Monday, April 22, 2013

Gods, Men, and Guys Who Hit Over .300

The only sport that interests me anymore is baseball. Sadly, the team I follow, the Phillies, are in a bit of a rut right now. Last night (a rare thing for me) I watched an interview with the manager, Charlie Manuel. (It's a rare thing, because, to me, there is nothing less interesting than hearing athletes or managers sum up a game by saying, "Well, we lost, because we didn't put runs on the board..." or, "We made key hits and plays tonight." Right. Got it.)

Charlie, explaining...
As I watched Charlie field the questions, I felt sorry for him. But then I thought: something has shifted. We are so arrogant. We think we can find the answers for everything.

Why did they lose? Because they lost. Baseball is a difficult game. Teams lose. Some players get hot while others go cold and then it switches. While baseball games are sometimes won by strategy, they are never won by studying the minutiae of a pitcher's delivery. A pitcher doesn't come out of a hole by changing his arm angle by .89933 of a degree. He wins by coming out of a mental place he is stuck in. And, when he comes out of it, he doesn't know why or how and he doesn't want to know. He goes with it.

But as I watched this interview, it occurred to me, as I said, how arrogant we are. We think undefinable problems can be solved by research and number-crunching. If something tragic happens, we "want answers." So we turn to experts and PhDs and managers: "Why are you losing?" "Why did that guy blow people up?" "Why did that other guy shoot children?"

Should we try to find answers to these questions? Yes. If we can. But, it seems to me that our arrogance implies that it is always just a matter of time, as long as we work hard enough. Sometimes, it just ain't so. But we can't ever seem to let go.

Truth is, sometimes things don't follow logical and scientific lines. Sometimes, the world just doesn't make sense. Sometimes baseball teams go hot and cold.

Again: yes. We need to keep trying. I just think, though, that years of "you-can-do-anything-you-set-your-mind-to" programming, along with incredible advances in technology, have made us feel that we can figure out any problem.

There are quantum anomalies in space who would disagree with that notion. (One of them is a wormhole named Marv.)

But science and analytics have, indeed, become the new religions. Why? Because in those religions, we are the gods. It feeds the flame of arrogance to believe that all universal possibilities lie within us  and not up in the clouds.

We should never give up searching, but, we should keep in mind: Some questions are unanswerable. (Thank God.)

What do the Phillies need to do to win? They need to win. They need to all line up with their
Ted Williams. Considered one of the greatest,
if not the greatest, batter of all time.
He failed at the plate,
6 1/2 out of ten times. 
individual hot-streaks; or they need to stumble upon the perfect combination of guys with unshakable concentration. You can tell them, all you want, that they need to stop stranding runners on base. But all the hitting coaches and managers and video analysts in the world are no good if a hungry batter gets an image of a pork sandwich in his head just as a slider drops an inch more than it should because it hits an air swirl as it drops through the zone.

There is a reason one in considered an exceptional hitter for failing seven out of ten times at the plate in baseball: the task of hitting a pitched ball is way too difficult for the average (and even the way-above-average) human.

Life throws us a lot of nasty sliders. We miss, we miss. So it goes.


  1. I have to agree about post-match conferences, they are a snooze fest! When it comes to answers sometimes I feel it comes down to the fact we as humans need answers, rather than we think we deserve them. For example if the team goes on a 20 game losing streak then clearly there is something wrong and certain people will feel the need for a specific reason so they can fix it. Whether it be they are all just on a cold streak or we need some new players. People just expect results (especially Philly fans) and when they don't come people want change. Then for the Boston bombings it is just hard to tell and for a person to accept that a loved one was hurt or killed and there is no answer as to why. It is just that unknown that hurts someone. I personally fall into that category, I want to know why such a young boy went out and caused that pain that he did to not only a city but a country. There might not be one but it is something I hope can be answered.

    I find it interesting how you said the mindset of "you-can-do-anything-you-set-your-mind-to" plays into this thinking and honestly I never looked at that. When you said it I would have to say I agree that it motivates people to always have an answer. Sometimes it can be a good thing, sometimes a bad thing.

    1. Hey, Jack -- thanks for commenting! I agree with you that it is natural to want answers, in the face of tragedy. I hope things like boston can be answered, too, but, I wish we would learn when to admit if there is not an answer. I would, I think, take a lot of stress off of all of us... I think you sum it up with "Sometimes it can be a good thing"!

    2. No problem! I usually tend to read your posts and I do enjoy them I figured I could finally start contributing, I even made a blog for fun. It seems we agree , I just hope more people can come to see that there always isn't an answer to everything. What motivates a human to do certain things can not be broken into statistics and does not always have a definite answer. Even then statistics don't always tell the truth just as Mark Twain said "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."