as a refresher. There’s an inevitable conflict between statistics that grow increasingly intricate in their measure of a player’s performance and how accessible that statistic is to the layman.

Read the full article here: http://www.hardballtimes.com/students-of-the-game/

Originally published: April 21, 2014. Last Updated: April 21, 2014.