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As It Is With Baseball, So It Is With Life
October 21, 2003
By Tony Logan

"As it is with baseball, so it is with life." Sports fan or no, few can doubt the prevailing wisdom of this tried baseball axiom. Baseball, with all of its attendant risks, rewards, successes and failures, is a distillation of life in all of its manifold aspects. Whether being played out in Davenport in April or Yankee Stadium in October, compelling life lessons abound. Lessons which may be ignored only at great peril to the observer.

This Wednesday's National League Championship Series (NLCS) game six at Chicago's Wrigley field vividly underscored this message in excruciating fashion. For those cave dwellers unfamiliar with the outrage, the Chicago Cubs - who last won the World Series during the William Howard Taft Administration - were five outs away from clinching a coveted, elusive berth before a spillover crowd ranging from Wrigley Field to several blocks beyond.

Nursing a 3-0 lead in the game and a 3-2 lead in the overall series, the Cubs had their best pitcher on the mound as an attentive nation tuned in for the history- making climax. Florida Marlins second baseman Luis Castillio lofted a lazy foul ball into medium left field. Cubs left fielder Moises Alou drew a bead and closed in on the popup as it drifted toward the stands. In what subsequent photos would show was a sure fire catch in the making, Alou reached in to the first row to routinely snag the out.

But history didn't happen. A diehard Cubs "fan," sitting in the first row, gleefully leapt out of his seat, caught up in the excitement on the moment, and swatted the ball from Aloe's grasp. Ball three. Castillio breathed new life, reached base on a walk, which opened the door for a single, which… you know where this story ends.

As ever, this episode provides a compelling life lesson… this time for Democrats. Not because Chicago is a Democratic town, or because we lost (?) a close campaign in 2000, or even because we're beginning to feel like the lovable losers of Addison Avenue. The lesson, stripped of its veneer is: discipline, discipline, discipline. For the Democrats to prevail in this or future election cycles, we cannot, in the excitement of the moment, swat the ball away.

Few would argue that the now-vilified fan did not have the "right," as an American and a baseball fan, to make a play for the souvenir. Indeed, had the Cubs been engaged with the Padres on a Wednesday afternoon in May, Cub supporters would little note the obnoxious fan. But the Cubs were in the NLCS. The stakes had never been higher. And so it is for the Democrats.

We find ourselves facing Bush's money-fueled juggernaut, an increasingly-anxious electorate, and a supine, if not openly hostile media. And how do we respond? Bloody, internecine warfare, of course: the Shriver-Kennedys join forces to rally California voters to vote for the Republican candidate, providing the Gropenator with timely, desperately-needed political cover from sexual assault charges; the Democratic Leadership Council publicly decries the incipient grass roots organizational efforts of Howard Dean as, "…our worst nightmare;" and, finally, vying for the Biggest Dunderhead on the Verge of Retirement award, Zell Miller issues a 'kick and tell' memoir purposefully named: No Longer A National Party: The Conscience of A Conservative Democrat. Sounds like somebody needs a nap.

(You'll notice I haven't even mentioned the squabbling among the nine Democratic presidential candidates. This is part of the rough and tumble of a typical primary campaign, which, while regrettable, is an irrepressible reality of the political vetting process.)

How often we've chuckled at the old Will Rogers saw, "I belong to no organized political party…I'm a Democrat." Well the old Plainsman would be amused today to see that his ironic commentary has become a hard and fast rule. We Democrats seem to be favoring the circular firing squad as the chief means of enforcing intellectual purity in our party ranks these days.

The Republicans, on the other hand, have seemingly mastered the art of mindless compliance. Each top-down Rovian edict - no matter how wrong-headed or oppressive - is carried forth by the rank and file in a chorus of doctrinaire unanimity. Policies as inimical to democracy as non- bid, sole source contracts to heavy campaign contributors are universally advocated from the Whitehouse down to the precinct level, in lock-step. Even an episode as morally repugnant as Rush Limbaugh's drug dealing is universally spun - straight-faced - as an indictment of Democratic values.

And yes, Dear Reader, our party's deficiencies are sometimes glaringly spelled out on these very pages of the Democratic Underground. Somewhere in a remote part of Karl Rove's brain is a verbatim recollection of every internet slam against Dean… or Kerry… or Clark… you get the picture. Like the Happy Idiot at Wrigley Field, we feel great while we're making the play, scoring the points, going for the jugular, because it's our right to do it. But in the end, our transitory joy could become a slow, agonizing death for the party's nominee, whoever he or she might be.

Here's a concept that even despondent Cub fans can agree on. For the next twelve months, let's just pay for our season ticket, sit back and enjoy the game, and let our players win the championship.

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