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Friday, September 30

The role of the human spirit

I read this on my coffee cup this morning, and it along with the caffeine got me thinking:

...seemingly, noone is disturbed by the extinction of nature, but politicians assure us that nature is important, for tourism purposes. Any spiritual discussions instantly bore the American public, but if we could just reconnect to nature, the use of anti-depressant medicines would go down by two-thirds...

If you've been here more than once, you know that I discuss the role of spirituality in sports. Why? Because I truly feel that intangibles such as chemistry and leadership mean more to winning than sheer physical talent. Most folks can't or won't grasp the role of the human spirit, and instead they plug their numbers into their spreadsheets, because that's what holds THEIR attention. But when they're doing their measurements, are they measuring pure physical ability, or could they also be measuring a guy's heart?

If yer still not convinced, take it away from the realm of sport. In ANY social group that you're a part of, be it your family, or your department at work, or the guys at the bar, or even the band parents from Northbrook Middle School. In every group, isn't there at least one person who is the "go-to" person, the one who just seems to "get it"? Well, have you ever wondered what it takes to be this person?

There's basically two components: the first, which I lack myself, is intrinsic intelligence. This isn't scoring 30 on yer ACT's, this is "savvy", "street smarts", "common sense", whatever you want to call it. And, hand-in-hand with this, is an understanding of the human spirit, knowing exactly where we stand in the big picture. These people have a connection with nature: they understand the importance of a clean, quiet running stream in a lush green field. They understand that petting a dog for a half an hour is relaxing, and good for both of them. They know why a four year old child asks why over and over again, and they never make the child feel bad for asking.

Spirituality bores most of this microwave generation, which scares the dogfuck out of me, because when we're old and gray, and not strong enough anymore to take things for ourselves, we're gonna have to rely on the Kindness of These Soulless Chat-room-Zombies to take care of us???

Anyway, my contention always has been that the most successful people, the most successful groups, have a connection to the spirit, to nature. The connection was never as prevalent as it was yesterday, when the "other" team in town won their division after six long months of baseball.

You all remember 2003, when 'our' team won? What happened? Well, one hundred fifty thousand people all congregated in the four block area surrounding the park, and basically didn't go home until, well, the end of Game 7 against the fish.

What happened last night? The news teams literally went to the heart of Bridgeport: Jimbo's, and the Grandstand sports store. Jimbo's has, like, fifteen barstools at their bar. Five were being used by these mopes, yelling their lungs out. At Grandstand's, there were five other mopes, yelling and buying the store out. There was plenty of room to work around; there was no pushing, no jostling, there was NO was like one person clapping with one hand in an empty national park.

Why is that? I think it all stems back to three guys, who worked for our team, who understood to some extent the connection between nature and the human spirit: Bill Veeck, Jr., P. K. Wrigley, and John McDonough. For it was Veeck who planted the ivy; it was Wrigley who lovingly maintained the park, and resisted all attempts to install the lights that every other park had; and McDonough has had the good sense not to fuck with any of it that was given to him. So, there it stands, 90 years after it was built, the Great Cathedral of Ball. Made of bricks pressed from the red Chicago clay, which naturally sets off the dirt of the infield, the lushest green grass in the league, and of course, the famous ivy that seems to surround all, which is one of the 5 most recognizable walls in the world, along with the Wailing Wall, the Great Wall, the Green Monster, and the defunct Berlin Wall.

Now, I'm NOT saying these men are saints. Veeck planted the ivy to attract people to the park, to make money. Wrigley couldn't build a ballclub in a million years, but he knew that maintaining the "plant" that the "product" was being made in cost less in the long run, whether it be chewing gum or baseball games. And McDonough, he's the biggest marketing whore in the world, but a damn good one.

But we're talking about the White Sox' problem today, and their problem seems to be that they do everything the OPPOSITE of how the Cubs do it, either out of spite born from the natural tendency for all South Siders to feel defensive and inferior to their brethren to the north, or just due to poor, shortsighted management. When the team up north wore the same uniform for 50 years, the Sox changed theirs on a routine basis. While the Cubs were on Channel 9 daily in the sunshine, the Sox would play at dark, on some weak signal, or some cable station that nobody had.

When the team up north signed big, friendly, splashy longball hitters, the Sox would sign a bunch of belligerent gnats who would run around all over the place. When the team up north played in their ancient shrine, and while teams all over the rest of the league blantantly copied the Wrigley blueprint, the Sox built their sterile baseball mall. You ask any so-called Sox fan, executive, nearly anyone connected to the team (except the paid mercenaries who actually wear the uniforms and play the games) and they'll demonstrate that their primary motivation is to react AGAINST the Way of the Cub.

None of this, mind you, has anything to do with WINNING. The Sox have won more games than my team in my lifetime, count it. An inarguable fact. But how else do you explain the fact that there are five times as many Cub fans as Sox fans, and why is our fandom so, well, blind and unconditionally accepting? All the decisions our management has made over the past fifty years has HELPED build more fans, and conversely, their fan base has dwindled. Why is that, the Baltimore Sun asked me earlier this year?

The tug on our hearts is stronger, because it comes from a basic understanding of human nature and a spiritual connection to the natural world, more so than the other guys. Five guys in Jimbo's? Just...pathetic.