Sympathetic magic

The fact that today is Columbus Day, so the university is closed -- coupled with the fact that today the Board of Trustees is meeting to (hopefully) make a decision on the fate of President Ladner -- have allowed/encouraged me to stay at home today. (Untenured junior people should not, IMHO, be on the front lines of faculty protests involving the Board or the higher levels of the administration. Self-interest? You betcha. One of the things that goes along with tenure is a certain freedom and flexibility, and with those a certain responsibility, to take the lead on things that one's junior colleagues cannot. Bravo to those of my colleagues who have really stepped up the plate over the past couple of weeks.)

One of the nice things about staying home is that I can try my damnedest to do my part in helping the Yankees win in Anaheim tonight, and thus advance to the ALCS against the White Sox. What's my part? Well, like any fanatic, I believe (with the completely a-rational part of my brain) that by dressing the part I can help to pull my team to victory. I mean, why else would they sell all that merchandise? It's for focusing the sending of positive energy to the guys on the field, right? ;-) So my wife and I are dressed to the hilt in Yankees gear today; I'm typing in a Mike Mussina jersey (Moose pitches tonight, and he's one of my favorite modern Yankees and favorite modern pitchers, so my clothing choice is completely overdetermined today), ball-cap firmly on head, while my wife puts away groceries while wearing a "2003 AL Champions" t-shirt and a blue Yankees hooded sweatshirt.

Yes, even professors (perhaps especially professors) have their irrational streaks.

And the worst part about the whole thing is that we're not even really in the baseball season anymore. It's the "post-season" now, and the modern post-season is nothing but an emotionally manipulative carnival in which our loyalty to particular teams, nurtured and tested and developed over the course of a long season, is mercilessly exploited for a series of contests that bear very little resemblance at all to regular-season baseball. I mean, the regular season is long enough that random fluctuations, by and large, get filtered out, but the post-season is so short and each individual game matters so much that a pair of errors and a bad start by a pitcher can pretty much doom you.

If regular-season baseball is a marathon, the post-season is a long-distance sprint. But a fan can't not watch, can't not care how her or his team is doing; team loyalty doesn't just turn on or turn off as the conditions of the game change. So even though rationally, intellectually, I know full well that the post-season is basically a crap shoot and the best team rarely actually wins in the end, it'd still be terrible to be eliminated by the Angels and not go on to play the White Sox -- and ultimately to play in the World Series. (Because, you know, I'm somehow a part of whatever happens to the team. So "we" are playing in Anaheim tonight, and "we" will go on to play in Chicago tomorrow, and so on…)

I feel emotionally exploited, but you can bet I'll be glued to the television tonight. First pitch, 8:19 EST.

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