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About Jon
Thank You For Not ...

1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
2) personally attacking other commenters
3) baiting other commenters
4) arguing for the sake of arguing
5) discussing politics
6) using hyperbole when something less will suffice
7) using sarcasm in a way that can be misinterpreted negatively
8) making the same point over and over again
9) typing "no-hitter" or "perfect game" to describe either in progress
10) being annoyed by the existence of this list
11) commenting under the obvious influence
12) claiming your opinion isn't allowed when it's just being disagreed with

New Year's Irresolution
2007-02-01 13:40
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

[I originally wrote this just before New Year's Day, then held onto it because I thought perhaps it just didn't hit the right tone. But on an otherwise idle Dodger Thursday, I reread it over lunch and thought I'd throw it out there...]

In the film Blood Diamond, there's a scene in which Jennifer Connelly's journalist character Maddy Bowen mocks the impotence of her own work. Her articles about the victims of African conflict diamonds (diamonds smuggled to support one side or another in war) will jerk a tear, maybe even generate financial aid, but they ultimately won't be enough to dent the overwhelming hopelessness of the situation.

Writing about evil is not enough, Bowen argues. It can have meaning, but to actually combat evil, it has to have the facts that can bring down the criminals. It has to directly affect change.

Now, films about serious issues, films that point out the horrors of the world, films that shout at you to act and rightfully pronounce you guilty for ignoring the problem, do have the power of making you question your attention to sports, of fiddling at the ballpark while Rome is burning. Ultimately, this is something many of us make peace with, regardless of our proactive contributions to society. We conclude that we're entitled to some pleasure in our lives, some frivolity. If we can't have fun, what's the point?

Furthermore, for all its flaws, sport itself can be a valuable endeavor, reaching and teaching the young (and sometimes old) in ways straightforward schooling might not, as well as providing an outlet for our desires and frustrations.

But how much sports is too much, especially when sports is the end in and of itself?

The question seems trite to me from almost every angle, but is it wrong for me to ask myself (not for the first time) whether the amount of time I spend on baseball is justifiable? And whatever skill I bring to this writing about baseball, whatever small contribution I make, how would it not be better if I directed it elsewhere (unless the skill itself is directly connected to baseball, and doesn't transfer)?

Even if it is just writing and not acting.

The simple answer is that obviously, there are better things to do with our time than baseball. The larger answer is that we are not going to eliminate the pleasure principle. It's as immutable as, well, evil. Utopia doesn't exist.

We compromise, but somehow, the compromise isn't balanced right. Somehow, I feel I should find a way to channel more personal resources to making the world a better place. I just never seem to do it. You could argue that I have excuses or that it's inexcusable.

On a small level, I used to throw money at the problem - $25-$50 checks to any number of charities. But with the growing family, that's actually become more painful to do.

Anyway, there's a neighborhood meeting coming up about whether the local community can do anything to improve the state of our public junior high and high school. I'm going to go, on a night that I would otherwise be home writing or watching television. Maybe it'll be the start of something. Maybe it'll be nothing.

Comments
2007-02-01 13:52:25
1.   dkminnick
First post!

Actually, since the Dodgers have priced me out of my season tickets, I have more money to spend on charities!

2007-02-01 13:57:23
2.   Ken Arneson
I was thinking about this the other day, when Scott Adams over on the Dilbert Blog asked about "mild superpowers": http://tinyurl.com/yrqjx7

I mean, what good does it do the world if your superpower is the ability to write better baseball limericks than anyone else? Nobody ever cries out, "Write a limerick, save the world." My life is nothing but humbug, I guess.

2007-02-01 14:19:09
3.   Bumsrap
I think LA keeps baseball in good perspective and certainly does this better than any other city. Is this mere opinion? No, it is based on the number of beach balls seen at Dodger Stadium, which has a bbps of .1755
2007-02-01 15:00:58
4.   Jacob L
I think 2004 was the apex in terms of letting baseball get way out of whack in my life. I had three things I was into that summer and fall:

1. I wanted for my wife to get pregnant,
2. I wanted a particular outcome in the presidential election (trying to say this within the confines of rule #5), and
3. I wanted the Dodgers to win the division.

I can say that I wanted these things equally. I can also say that I got 2 out of 3, which aint bad. Since then, however, the Dodgers and baseball, while still a big deal to me, have receded in importance, and been put in a perspective that I think is appropriate. The reasons:

1. I'm a parent now. That puts everything in perspective.
2. I ain't getting any younger.
3. For reasons that have been discussed here ad nauseum, the Dodgers just aren't as interesting, or rather, my own interest isn't as vested as it used to be. Along those same lines, being active in DT commenting in 2004 was special. I don't mean to say that its not special now, but I think you reach a point where you've been participating long enough that you don't hang on every word anymore.

Great post, Jon.

2007-02-01 15:35:05
5.   Jon Weisman
4 - I have deduced Jacob's presidential political views through deduction.

