I’ve been thinking a little more about the role one’s behavior at baseball games could play in the handing down of eternal punishment or reward. It’s a complex issue.
For example: Jeffrey Maier. You remember him. He’s the twelve-year-old kid who helped win Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS for the Yankees by reaching over the fence and grabbing what would likely have been a flyout by Derek Jeter, turning it into a home run.
Now, my view on fan interference is this: feel free to interfere with a ball in play, but be sure of what you’re doing before you stick that hand or glove out there. If you’re rooting for the home team from the front row down the line, and the ball hit by the opponent is headed for the corner, a definite triple, feel free to lean over the fence and turn the ball into an automatic double. What I don’t like to see is the fan who, wrapped up in his ignorant desire for a batted ball, turns his own team’s triple into a double. It’s all about thinking in advance. I guarantee that Scott Rolen, before each play, thinks through what he’ll do in any situation. Is it too much to ask fans sitting at field level to do the same?
So Jeffrey Maier clearly fits into the category of righteous interference: he saw that Tony Tarasco was probably going to catch the ball. He may not have been sure that it would be ruled a home run if he caught it, but the consequence of not catching it was camped out beneath him. So grabbing it, despite the fact that he was taking a chance of being thrown out of a playoff game, was clearly the right thing to do.
But the situation gets more complex. After all, the team Mr. Maier was supporting with his action was the Yankees. And I like to think–Damn Yankees to the contrary–the gods know the Yankees are evil. What–you think the gods aren’t as smart as a 6-year-old Sox fan? No, the gods definitely know the Yanks are evil. I think they allow the Yankees their success both as a trial to the rest of us, a test of our faith in our own teams, and as a kind of spiritual flypaper. Anyone foolish enough to fall prey to the easy seductions of the World Series trophies and the black-and-white pinstripes reveals a weakness sure to be noted by the gods.
So given that: was Jeffrey Maier’s action a good action, in a philosophical sense? Is it likely to have added to the credit side of his spiritual ledger, or did it weigh down the debit?
See why the Old Testament God was so cranky? It’s complex. I don’t blame him for just sending plagues all the damn time rather than thinking about this kind of thing.
P.S. Added later
To clarify a bit the concept of “spiritual flypaper”: I think of it kind of like the situation in Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman”: the sinnerman runs to the rock, and it can’t hide him, then he runs to the river, and it’s bleeding, and he runs to the sea to find it boiling, then he runs to the lord, who tells him to go to the devil.
The devil is waiting. He’s always waiting. I picture him in a nicely tailored blue houndstooth smoking jacket, a circle of flattened cigarette butts around his spats a little indication of how long he’s been waiting, knowing that the sinnerman would show up sooner or later.
Like the Yankees. They’re content to wait until your team blows a 13-game lead or goes twelve years without a winning season or your cast-off first baseman rediscovers his youth in the very place Ponce de Leon came up empty.
Steve: So, according to this logic the Cubs are Isaac and Bartman is Abraham–only God decided not to intervene at the last minute.
Luke: >I don’t blame him for just sending plagues all the damn time rather
>than thinking about this kind of thing.
How do you think we ended up with the wild card, green-screen ads and the Devil Rays? We also ended up with, for a time, Johnny Damon’s hair, but if God truly loved us, the shaving cream would have turned to wine when it touched his face.
Other than a handful of personalities and talents who have made fandom worthwhile — the Marks Grace, the Alberts Pujols, the Rickeys Henderson, the Antonios Alfonseca — have there been any developments in the past 30 years to suggest God’s grace? Streaming broadcasts, maybe, but one has to pay for them (that the Bill of Rights fails to mention our right to free baseball audio merely proves our forefathers’ lack of foresight). All other changes to the game — retractable domes, sponsored first pitches and lineup changes, elbow pads — seem to be proof of God’s retributive side.
Levi: So, Luke, you’re saying that Selig is Satan?
Luke, hanger-on: I figured it went without saying, but just in case, I’ll say it: Bud Selig is Satan.
“Allan H Bud Selig,” after all, anagrams to “Hell! Bad! Sin! Luga!”
(Luga being the eskimo word for “menace to a great sport.”)