“It breaks your heart, it is designed to break your heart.” That’s what Bart Giamatti, the late Yale University president and commissioner of baseball, wrote in 1977 about the sport we love. I interviewed him shortly after that and learned that Giamatti understood baseball’s intelligent design but not the world’s: His friend and successor in the commissioner’s office, Fay Vincent, said Giamatti was an agnostic.
“It makes you cheer, it is designed to make you cheer.” That’s from me, not Giamatti, and in the flip side of his pessimism two teams won their games yesterday and moved on to the next round: the Detroit Tigers, behind rarely hittable fastballer Justin Verlander, and the San Francisco Giants, bulwarked by reliever Jeremy Affeldt, a thoughtful Christian in a strange city. (See “Finding the strike zone,” WORLD Magazine, April 7 issue.)
But in a rare day of rich television viewing three other games also had their moments. Two upstart teams, the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles, won to stay alive. Tonight they will try to dethrone last year’s World Series king, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the past century’s king, the New York Yankees. One upstart team, Romney-Ryan, fought to at least a draw on content and a win on style, and we’ll see on Nov. 6 whether it wins.
Last night’s vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan broke into baseball, but this year’s donkey/elephant contest is truly a world series and so is worth watching. America with all our faults remains the last best hope for the preservation of liberty in the world, and the issues this year—particularly those involving foreign policy—are deadly serious, so millions wanted to see how serious politicians dealt with them.
That’s what made the key visual of last night’s debate—Joe Biden’s wide, almost-incessant smile—so strange. A split screen revealed the split personality of American politics. Upstart Ryan exuded the earnestness that characterizes conservative Catholics and evangelicals, and old pro Biden’s put-down grins and 80-plus interruptions of Ryan showed the contempt liberals have for the political right.
The words clearly showed that this is not a Tweedledum-Tweedledee electoral choice. Ryan is pro-life, Biden’s pro-abortion-rights/wrongs (although “personally opposed,” of course). Ryan has faith in entrepreneurs, Biden has faith in government. Ryan argues for peace through strength, Biden for peace through apologies. No surprises, and the MSNBC left was heartened by Biden’s aggressiveness.
And here’s where baseball and politics differ. Giamatti’s most famous paragraph:
“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”
This year’s election campaign, on the other hand, began in earnest during New Hampshire’s winter and is only blossoming this month, filling afternoons and evenings with speechifying. But we cannot live by rhetoric alone—we look for results. Many of us have the memory of morning in America, and we are not ready to accept the twilight. Happily, when this campaign most needs to stop, it will stop, next month. Then, I hope, we’ll start resolving our economic and foreign policy mess rather than keeping political score of runs, hits, and—largely—errors.