Franquelis Osoria news - he was DFAed by Pittsburgh already.

2007-02-01 15:45:15
6.   Andrew Shimmin
Imagine what it's like for people who don't contribute to society in any positive way. Like D4P, for example; how does he not just kill himself?

I just finished David Brooks' second book; there's a chapter in which he expounds on the dichotomy of cosmic blondes and cosmic brunettes. Cosmic blondes don't think about things like this; they lead unexamined lives, and think anything unpleasant must necessarily be unimportant. Cosmic brunettes are introspective and find cosmic blondes philosophically insufferable. I'm a cosmic bald; I resent anyone with hair, of whatever color.

2007-02-01 15:50:28
7.   Andrew Shimmin
I predict loud cheers from the Jacob L. house on Oscar night. It's not what one may have hoped for, but, something, anyway.
2007-02-01 15:51:00
8.   scareduck
Therefore, the lesson we learn, after watching "An Inconvenient Truth", is that we should all shut down our blogs (running 24/7 on electricity-hungry server farms) and go back to publishing on paper. Some very large percentage of our electrical generation is done with coal-fired plants, about the worst generator of CO2 around.
2007-02-01 15:53:04
9.   Marty
I'm a cosmic bald

I am simpatico with Mr. Shimmin

2007-02-01 16:02:16
10.   Jon Weisman
8 - That would certainly free up some time for me.
2007-02-01 16:45:12
11.   Andrew Shimmin
8- Maybe it's Clean Coal. . .?

People born here, or in places like this one, in this era were born luckier than most anybody, ever. It's vaguely important to recognize this, but what follows from that is tricky. Nobody is better off if the lucky forgo their luck over feeling guilty about it. It's not transferable. I give what I can and never feel too proud about it (this is very easy for me as pride over what I give would be proof of severe mental illness), and take what I can get without feeling too bad over it.

A good guide, to my mind, is a golden rule derivative. If you'd begrudge someone else's caring about baseball as much as you do, then you should stop caring so much. This is good for two reasons; it's mostly fair, and maybe useful; also, were they to adopt it, it would keep the niggardly and self-righteous from ever being happy.

2007-02-01 16:45:30
12.   Jacob L
7 Oscar night is my birthday. How did you know?
2007-02-01 16:56:59
13.   Andrew Shimmin
12- In addition to being an holistic healer, I dabble in soothsaying. That little taste is on the house, but feel free to send me large sums of money for a private reading, in which all will be revealed.
2007-02-01 17:26:03
14.   LAT
Andrew, you are a funny guy-especially in post 12. As for post 11: A good guide, to my mind, is a golden rule derivative. If you'd begrudge someone else's caring about baseball as much as you do, then you should stop caring so much.

This is similiar to what I tell my children (11 and 12 yrs old). I tell them that if they are questioning their own behavior they should take a deep breath and then view their conduct as a movie where they are sitting in the audience. Would they like what they see on the screen. If so, continue. If not change it.

2007-02-01 17:46:03
15.   Jon Weisman
I give that tantrum two thumbs down!
2007-02-01 19:13:58
16.   diamond
check out
www.baseballinafrica.org

http://www.baseballinafrica.org/orphans.asp

and get involved -

especially in Mozambique -

children from this orphanage were extras in the film Blood Diamond

2007-02-01 21:24:50
17.   popup
I know Jon does not like long quotes, but sorry I just can't quote Roger Angell in a soundbite (Vin doesn't play all that well in soundbites either, strange how that works):

"And so the swing of things was won back again. Carlton Fisk, leading off the bottom of the twelfth against Pat Darcy, the eighth Reds pitcher of the night-- it was well into morning now, if fact-- socked the second pitch up and out, farther and farther into the darkness above the lights, and when it came down at last, reilluminated, it struck the topmost, innermost edge of the screen inside the yellow left-field foul pole and glanced sharply down and bounced on the grass: a fair ball, fair all the way. I was watching the ball, of course, so I missed what everyone on television saw-- Fisk waiving wildly, weaving and writhing and gyrating along the first-base line, as he wished the ball fair, forced it fair with his entire body. He circled the bases in triumph, in sudden company with several hundred fans, and jumped on home plate with both feet, and John Kiley, the Fenway Park organist, played Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus," fortissimo, and then followed with other appropriately exuburent classical selections, and for the second time that evening I suddenly remembered all my old absent and distant Sox-afflicted friends (and all the other Red Sox fans, all over New England), and I thought of them-- in Brookline, Mass., and Brooklin Maine; in Beverly Farms and Mashpee and Presque Isle and North Conway and Damasariscotta; in Pomfret, Connecticut, and Pomfret, Vermont; in Wayland and Providence and Revere and Nashua, and in both the Concords and all five Manchesters; and in Raymond, New Hampshire (where Carlton Fisk lives), and Bellows Falls, Vermont (where Carlton Fisk was born), and I saw them dancing and shouting and kissing and leaping about like the fans at Fenway--jumping up and down in their bedrooms and kitchens and living rooms, and in bars and trailers, and even in some boats here and there, I suppose, and on back-country roads (a lone driver getting the news over the radio and blowing his horn over and over, and finally pulling up and getting out and leaping up and down on the cold macadem, yelling into the night), and all of them, for once at least, utterly joyful and believing in that joy--alight with it.

