Ghost Runner on Third

Over at the Z Man’s, a discussion of sports veered into how kids used to play in the good old days.  They made an excellent point, that pickup games used to be how kids learned to socialize.  They were, in effect, political education:

Everyone knows the rules of baseball.  But since getting 18 kids together in the same place for any length of time is all but impossible, you had to learn to adjust on the fly — modifying, scrapping, or even inventing rules as the situation dictated.  “We don’t have a right fielder, so hits to right are automatic outs.”  “Jimmy’s Dad is all-time pitcher.”  Or, most commonly, “ghost runner on third.”

The goal wasn’t to win the game; the goal was to keep the game going.  Thus nobody could impose his individual will on the group, but nobody’s opinion could be ignored.  In the same way, nobody could truly dominate, and nobody was so terrible that he couldn’t contribute.  Whatever beefs you had with any of the other kids had to be set aside if you wanted to play, and from this you generally learned that whatever you were fighting about isn’t such a big deal… or you learned that life is full of jerks, and one of the rules’ main functions is to let you get along with jerks long enough to accomplish the goal.

Flexibility within a common cultural framework.  Bending the letter of the law while keeping its spirit.  Functional compromises with jerks.  Baseball really is a metaphor for America, ain’t it?

At least, it was.  There’s no sandlot baseball anymore.  There are fewer kids around, for one thing, but more importantly, their parents are far too invested in their precious little snowflakes to let them get into an un-monitored contest.  What if Little Dakota gets a boo-boo?  Worse, what if Little Dakota’s boo-boo ruins his chances of making the traveling team this year?  (Little Dakota is, of course, a future Major Leaguer according to his parents).

So the government has to step in.  Everything must be Official.  There is no fun but government-sanctioned fun.  Some authority figure is always on hand to adjudicate, and the authority’s imperatives — e.g. getting more genderfluid third graders on the team — always take priority over piffling little matters like “the rules” or “playing the game in the first place.”  Submission to authority is all.

The Soviets, you’ll recall, were all-in on sports… but, ironically, only individual sports.  (The few teams were. of course, thinly-disguised Red Army teams).  Training in isolation, performing in front of just a few (easily influenced) judges… that’s the Communist ideal.  As Z Man’s post notes, youth participation in “sports” is dropping across the board.  I suspect that trend is about to reverse, as the Left rediscovers populism and even nationalism (ask Joe Crowley).  When’s the next Summer Olympics?  That’s always good for advertising cute little White girls in Soviet-style sports like gymnastics.  Swimming, too, I bet will take off soon (the Diversity don’t take well to water).  Plus, an extracurricular is an extracurricular, right?  And as we know, girls have weightlifting teams in high school….

Loading Likes...

3 thoughts on “Ghost Runner on Third

  1. Nate Winchester

    YES! This!

    Well actually… this bit here.

    The goal wasn’t to win the game; the goal was to keep the game going. Thus nobody could impose his individual will on the group, but nobody’s opinion could be ignored. In the same way, nobody could truly dominate, and nobody was so terrible that he couldn’t contribute. Whatever beefs you had with any of the other kids had to be set aside if you wanted to play, and from this you generally learned that whatever you were fighting about isn’t such a big deal… or you learned that life is full of jerks, and one of the rules’ main functions is to let you get along with jerks long enough to accomplish the goal.

    . . .

    At least, it was. There’s no sandlot baseball anymore. There are fewer kids around, for one thing, but more importantly, their parents are far too invested in their precious little snowflakes to let them get into an un-monitored contest.

    1) Spot on, the true goal was to play the game.

    BUT #2 I disagree a bit that it’s just the parents. See, the problem is that “keep the game going” is no longer the overriding goal. Why? Because the kids have alternatives. Why bothers with playing the game and dealing with “jerks” when you can just go to your room, hop on PlayStation network and find a million other kids to play with right now? Heck you can even load up MLB 2018 and play baseball with just 2 now. 2 kids in different time zones! Is the kid playing against you being a jerk? Just vacate the game and go find another one.

    A frustration I’ve had (which Jonah Goldberg being one of the few to point this out) is that a lot of conservatives don’t seem to get how much out there is technology enabling our vices. Or when I encounter those who think the feudal system wasn’t that bad – they don’t seem to grasp that maybe the freedom even the serfs enjoyed was a consequence of low technology. If we were to try a feudal system today with instant communication and easy travel the kings would swiftly become wretched tyrants.

    It may seem harsh, but maybe there should be a cultural rule that parents don’t buy their kids a gaming station until they’re in their teens. Or if you get one when they’re younger, you restrict its use to rainy days. Adam Corolla is right, there’s nothing wrong with America today that wouldn’t be solve by getting more fathers into the home and more kids onto the sports field.

    1. Severian

      I’d go with that. Frankly, a major problem with Those Darn Kids Today is that they just don’t know how to handle “free” time, by which I mean, “time where you’re thrown on your own resources.” There’s always something there to do. Hell, I’m old and I find my attention span dwindling; I’m getting manic and frantic where guys my age in earlier generations would mellow out. Got a spare second? Jump on a glowing box!! It might be a Kindle in my case, a book instead of vidja games, but either way, I never *have* to stop and smell the flowers…

      I used to see it all the time in class. They can’t remember anything, because they never have to. Whatever is immediately necessary is shiny and blinking and making noise; anything else is stored in the cloud for at-will retrieval. To put A and B together to get C, it’s not enough to have A to hand; one must *know* A, have it lodged in the brain, AND have the habit of linking it with B.

      On-demand tech atrophies both those skills. And no teaching method I’ve ever heard about can correct it.

Comments are closed.