Baseball, like any institution has always needed an inventory of necessary myths that sustain it, somehow invoke deity status, and some form of the exceptional that can be woven into the fabric of empire, and by extension claim a piece of patchwork, like a giant quilt, onto the artificial fabrication we call Western Civilization. Baseball seems to fit this model, which is not primarily about athletic prowess but more about the machinery of distribution and sale, the use of monopoly power geared towards large-scale display and its contribution to that great American trait, that of putting an endearing and good face upon trade. Like most sports, the pursuit and fandom accorded is basically irrational, chasing down the spine of our psyche into realms that today could be considered Society of the Spectacle material, but actually as Debord had read, ideological weapons and tools of social control.
Thorstein Veblen described fan partisanship as another example of the barbarian origin of sports, something akin to the irrational patriotism and jingoism invoked by the powers that be to further national interests, basically of those at the top of the pyramid. Veblen claimed that addiction to sports called for a near pathological taste for futility and a substantial component of fantasy. How else can one explain the Cubs? Also,loyalty to a club cannot be understood by models of rational choice. In the same way that racism in baseball could not be understood. Bart Giamatti once said that the game is designed to break your heart. While the taste of victory is fleeting and empty. The question has been asked by people like Joe Queenan, as to why we persist in time-consuming activity that inevitably succumbs to bitter misery. Other than fulfilling some odd attachment we have to the notion of innocence, the innocence industry, or following the results as release valve for some sort of trauma, there is not a definitive response.
Personally, the mythology of baseball, spawns a sort of basic philosophy, providing the function of The Storyteller, that Walter Benjamin wrote about, the old art that had been supplanted by mass media.The bizarre language of a Yogi Berra or Casey Stengel, and the musings of a Durocher seem more pertinent and debunking of the artificial notion of Western Civilization than wading through tomes of Hegel, Kant and John Stuart Mill. There can be more said of Itzak Perlman shouting his lungs out at a Mets game than the Queen at the Irish Sweepstakes. Call it historical progress and the invisible connecting thread between the dugout and the clubhouse.
Durocher: I started by quoting the famous Rickey statement: “He can’t hit, he can’t run, he can’t field, he can’t throw. He can’t do a goddamn thing, Frank—but beat you.” He might not have as much ability as some of the other players, I said, but every day you got 100 percent from him and he was trying to give you 125 percent. “Sure, they call him the Brat and the Mobile Muskrat and all of that,” I was saying, and just at that point, the Giants, led by Mel Ott, began to come out of their dugout to take their warm-up. Without missing a beat, I said, “Take a look at that Number Four there. A nicer guy never drew breath than that man there.” I called off his players’ names as they came marching up the steps behind him, “Walker Cooper, Mize, Marshall, Kerr, Gordon, Thomson. Take a look at them. All nice guys. They’ll finish last. Nice guys. Finish last.” Read More:http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/173887.html
“I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a zebra. I’m the manager of this team, and I say he plays. What’s more, I say he can make us all rich. And if any of you cannot use the money, I will see that you are traded.” – Leo Durocher, settling the issue of Dodger players refusing to associate with Jackie Robinson in 1947 Read More:http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Leo_Durocher
( See link at end): Leo Durocher’s playing days had been anything but boring. It had been rumored that the Yankees had let him go because Leo had a propensity for stealing things out of the locker room. As a member of the Cardinals, Leo Durocher had caused the team to be boycotted by trade unions after Durocher, who had already obtained a more appropriate nickname, “Leo the Lip”, had made antiunion statements in regards to his wife’s dress business. In 1936, Casey Stengal, the future Hall of Fame leader of the Yankees but then in charge of the Dodgers, met Leo Durocher under the stan
o settle their disagreements about the game just played. Stengal came away with a bloody lip. In July of 1939, Leo Durocher spiked Giants’ first sacker Zeke Bonura, prompting Zeke to chase Leo down the right field line before tackling him. After the melee was broken up, Leo Durocher exclaimed, “If that big clown hadn’t got his foot in my way, I wouldn’t have been close to him.”
… A wild 1940 brouhaha at Ebbets Field, caused in great part by Leo Durocher, resulted in the Dodger’s manager being suspended and fined. In 1941, only his third year as their manager, Leo Durocher took the Brooklyn Dodgers to their third National League pennant, but first since 1920. The Dodgers finished at 100-54, on the strength of Dolph Camilli’s 34 home runs and 120 RBI and the hitting of Joe Medwick and Pete Reiser. Of Medwick, Leo Durocher said admiringly, “That Joe Medwick never lost a debate in his life, mostly because he didn’t bother. He was a one man rampage.”
The 1941 World Series was lost to the Yankees, with Leo Durocher and his Dodgers suffering three tough losses. The Dodgers would have only one losing season under Leo Durocher, the 1944 war-torn season, but things were always lively. Troubles with insubordinate players that nearly caused his own team to walk out on him, run-ins with umpires, and doing anything to give himself an advantage made Leo Durocher the press darling. In one game in 1944, with both the Giants and Dodgers out of the pennant race, Medwick, now playing for the Giants, had to leave the game when hit on the elbow. Durocher told the Giants he would allow Medwick to reenter the game if he could choose who was to run for him. The Giants agreed; Leo Durocher chose the slowest player the Giants had, illustrating his desire to gain every advantage he could. Indeed, Leo Durocher once was quoted as saying, “If I were playing third base and my mother were rounding third with the run that was going to beat us, I’d trip her. Oh, I’d pick her up and brush her off and say, ‘Sorry, Mom,’ but nobody beats me.” Read More:http://voices.yahoo.com/leo-durocher-his-controversial-career-baseball-41009.html
So the researchers went back to Thorstein Veblen, who coined the term conspicuous consumption. Writing in the much poorer world of 1899, Veblen argued that people spent lavishly on visible goods to prove that they were prosperous. “The motive is emulation—the stimulus of an invidious comparison which prompts us to outdo those with whom we are in the habit of classing ourselves,” he wrote. Along these lines, the economists hypothesized that visible consumption lets individuals show strangers they aren’t poor. Since strangers tend to lump people together by race, the lower your racial group’s income, the more valuable it is to demonstrate your personal buying power.
To test this idea, the economists compared the spending patterns of people of the same race in different states—say, blacks in Alabama versus blacks in Massachusetts, or whites in South Carolina versus whites in California. Sure enough, all else being equal (including one’s own income), an individual spent more of his income on visible goods as his racial group’s income went down. African Americans don’t necessarily have different tastes from whites. They’re just poorer, on average. In places where blacks in general have more money, individual black people feel less pressure to prove their wealth. Read More:http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/inconspicuous-consumption/6845/