My mother grew up in western Pennsylvania, and the first baseball team I ever loved was the ’71 Pirates: Clemente, Stargell, Oliver, Murtaugh. But mom’s allegiance is to the ‘60 Pirates, forever enshrined for Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off home run against the Yankees in game seven of the World Series. For years, I assumed that Mazeroski’s winning long-ball was the subject of universal approval, until I heard Billy Crystal describe the pure, visceral agony of watching his heavily favored Yankees lose that series. I felt silly for not seeing the role perspective plays in these things.
Baseball is a study in joy and despair, as is politics. After the 2000 election, a friend asked how I felt about the results. I told him, perhaps a bit smugly, that if you believe in the dialectic, the give and take of ideas that makes the republic run, you occasionally have to lose.
I still believe that, despite attempts by the right and left to eviscerate each other. One can measure the partisan rancor by the many, zealous attempts to explain it away. Analysts reach deep into the 19th Century to prove we’re not so bad. For example: In 1856, southern Congressman Preston Brooks beat abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner on the Senate floor with his cane, almost killing him.
Implicit in this argument is a bar so low my toddler would have little trouble dancing over it and gleefully repeating the maneuver the other way. Let’s be frank, not beating each other senseless over abortion, school prayer and Iraq is hardly a measure of virtue.
Dave, a friend and colleague, is about as far to the right as I am to the left—perhaps a bit farther. We don’t seek out political discussions, but we’ll chew on a George Will column from time to time. I think Dave finds Will soft, but is too gentlemanly to say so. Mostly, we discuss baseball, the San Diego Padres, our adopted team. The Padres have a lot of problems, so there’s lots to discuss.
A couple of days before the recall election against Gray Davis, we shared our thoughts. I felt the recall was an abuse of process. Dave couldn’t decide whether to vote for Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Republican favorite, or Tom McClintock, whose views more closely aligned with his. We discussed the pros and cons of voting ones principles versus voting for the presumed winner. I didn’t really care how he voted, I just wanted him to feel good about it.
I have no doubt that conversations like this happen a million times each day, with people sharing their opposing views without fear of reprisal. I believe that, despite the hype to the contrary, Americans can agree to disagree. I think we’re actually good at it.
Dave grew up in Pittsburgh and, oddly enough, was at Forbes Field in 1960 for that joyous seventh game. On rare occasions we pull out and savor Mazeroski’s finest moment, the way we’d savor a nicely turned double-play or an elegant compromise.
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