Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Agony of Victory

In 1888, Edward Bellamy wrote a now-pretty much forgotten book, called Looking Backward. It was set in 2000, in a Utopian future where people didn't have to labor all that much, and they didn't fight or kill each other. He didn't envision eBay, but he did predict a series of tubes that rendered brick and mortar stores obsolete. He didn't envision recorded music on the radio, but he predicted wires that allowed people to listen to live symphonies in their own bedrooms. In addressing the books of the future, it was noted that the authors were especially talented because they were able to construct compelling narratives within the context of a utopia without conflict.

I actually found his concept of a classless utopia easier to comprehend than the idea of great literature without narrative conflict. Now, I don't believe a utopia is possible on this Earth, but for the sake of argument, I wonder if, even if all the components were in place, we would permit ourselves to enjoy a conflict-free existence.

I found myself wondering this, interestingly enough, while reading recent comments made by Milwaukee Brewers catcher Johnny Estrada, regarding fans' attitude toward the team:
It's unbelievable, the mentality here. When I was in Atlanta, they won 14 straight [division] championships. We could lose eight straight and you'd get the same response: 'No big deal.' When you're used to winning, it's a different attitude, a different feeling, a different mentality. Here, it's like a panic zone.
The Brewers haven't had a winning season since the president's father was president. During the depth of that futility, if someone had told me that the Brewers would emerge from those doldrums one season to lead the division for essentially the first four months of the season, I would have assumed that Brewer fans would be ecstatic. After all, considering the years of losing, the attendance numbers the last several years have been remarkable.

This year, attendance has been even more remarkable, but I get the sense that people who go to the games aren't savoring the experience the way that they deserve to. (For a sense of fan attitude, check out this recent on-line chat with an announcer). I get the sense that if the Brewers were in second place right now, creeping up on first, that the mood would be better than being in first place with the second place team creeping up on them.

I think the sports-as-metaphor for life argument is a bit oversimplified at times, but in this case, I find it instructive. It speaks to a general nervousness inherent in humanity, as if we were hard-wired to not enjoy prosperity. Then again, the Brewers just blew a 6-0 lead to lose 7-6 as I was writing this. Maybe we are subconsciously aware that being in first place, in baseball or in life, is not always what is seems to be.


Blogger Enjoy_Every_Sandwich said...

I think sports are overrated. I know this isn't what the article was about. My mom and I went to watch my 12 year old cousin play soccer and we were both thinking that we couldn't believe we were cheering at a sporting event.
By the way, my cousin's team won the city championship.

10:49 PM  

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