Well, we are just a few weeks away from the start of … Baseball!
I know you all are mired in our delayed primary politics, and the protracted race for the GOP Presidential nomination. As for me, I am still waiting to see if any of our presidential candidates seize the moment and actually provide a coherent vision for this fall’s battle and for the reform of our government. While I wait, my mind has turned to Baseball.
When we last left our pastime, we had just witnessed one of the greatest personal performances, one of the greatest games, and one of the greatest endings, in World Series history. The performance of Albert Pujols in Game 3 placed him with Ruth and Jackson forever. The performances of young David Freese, and our own Lance Berkman, at the end of game six will place that game with game six of the 1975 and 1986 Series in our collective memory. And then the first inning of game seven and the pitching from the Cardinals staff just added icing to the cake. As great as the Rangers played—and they deserve a lot of credit—the Cardinals gave us memories that will last forever.
Then, in the interim, Ron Santo was elected to the Hall of Fame. For all the memories I had of the great Cub infield of the late ‘60s, and of all that Santo did for the kids of Chicago over the years, thank you to the Veteran’s Committee for this great tribute to one of the best players of his generation, to a great ambassador of the game, and to a wonderful person.
Now we enter 2012. As for me it is somewhat bittersweet—Pujols will not complete his career with the Cardinals, which is sad, but understandable; Ozzie and Buehrle have moved on to the new Miami show; the Astros and White Sox are re-building; and baseball has added another game to the playoffs to make the 162-game records even more meaningless—but, like a 10-year-old anticipating summer and Little League games, I still can’t wait. Remember, everybody starts 0-0, and most teams will win 60 and lose 60. So, the battle will be for those remaining 42 games. Let the games begin.
But, as I my mind oscillates between concern over our continuing primary race for president and the beginnings of Baseball fever, I can’t stop thinking about one of my favorite books and movies—The Natural. To me, one of the great lines of American literature is contained in that book—and in the movie—when Iris says to Roy Hobbs:
We have two lives, Roy, the life we learn with and the life we live with after that. Suffering is what brings us toward happiness.
This line has a bearing on the differing endings between the book and movie.
Most of us remember that the movie ends with Roy Hobbs coming through in the clutch, against all odds and against all the efforts of those who tried to fix the game, and hitting the game-winning and pennant-clinching home run—an ending that redeems all the mistakes he had made and the years he had wasted. But the book has a different ending.
In the book, Roy had not returned the Judge’s bribe before he strode to the plate with the game on the line. Then, in a moment reminiscent of Casey in the famous poem, Roy strikes out to end the game: “He struck out with a roar.” Then, the game ends with Roy confronting the Judge, Memo and Gus, and returning the money, because he had not intended to throw the game. Then, as he leaves the stadium and the paperboys are crying out the new headlines that implicate Roy in fixing the game,
He [Roy] thought, I never did learn anything out of my past life, now I have to suffer again.
So, why am I thinking about these lines as the primaries continue? Because I wonder whether we conservatives have learned enough over the years to end the suffering caused by our internal fights and the continued centralization of power in Washington, and whether we will seize the moment this year to hit a home run, rather than strike out.
Modern American Conservatives have been living “the life we learn with” since the 1930s. We, and all Americans, have suffered over these decades as more and more power has centralized in Washington, individuals have become more estranged from their neighbors, and communities have disintegrated. Meanwhile, we were shown the path to follow to fix these problems and the consequences they caused, by Hayek, Kirk, Buckley, Goldwater, Reagan and Sowell (and so many others), but we couldn’t overcome our own arguments to unite behind the ideas they gave us. So, as we’ve bickered and squandered the lessons they gave us, the centralization, the loss of liberty, and the suffering has continued to a point that we may be near a point of no return—of losing what has been exceptional in the American experience.
Let’s hope that one of these four men who is left in the GOP race has learned what Hayek, Kirk, Buckley, Goldwater, Reagan and Sowell were trying to teach, and have learned from the suffering through these years, to lead us, to win this election, and reform this government—to stride to that plate and hit the home run that this country needs to pass our exceptional experiment on to our children. More importantly, I hope that we have learned this lesson and will work with our candidates to win this fall and demand the changes necessary to reform our governments at every level.
We can’t afford to wake up on Wednesday morning, November 7th, and find that we have struck out. We can’t afford to say to ourselves, “I never did learn anything out of my past life, now I have to suffer again.”