Rowley: Jose Fernandez and our year of magical thinking

From SABR member Meg Rowley at Baseball Prospectus on September 29, 2016:

The world can be oppressive. The grim reality of it can trap us and hem us in. It makes it hard to breathe, and limits us with grief. In The Year of Magical Thinking, her memoir on the passing of her husband, Joan Didion writes, “Grief is different. Grief has no distance. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life.” We have our routines and then grief breaks them. It’s right there in the room with us. Grief cancels baseball games, and obliterates their routine when they are played. Grief by its presence reminds us that Jose Fernandez died on the rocks at age 24. Grief gets close, and interferes with reason. Grief, Didion tells us, leads to magical thinking.

We engage in magical thinking all the time. Sometimes it is little, more imagination than actual magic. We imagine we’ll become major leaguers. We imagine that we’ll attend church more regularly. That we’ll remember to call our moms.

We do it during moments big and small; we indulge the idea that we’ll be better people, or win the lottery and forget our financial woes, or always be able to make plans because the people we love will never die on us. Cars won’t cross medians, and blood vessels won’t burst, and our hearts won’t fail us. Especially after the people we love are gone, we imagine our hearts won’t fail us. We’re always making little bargains with time, and expecting time to keep them, and for magic to enforce the deal. We believe in bits of magic major and minor, close to things as they play out and very far from reality, and we do it because the crush is too exhausting otherwise. We need the magic.

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Originally published: September 29, 2016. Last Updated: September 29, 2016.