2 Legit Part 5

Earlier on, I called America’s frontier self-governance “football hooligan democracy.”  “Baseball team democracy” is better, because baseball is a metaphor for America.  (Since it seems we must do the Ken Burns thing, here’s a sepia-toned photograph of old ballplayers.  You’ll have to provide the goopy music yourself, and read this in Morgan Freeman’s voice).

Everything that happens in the game is individual.  The batter, of course, is all alone — it’s just his talent, training, knowledge, and experience versus the talent, training, knowledge, and experience of the opponent’s nine guys.  But everything else that happens is also the sole result of individuals’ talent, training, knowledge, and experience.  Simplifying just a little: The catcher is solely responsible for the type of pitch that’s thrown.  The pitcher alone is responsible for the quality of the pitch (velocity, movement, location).  If the pitch is hit — the sole responsibility of the batter — then the fielder alone is responsible for fielding it.  All of these are individual actions, performed by individuals.

And yet… as anyone who has ever played Little League knows, a baseball team is more than a collection of individuals, doing individual things.  The catcher must know his pitcher.  The right pitch in this situation might be a curveball low and away, but maybe the pitcher doesn’t have it tonight.  The catcher who calls for the curve low and away anyway — because all else equal, the pitcher is capable of throwing that pitch — won’t be a catcher for long (and the pitcher who can’t throw all his pitches consistently, on command, won’t be a pitcher much longer).  The best catch-and-throw in the world from the third baseman is meaningless if the first baseman can’t get to his base in time (or can’t handle the throw when it arrives).  Even the batter — the loneliest guy on the field — has other responsibilities than just trying to hit the ball as hard as he can.  He, too, must know the situation and swing accordingly… or even not swing, as the situation demands.  Here too, even the best hitter who swings away without reference to his team won’t be a hitter for long.

And yet… selfless, team-first guys won’t last, either, unless they’re individually very skilled.  All the euphemisms for selfless, team first guys — “field general,” “player-coach,” or the dreaded “veteran locker room presence” — all decode to “this guy stinks.”  A good manager can work with a certain level of “veteran leadership,” but a team full of great locker room guys will be as bad as — honestly, probably a lot worse than — a team of me-first prima donnas.

I hope this digression into baseball arcana (and I hope foreign readers followed ok) hasn’t obscured two important facts about baseball:

  1. There’s a minimum skill level involved; and
  2. The team has a clear, obvious goal.

The higher up the ladder you go, the more 1) applies.  A small town high school team might have to put the only 9 guys it has out there, regardless of skill level.  Even low-level professional teams, by contrast, are full of top-tier talent.  Every single guy who makes even a low-minor roster was the best player on his team in Little League, in high school, in the whole school district, in fact, if not the entire state… and often the best player on his team in college, too.  There’s nobody playing pro baseball, in other words — no matter how “minor” the league — who isn’t really really really really really good at baseball.*

The political parallel is obvious, and it’s the reason I keep banging on about this “human biodiversity” (HBD) stuff.  Representative government, too, requires a certain “skill level” from its voters.  Are we a small town high school team, or are we the Major Leagues?  As we have enough nuclear weapons to incinerate the solar system, I really hope we’re the Majors.  Which means…..

But let’s not forget 2).  What is our goal?

The political parallel is less obvious: It’s legitimacy.  A baseball team exists to win baseball games.  “Winning baseball games” is the one thing from which all others flow.  No matter how great the team is for the community — and I’m sure the good people of Boonton really loved their ball club (pictured above) — they can’t continue to exist without winning games.  Whatever else our government does, then, it’s core function is….what?  Identify that, then see if the government is actually doing it.

If it is, no problem.  If not… well, ask the guys from Boonton.



*One of the advantages of going to a third-rate state college, I’ve found, is that you get a much broader experience of people.  My school was full of folks who were “just giving college a try” — lots of ex-military, lots of older folks who were taking classes for self-improvement, etc.  And lots of former minor league baseball players, who went straight from high school to the minors and didn’t make it.  These guys were the ringers on intramural softball teams, and holy guacamole.  I remember playing against a guy who wore huge, clunky braces on both knees.  He’d been a prospect, but suffered one of those horrific injuries that show up on ESPN.  He was still ungodly compared to the rest of us, even the former high school athletes among us — he played shortstop, for instance, even though every single guy on his team could beat him in a foot race.**

**For foreign readers; “Shortstop” is the toughest position to play in baseball.  Even most guys who play shortstop throughout their minor league careers can’t handle it in the Majors.  You need to be very, very fast, with fighter pilot reflexes.


