Thursday, October 16, 2003

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Adam Smith's advice to Cubs fans

Some in the blogosphere will be in a bad mood for the next few days, and for good reason. By the end of the evening, either myself or Tom Maguire will be joining them.

What can one say? Surprisingly, for someone who knew nothing about baseball, Adam Smith gives some pretty good advice on this subject in his other classic, The Theory of Moral Sentiments:

Are you in adversity? Do not mourn in the darkness of solitude, do not regulate your sorrow according to the indulgent sympathy of your intimate friends; return, as soon as possible, to the day-light of the world and of society. Live with strangers, with those who know nothing, or care nothing about your misfortune; do not even shun the company of enemies; but give yourself the pleasure of mortifying their malignant joy, by making them feel how little you are affected by your calamity, and how much you are above it.

Tough words to live by, I must confess.

He's still right, though.

UPDATE: For those who find Smith of little comfort, Julia Keller has a nice article in the Chicago Tribune. The highlights:

"If we lived every day with our emotions as raw as they get in sports, we'd be dead in a week," said John Jeremiah Sullivan, a sportswriter who works for GQ magazine.

People can only take so much of the psychological tsunami known as the Cubs (or White Sox, Bulls, Bears and Blackhawks) season. But why do they take it at all? Everybody knows there are more important things than baseball; more important than those killer walks given up by Kerry Wood on Wednesday; more important than the zeal exhibited by the accidental scapegoat the night before.

There are wars, floods and famines. There are tyrants and despots. To be upset about the outcome of a game--a mere game, amid the creeping dangers of an unstable world--is folly.

Bill Savage, a Chicago native who teaches English at Northwestern University, said he has no trouble understanding why the Cubs evoke such zealotry from fans. "Last night [Tuesday], when [Alex] Gonzalez made that error, my heart sank because I'd invested so much. It's the degree to which you, the audience, choose to get invested emotionally. No, the bandwagon-jumpers don't suffer as much--but they don't enjoy it as much, either. The reward is commensurate with your investment."

Indeed. Andrew Sullivan's boyfriend can relate.

posted by Dan on 10.16.03 at 08:50 AM


Yeah, but Adam Smith was fortunate enough to have died before the Cubs came into existence. He never knew true suffering.

posted by: Randal Robinson on 10.16.03 at 08:50 AM [permalink]

There's one fan in particular who might want to take the advice to "live among strangers." Yeah, we know who it is. The WaPo says "headset man" has been offered a vacation home in Miami for three months, gratis. I'd take 'em up on that one.

posted by: Kelli on 10.16.03 at 08:50 AM [permalink]

Personally I'd advise him to join the Navy and go to sea for a few years.

posted by: Crank on 10.16.03 at 08:50 AM [permalink]

Ok, I knew I was a free marketeer 10 years ago when I was 14, but this passage describes me to the "T". I seek the company not of my fellow free marketeer, but the company of Stalinists, Leninsts, Marxists and Maoists alike that demand control over the market.

I should read more Smith.

posted by: Brennan on 10.16.03 at 08:50 AM [permalink]

On occasion, one reads rhetoric so lyrical, so elegant, so clear that one is blinded to the worthlessness, or even the poison of its philosophy. It happens often in sports (think of Al Davis's famous "Just win, baby" -- great rhetoric, until you remember his assassination of Darryl Stingley. But I digress). It seems to me this just such a case. The "indulgent sympathy of intimate friends" is the only thing that gets you through those first horrible days. And the shared experience of sorrow, even years later, is a powerful antidote to melancholy. I know whereof. I'm a Red Sox fan these past 41 years. (Although the Cubs have endured a long drought, the horror they're now experiencing is a novel experience for them, since the Cubs have been abysmal and out of contention for approximately 89.3745692% of the 98 seasons. The BoSox, though, inflict this sort of torture on us with soul numbing regularity. So take it from those who know, not a long dead Brit.)

posted by: Jeff on 10.16.03 at 08:50 AM [permalink]

I feel sorry for that poor schmuck. They only way you could pin the loss on him was if he'd jumped out of the stands, taken the pitcher's mound and given up eight runs.

posted by: Randal Robinson on 10.16.03 at 08:50 AM [permalink]

Three words: Witness Protection Program

posted by: JP on 10.16.03 at 08:50 AM [permalink]

This piece gave me quite a chuckle: I am a firm believer in the maxim which says that, "A Chuckle a Day Keeps the Doctor Away".