It should be added, of course, that very much the same sort of celebration probably took place the following night in the midlands towns and vicinities of the Reds' supporters-- in Otterbein and Scioto; in Frankfurt, Sardina, and Summer Shade; in Zanesville and Louisville and Akron and French Lick and Loveland. I am not enough of a social geographer to know if the faith of the Red Sox fan is deeper or hardier than that of a Reds rooter (although I secretly believe that it may be, because of his longer and more bitter disappointments down the years). What I do know is that this belongong and caring is what our games are all about; that this is what we come for. It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially explotative as a professional sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-sports fan directs at the sports nut (I know this look-- I know it by heart) is understadable and almost unanswerable. Almost. What is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring-- caring deeply and passionately, really caring--which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naivete-- the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the haphazardous flight of a distant ball-- seems a small price to pay for such a gift."

I couldn't have said it better and in fact I don't think anyone else could either.

Stan from Tacoma

2007-02-01 21:25:45
18.   Daniel Zappala
Nice, thoughtful message Jon. I don't know that I can make a change on a global level, e.g. to change the dire circumstances in another country or make a big difference in global warming. Instead, I do try to make a big difference in the lives of individuals I interact with every day. This of course starts with my own family, and I try to do a lot for them, from cooking dinner to helping with homework or going on family outings. I'm lucky enough that my day job has relevance too, since I'm helping students learn, become better writers, and contribute to science. In my spare time, I am the scoutmaster for my son's troop and I help people discover their ancestors through genealogy. I am involved with my neighbors, my city, and my church. I'm not saying this to brag, not in the least, but it's how I see myself doing things for good, and not letting myself be defined by leisure time that is purely self-directed.
2007-02-01 22:22:56
19.   El Lay Dave
In my career, I never see the people that are directly affected by the products I have a hand in designing and producing. I can only trust that they have the impact we think they supposed to have and that they are having an overall positive impact on the world around us, but I have little idea how big or little that truly is.

Similarly, I think we don't know what sorts of impacts we have on other's lives, and I choose to believe those are mostly positive.

For most of us, there are people who have had a great influence on our lives who likely have little-to-no knowledge of how they affected us. A middle school teacher planting a seed in our minds, a film director leaving an indelible impact on our psyche, a grizzled industry veteran showing us the ropes, passing acquaintences demonstrating tremendous graces in trying circumstances - this works both ways, sometimes we are they and they are we.

I also start locally, and being a father builds in some of the opportunities. There's always school or other social functions needing volunteer efforts, some time-consuming, some not.

My daughter is now 17 and trying to survive the extended awkward-colt teenage years, but soon to be bolting into the pastures on her own (hopefully) steady legs, but I've tried to make the most of my fatherhood by showing her through words and actions what I think the important values are and how I can act to uphold them. If I did a good job, maybe she'll go on to be a highly influential person, either on a large scale or a local one.

(I think I'm rambling now; I should leave the heavy writing to the professionals!)

2007-02-02 00:56:03
20.   Sushirabbit
I'm with Stan.

I find my community of "friends" diminished in marriage and fatherhood (not in small part due in fact to the theory of anthro-centric C02 forcing models). Which sort of ties in to the Connelly character ...sometimes the more you do and/or know actually just makes you feel more impotent instead of accomplished.

Anyway, sports, and going to games, etc, sometimes seems a bit "churchy" to me. On the face of it... well, hell, Stan's right Angell says it best.

2007-02-02 01:02:55
21.   Sushirabbit
PS:

DT makes the perfect refreshment to waking up at 1:30 am and finishing ones taxes.

All of the worlds decent parents deserve the same sort of passionate appreciation any ballplayer ever gets. Fortunately those people usually don't need recognition. But you know who you are. WhooHoo! to you!

2007-02-02 09:57:29
22.   njr
Jon,

This was a wonderful post, and sparked some great comments. Interestingly it validates itself-- any place having this kind of discussion is a forum worth having. Dodgerthoughts has created a space in which thoughtfulness, caring, and depth are greatly valued, and there are not enough of those in our culture.
On a separate note I understand your anxiety about not doing enough in the world and I share it. I was speaking years ago to someone who runs a supportive housing network for formerly homeless people in New York and she said to me, "We're the ones who have it easy, because when we wake up in the morning we know we're making the world a better place. It's much easier." It was in no way an idictment, but rather a confession.

2007-02-02 13:50:24
23.   Frip
Jon: "But banning batting average is neither necessary nor fun. We can enjoy batting average, as unhealthy as it is, just for the taste - like a double cheeseburger, rather than as part of a nutritious diet."

I can live with that.

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