Today is the seventh anniversary of my being a full-time baseball writer. When NBC hired me I had been practicing law for 11 years, always in downtown offices. Since November 30, 2009, however, I have worked from home. If you’re curious, I wrote about how that all happened a few years ago.
As far as jobs go it’s wonderful. NBC has been nothing but fantastic to me over the years and the notion that I get paid to watch and talk about baseball all day has not lost its obvious appeal. Most old sayings are bunk, but I’ve been lucky enough to be able to live the one about how, if you choose a job you love, you will never have to work a day in your life.
But it is still a job. It’s easy to forget that sometimes, but it is. And, if anything, the fact that baseball writing is comprised of my favorite pastimes (i.e. baseball and writing) presents no small amount of danger. How do you keep a work-life balance when your work consists of your favorite activities?
There has been a lot said lately about fake news, echo chambers and bubbles. A big part of that involves how, rather than obtaining information, people consume news a source of confirmation of their ideological biases, which in turn leads to polarization and things like people believing that a New York real estate developer who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth is the savior of The Common Man.
It’s hard to identify let alone stop this pernicious pattern, but today I got a great view of how it starts. In my little world of baseball news of all places
On November 18, 1991, I was a little over two months into my freshman year of college and I wasn’t having a great time of it. School itself was going OK, but I was not fitting in at all with my obnoxious roommates. I missed my girlfriend, who was back home. I was also, generally speaking, feeling down and blue and gloomy. I didn’t realize it at the time and wouldn’t for years, but I was going through a depressive episode, the likes of which I’ve experienced on and off since I was 16. It was just a bad time all around.
An album helped lift my spirits.
We’ve heard much lately about how liberals live in a bubble. About how they fail to understand people different than they are and, to the extent they do have impressions of conservatives, middle Americans and the working class, they come by virtue of caricature and exaggeration via stereotype and pop culture. They are told that they do not understand “Real Americans.”
It's a two-way street. Let's talk about both ways. And let's talk about our lack of community despite a fully-connected society.
It’s easy for me to say this now because my preferred candidate just lost in the Electoral College despite winning the popular vote. I thus appreciate that it looks self-serving for me to say this.
I have, however, been opposed to the Electoral College since I first studied it in depth 25 years ago and would be no less opposed to it if the situation were reversed. You can choose to believe that or not. If you don’t, you won’t care about anything else I write here and will assume I am viewing this through a partisan lens. If that’s the case you may as well move along and save yourself some time.
It is, however, a fact that I would be against the Electoral College even if it had elected Clinton despite Trump winning the popular vote. I’m against it even when it does not work such anomalous results. As I said the other day, Donald Trump is the fairly-elected President of the United States. I do not claim that he was illegitimately elected. This is the system we have and both he and Clinton knew it going in. The results will stand. And they should.
But the system should not stand.
It is Kurt Vonnegut’s birthday. My favorite book of his is “Mother Night.” It begins, in its very first paragraph, with its moral: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
Ever since I read those words, I have done whatever I can to live my life by them. I cannot think of a better time to revisit them than this moment in history.
Of all of the things one can do in response to Trump being elected, one of the least useful and, indeed, counterproductive things is to claim that he is “not my president” or to otherwise deny his legitimacy. He won the election, full stop. For better or worse, he will soon be the leader of our nation. He will be the 45th President of the United States in an election that, whatever shortcomings our process entails, was legitimate under the law as it currently stands.
While it is, in my mind, imperative that we address the shortcomings in our election process, of which there are many, the more pressing and immediate business of those who oppose Donald Trump is to combat his policies as aggressively and effectively as democracy and pluralism allow.
One of the things I’m most fascinated with at the moment is just how much of the political commentariat’s conventional wisdom has been completely and utterly voided by the election of Donald Trump.
Off the top of my head, the following tried and true talking points of political pundits has been rendered total nonsense:
In baseball, each November and December, a host of teams immediately start copying whatever the World Series winner did. It doesn’t matter what their philosophy was a few short months before. Upon the crowing of a new champion, teams will be described as doing things “The Cubs Way” or “The Royals Way” or “The Giants Way.”
Maybe it’s about relying on a stacked bullpen. Maybe it’s about tearing things down and building around cost-controlled superstars drafted as a result of the team tanking for a couple of seasons. Maybe it’s about mid-priced veterans, defense up the middle or “Moneyball,” whatever form it is being said to take in any particular year. It doesn’t matter what is is, really. Once someone is successful in baseball, a dozen or more teams will attempt to ape what they did for the simple reason that it worked. Some will win with their aped approach, some won’t. But coaches and executives from the successful teams will fan out across baseball and exert influence on organizations who want to do what they did. People will play follow-the-leader because everyone wants to be the leader and what better way to become one than to emulate that which is successful?
Neither you nor I know what caused the debacle that was last night’s election. Not definitively, anyway. We can certainly all point to the many factors which contributed to this horrible set of events, but we cannot and should not point at any one thing and say “That! That is to blame!” for America giving the presidency for the person least fit to hold it in our 240-year history.
My country looked a narcissistic, bigoted, xenophobic, pathologically-lying sexual predator right in the eyes for a year. And then it said “Yep, that’s the man we want to lead us.”
Time does not always equal progress. We are capable of fucking this country and this world up beyond repair. I fear that we took a huge step forward toward doing so yesterday. I don’t know what else to say.