There Is Crying In Baseball

Now that the world has fallen off its axis, and we’re whirling into some unknown void, it’s time to take stock. Most of us, barring the experts who are paid to anticipate disasters, have been shaken out of the complacency of our daily lives. I suppose everyone has a moment when something like this hits home. If we’re lucky, it’s not that we’re actually sick with the virus, or know someone who is, or are faced with job or wage loss because of it. The absence of some of our favorite pastimes doesn’t compare in importance, yet it produces a punch in the gut just the same. It’s that moment when you realize this is going to be more than a temporary glitch.

I guess we all have selfish moments when it’s all about us and our loss. On March 12, I had casually tuned in a spring training match-up between the New York Yankees and my world champion Washington Nationals. The game meant nothing in terms of results, but afforded an opportunity to glimpse the sport after the winter layoff and watch the players prepare for the upcoming season. It’s a rite of spring as dependable as the crocuses coming out. Gradually, I realized that I might be watching the last game that would be played before a silent spring set in. Then confirmation came from Major League Baseball’s front office, like a lightning bolt, that all baseball operations would be suspended as of 4 p.m. that afternoon. It was 3:55 p.m. when the game I was watching finished. I couldn’t help letting out a sob.

The greatest thing about the 2019 Washington Nationals was their joyfulness. The dancing, the silly shark song, the champagne and beer flying during five clubhouse celebrations, each more raucous than the last. As often happens to teams that hit the pinnacle of success, there would likely have been a “World Series hangover.” That might have undercut the hunger and intensity of their play, but would have allowed the joy to continue. Now, that feeling is only a memory. I remember hugging strangers at the ballpark watch party on the night they won it all. On the subway train afterward, there was a communal rendering of “We Are The Champions.” I wonder how much longer it will be before anyone is comfortable with hugging friends, much less strangers. Close contact and shared emotions are an essential part of the ballpark experience. There is no way for us to get our sport back until the crisis has passed.

The Nats proved you can win it all without having the most talent, or intensity, or fire in your belly. You can do it with pure love of the sport and camaraderie with your teammates. That feeling would have lingered well into the new season, even if they didn’t repeat their championship run. Now, during what should be Opening Week, I can’t help letting out another private sob. I long for the time when comparatively trivial things like baseball begin to matter again. When that happens, we’ll have overcome the disaster.

Such Devoted Sisters

I’ve always been intrigued by catfights. Maybe I don’t have a great opinion of my own sex? My stories seem to be populated with mean girls, their collaborators, and their victims. That has led to a corresponding interest in the dynamics between sisters. My 2010 novel Let’s Play Ball dealt with fraternal twins who were close but competitive. I made some assumptions about sister relationships based on no real world experience, not having a sister of my own. I was guessing that even twin siblings can be very different.

Miranda and Jessica, the fraternal twins in my story, pursue wildly divergent career paths and love lives. While Miranda establishes a relatively sedate career as a budget analyst in the Department of Homeland Security, and marries a young lawyer, Jessica becomes a freelance journalist and starts her own sports magazine. Her endeavor takes off when she publishes a story about a local baseball star, Cuban-born Manny Chavez, who has pulled off a daring rescue of his young son from his unstable ex-wife. Jessica and Manny become engaged, and then he is kidnapped. Miranda, whose own life is not as picture-perfect as it seems, becomes embroiled in the investigation alongside her sister. In the course of the story, Miranda and Jessica fight and make up a lot, criticize each other’s personal choices, and pursue wholly different suspects.

Speaking of sisters, I’ve streamed the first three seasons of the Netflix series “The Crown,” which chronicles the endlessly melodramatic British royal family. Among many other themes, the series has something to say about sibling relationships, particularly between the Windsor sisters, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. That was a love-hate relationship for the ages. This portrayal of Elizabeth shows her wearing the crown rather uneasily, while Margaret subjects her to frequent jabs about how much better she could have done the job if she’d been the older sister. Since she isn’t, she pursues a rather wild life, giving the sovereign numerous headaches. But that is arguably what Big Sister deserves for all the slights and criticisms she delivers herself, not to mention the constant interference with Margaret’s love life and marriage prospects. Being single longer only keeps Margaret’s dissolute habits going longer, thereby creating even more sovereign headaches. Margaret does take on occasional diplomatic missions for the Crown, although her style of diplomacy is best illustrated by the occasion when she regaled guests at a White House state dinner with dirty jokes. Still, she got the job done.

It’s undeniable that catfights provide some of the best entertainment in the news, as well as in the  history books. Those of us who keep tabs on the current British royal family are aware of a falling out between the princes William and Harry … and few of us doubt that the real source of that tiff is their respective wives. Thankfully, catfights don’t usually lead to murder, but it has been known to happen. The feud between royal cousins Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots ended rather badly. When two such powerful ladies are both determined to have their most dangerous rival silenced, it’s likely that one of them will lose her head.

As I’ve confessed before, I can’t resist the various “Real Housewives” franchises on Bravo TV, even when they make me cringe. The catfights featured on these shows tend to develop between wealthy women over mostly petty differences and first-world issues. The husbands of these “housewives” are a rather henpecked group, often berated by their wives for spending too many hours at work and not enough with them. Once in a while one of these husbands works up the courage to point out that the long hours he puts in earning a living are necessary to sustain his wife’s lifestyle. That usually leads to a full-scale tantrum.

All in all, It’s a little discouraging to realize that no one seems to go broke by underestimating the intelligence of women. Maybe if we started fighting back against the usual female stereotypes, they wouldn’t be so pervasive. In the meantime, we have to face the fact that white woman (largely from the South, admittedly) played a significant role in electing an incompetent moron to the presidency in 2016. Why couldn’t they vote for one of their own, if only because it’s more than time to prove a woman can do the job? Could we really do any worse? Hillary might not have been the most likable candidate ever, but she had intelligence, relevant experience, and competence. I suspect those are the very qualities that seem unwomanly to some women, especially the descendants of southern belles. Is it that they’re jealous?

Back before the 2016 election debacle, I couldn’t help thinking that if only Hillary Clinton, Theresa May, and Angela Merkel could all be heads of state at the same time, it might make for one of the most entertaining catfights ever. But who knows? Maybe if those three had actually put their heads together, something would have clicked. After seeing the depths that masculine leadership can bring us to, it seems to me that government by sisterhood is worth a try.