Skip to main content

"It breaks your heart, that game" 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Giamatti, via Yale Alumni magazine

During our Meeting for Worship today, and in conversation with a colleague later this morning, I was thinking about A. Bartlett Giamatti, my first hero who wasn't an athlete, president, or my mother. He was, as you may know, a professor of comparative literature before he became Yale's President and before he achieved a lifelong ambition to serve as Commissioner of Major League Baseball. He was also a Red Sox fan and a source of insight and inspiration for me as a thinker and writer.

He was likely on my mind because of the Dodgers' win over the Astros last night, setting the stage for a World Series Game Seven tonight. And no doubt, he was on my mind because it was at this time one year ago that the Chicago Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years. It was also on my mind because I've been thinking about when and how I learned to let loose my clinging to certainty and perfection and instead to embrace ambiguity and falling short. That was a long process rather than quick-fix, and popping up, grounding out, even striking out, amidst occasional success at bat and in the field played a part.

I would not have danced at CFS, nor moved through our halls, classrooms, and office spaces here at SFFS as happily as I do if I hadn't learned to embrace and integrate occasions of my broken heart into my travels through life, trying to figure out how to do this human being thing. I count myself among those "simpler creatures" to which Giamatti refers in the text below.

Thanks for your patience with my desire to think aloud and for your good company this morning. 

"That is why it breaks my heart, that game—not because in New York they could win because Boston lost; in that, there is a rough justice, and a reminder to the Yankees of how slight and fragile are the circumstances that exalt one group of human beings over another. It breaks my heart because it was meant to, because it was meant to foster in me again the illusion that there was something abiding, some pattern and some impulse that could come together to make a reality that would resist the corrosion; and because, after it had fostered again that most hungered-for illusion, the game was meant to stop, and betray precisely what it promised.

Of course, there are those who learn after the first few times. They grow out of sports. And there are others who were born with the wisdom to know that nothing lasts. These are the truly tough among us, the ones who can live without illusion, or without even the hope of illusion. I am not that grown-up or up-to-date. I am a simpler creature, tied to more primitive patterns and cycles. I need to think something lasts forever, and it might as well be that state of being that is a game; it might as well be that, in a green field, in the sun."