No doubt that Adam Smith was a pretty clever person!

posted by: Mr. M. Dunsky on 10.16.03 at 08:50 AM [permalink]

At least "headphone man" was awake during the game, unlike Dusty Baker, who must have been asleep to leave his pitcher in that long.

posted by: Mike Macrae on 10.16.03 at 08:50 AM [permalink]

Depressed? Hah! Wait till next century!

posted by: Tom Veal on 10.16.03 at 08:50 AM [permalink]

I also feel sorry for the scapegoated fan. Read Ron Rappaport's column yesterday and note that Moises has forgiven the fan, as should we all. The previous poster had it right. The fan did not commit an egregious error at shortstop, did not fail to hit the cutoff man, did not strikeout, did not throw walk after bone-crunching walk and did not give up 8 runs in a single inning. The Cubs, in the final analysis, were beat by a better team.

Although it pains me as a long-time Cubs fan to say it, the Marlins were magnificent to watch. Even I had to marvel at their tenacity and their obvious athleticism. This certainly is a team of the present and future.

posted by: Colorado Conservative on 10.16.03 at 08:50 AM [permalink]

Cubs fans, take heart: Your guys were there because of the pitching, and the pitchers will return with the swallows in spring (around July 1st if I recollect Chicago weather patterns). Next year could be even better. And when was the last time anyone honestly told you that?

Now dry your tears and restock your fridges because the Red Sox can still carry the banner of the underdog all the way and wipe the floor with the stinkin Marlins. Who's with me?

posted by: Kelli on 10.16.03 at 08:50 AM [permalink]

I'm not sure a team with a payroll of $100 million (Red Sox) could be called an underdog against a team that spends half as much (Marlins), despite the Sox's stunning history of monumental collapses.

posted by: Carolina on 10.16.03 at 08:50 AM [permalink]

Yeah but aren't the Sox slated to lose tonight after a late-inning bullpen crash? Isn't it written into the Constitution or the Bible or something?

posted by: WildMonk on 10.16.03 at 08:50 AM [permalink]

Uh, the sox still have 1 game to go against the heavily FAVORED yankee's. That makes them an "underdog". ;) :b

posted by: fat kid on 10.16.03 at 08:50 AM [permalink]

"It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone."
-A. Bartlett Giamatti

posted by: Pretnar on 10.16.03 at 08:50 AM [permalink]

Kelli - you meant "return with the chokers in the spring", right?

Well, maybe the Red Sox will win.

posted by: J Bowen on 10.16.03 at 08:50 AM [permalink]

"Waiting for the Cubs to win the World Series is like leaving the porch light on for Jimmy Hoffa."--Bob Costas

posted by: Randal Robinson on 10.16.03 at 08:50 AM [permalink]

The Cubs’ series streak--who would match it!
But an ‘out’ would have gone far to patch it.
    'Til a fan caught the foul,
   Raising such a great howl.
And the fan? He continues to catch it!

posted by: Stephen on 10.16.03 at 08:50 AM [permalink]

"Cubs fans, take heart: Your guys were there because of the pitching"

Right, and if they get some decent RELIEF pitchers in there...

posted by: Aaron Armitage on 10.16.03 at 08:50 AM [permalink]

To paraphrase Senator Moynihan,

There is no point in being a Cubs (or Red Sox) fan if you don't understand that, in the end, they will break your heart.

And I can't wait for Pitchers and Catchers to report.

posted by: Robert Moates on 10.16.03 at 08:50 AM [permalink]

Or as Neil Young, put it, only love can break your heart.

posted by: Jeremy B. on 10.16.03 at 08:50 AM [permalink]

A Twin Cities sportswriter, and life-long Cubs fan, gave "The Fan" this bit of advice if confronted by upset fellow Cubs-fans who can't move on... Tell them:

"If I made a spectacularly bad play at the worst possible moment, don't blame me. I was raised on Cubs baseball."

posted by: Eric Anondson on 10.16.03 at 08:50 AM [permalink]

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