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9 thoughts on “2 Legit Part 5

  1. Rick

    Wow, those foreign readers are a real pain. Having to stop and explain yourself every 2 minutes…sheesh.

    1. Severian

      Yeah, I know. Damn Limeys. And don’t get me started on the Scots. They ruined Scotland!!

      [Seriously, though, I wouldn’t want to be culturally insensitive. Really. That’s another reason baseball is such a great metaphor for America — anyone can learn it, but you kinda have to be American to really get it. Hence the Japanese love affair with baseball — around 1900 they stopped wanting to be Prussia and started wanting to be America, so they copied all the stuff they thought made us so successful. #1 on the list was baseball].

  2. Nate Winchester

    Whatever else our government does, then, it’s core function is….what? Identify that, then see if the government is actually doing it.

    Well there ya go, that’s what the fight is all about, isn’t it? Several groups all arguing over what the core function is supposed to be.

    Though i guess for the metaphor this would be 9 guys hanging out arguing whether we’re going to play baseball, cricket, or solitaire (the libertarian).

    1. Severian

      Yep. And once we figure that out, the question then becomes: “What form of government is best suited to get it?” To stick with the metaphor — once we decide what game we’re playing, how do we win?

      Representative government, it seems, is not the best way to win. It’s certainly not if the HBD guys are right. But it seems that the HBD guys have not really thought that through… hence these posts.

      [The fact that I largely agree with the HBD guys means I think representative government is toast. But since I’ve typed about 1,000,000 words about the inevitability of Fascism since 2013 or so, that can’t come as too much of a surprise].

  3. Recusant

    Regarding your baseball analogy; for us, cricket is pretty much a perfect match.

    There. That covers the English, Aussies, Kiwis, Saffers, Indians, Pakis, Bangladeshis, the anglophone Caribbean, etc., etc.. You’re welcome.

    Of course for those barbarian Scots and Irish, you’re still going to have to explain.

  4. Tim of the North

    Good post. Leaf through old newspapers, and every town had its team and small manufacturing cities had a league of teams. But then, those days had social capital. Good luck having even a distant facsimile of that today. Low trust societies aren’t big on things like that. I am getting a strong sense that such a society will go in the direction you’re pointing. Nice while it lasted. Tim, the ninth regular reader.

  5. Frip

    Re your Morgan Freeman quip. Funny. But yeah, it was John Chancellor who narrated the Burn’s baseball documentary (at least the first big one). I bring it up because I recall watching it and recognizing the voice but being unable to place who it was. It’s good to not know who’s narrating because it takes all the bias away when you’re determining if a narrator’s doing a good job or is right for the “part”. Burns did great by hiring Chancellor. The voice-over was perfectly American for the American pastime. The hire had to be Midwestern. And Chancellor was. The tone is slightly nasal, and the delivery a bit off-hand, laconic and unaffected. It’s the tone Tom Hanks uses when he’s trying to emphasise a character’s Americanness, such as in Bridge of Spies. Morgan would’ve been too rich, deep, and cool. Chancellor’s was a bit boring, just like baseball.


    Today Burns would be compelled to have a female narrator, and it would be audial torture. Narration is so important. You can tell when a narrator doesn’t understand the subject. A good narrator can fake this well. Obviously most often they have to.

    Dennis Hopper narrated a David Bowie doc and he pronounced Bowie’s name wrong for the entire doc. “Boowie” like an ocean buoy. Instead of like a Bowie knife. I don’t understand why no one corrected him during production. Maybe they thought it was funny that he was getting it so wrong, and just let it stand.

  6. Jay Carter

    We’re at a ballgame.
    One out. Runner on first.
    Full count on the batter.
    Here comes the pitch.
    And it’s a . . . (take your choice)
    Passed ball
    Wild pitch
    Hit batsman
    Pick-off attempt
    Home run
    Foul ball
    Double play
    Caught stealing
    Stolen base
    Ground out
    Pop up 
    Etc., etc., etc..
    And there are probably a dozen other things that could happen at that point in the game.
    However, whatever happens next is always a complete surprise to us.
    (We simply have no way of knowing what’s coming on the next pitch)
    And that holds true for all 200-300 pitches in a game.
    It’s one reason why baseball is the “Greatest Game of All”.

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