October 15, 2003


I tried to think of a comparison. Perhaps Ibsen's An Enemy of the People, in which a doctor discovers what's making the townspeople ill, jeapordizing the town's two most lucrative businesses. His joy of discovery is quickly turned to bitterness, as his fellow citizens recognize the implications of his science. But the Ibsen play requires too much explanation, and there is too much politics in it. Some of Kafka's work is closer -- Kafka can make an insignificant, everyday gesture take on monstrous dimensions. The surveyor K. in the Castle, who approaches an official who may be able to shed some light on his assignment, only to be told that he has prejudiced those in power against his only allies, who of course are helpless themselves. But even that doesn't compare...

Fate is often cruel. I have been to enough baseball games to know that the natural reaction to a foul ball traveling toward the stands is to raise one's hands and try to catch it. This photo -- not the best I've seen (the one in this story is a little better)-- shows several people reaching for the ball that just one fan had the misfortune to touch.

A bit of wind, a slightly different trajectory, and it could just as easily have been one of the fans next to him, or further along, who touched that fatal foul. It is said that baseball is a game of inches, and indeed, that is true. So, sometimes, is fate -- plucking one obscure man among the multitude and holding him up to the derision of his peers for doing something they, in all probability, would not hesitate to do.

One can take things too far (and I certainly believe some Cubs fans have -- the fan had little to do with the torrent of runs the Marlins scored, the error, the walks...), but still -- it's rather monstrous that something so mundane as reaching for a foul ball can change one's life.

In the fairly tale "Beauty and the Beast," Beauty's father, a merchant, plucks a rose for his daughter that belongs to the Beast -- a crime for which he must surrender his beloved daughter to the monster, or else lose his life. Beauty's virtue and compassion more than compensate for her father's act; as of this writing, it appears that the Cubs may not succeed in redeeming their fan. Let's hope for a fairy tale ending, but I'm afraid it won't happen...

Posted by Ideofact at October 15, 2003 10:58 PM

The best comments on this I've seen. I wonder what Albert Camus would make of the situation?

Posted by: Brian Ulrich at October 17, 2003 11:36 PM