The pastime and memory, from a distant shore

“Despite the perennial warnings of baseball Cassandras, time has yet to pass baseball by. What remains to be seen is not whether the game will survive, but how Americans in a rapidly changing world will again reinterpret and reinvent their national pastime.”

The conclusion to Jules Tygiel’s elegant meditation, “Past Time: Baseball as History,” isn’t just for Americans. The Irish blogger and soccer devotee known as Fredorrarci surely would be interested after expounding on The Classical about his admiration for the sport’s sense of its own past.

He writes this as he watches Ken Burns’ laudedĀ  “Baseball” film, and his closing flourish is especially worth noting:

“I’ve got my first real feel for the heft of baseball history. That’s another way in which sport can feel appealingly bigger than yourself. It’s a powerful thing to step into something that’s existed for so long relative to your own puny span that it may as well have been going forever, and for all you know may continue indefinitely. That can be dangerous thinking, because a sport is just a culture, and cultures are fragile things that get born and dead like nobody’s business. But that’s just why a sense of history is important. My principle sporting passion, soccer, seems to be in the process of shedding its memory, believing itself to be an invincible megabeing that sprung from nothing, fully mega, around 1992. I don’t know enough about baseball to know whether, for all its apparent history-fetishism, it suffers from the same thing these days. I may be wrong, but it seems to have a better sense of where it’s come from than soccer does.”

Picture 1He should know that baseball’s last existential crisis, on the heels of the 1994 strike that cancelled the World Series, left many fans revolted, forever swearing off the game. But as was illustrated by last night’s walkoff playoff finishes (especially for Yankees and A’s fans), the thrilling immediacy of events feeds the unbroken loop of history.

“Sport’s continuity is one of its most attractive qualities, but we should feel that it’s eternal while knowing that it’s not. There’s the false consolation of eternity, and there’s the consolation of false eternity, and a thin line between them.”

As I felt a couple of decades ago at the start of my immersion into global soccer, I hope this is also the beginning of a beautiful exploration.

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