Due The Bartman!

ESPN.com reports that the foul ball that bounced off Chicago Cubs fan Steve Bartman's hands, precipitating the Cubs' monumental playoff collapse, sold for $106,600 early Friday morning. The selling price was slightly higher than the $106,000 paid earlier this month for a Mickey Mantle home run ball hit in the 1964 World Series — that is, a ball with actual sporting significance.

Of course, in the era of the permeable membrane a sports fan may in fact add tangible economic value to the professional sporting contest, as the Bartman case illustrates. Of course, he won't see a dime of the hundred large (as the article made a point of telling us).

A managing partner of Harry Caray's Restaurant Group in Chicago purchased the ball, which will be on display at the restaurant for customers to determine the best way they can think of to destroy it.

Hopefully, Steve Bartman will be symbolically exonerated when the ball is destructed — February 26, 2004.

Herr Doktor

"Now that I have my new spinal implant, things have changed. I have become so addicted to my physical therapy regime that I am turning into a full-bore Body Nazi. My new book titled Dr. Thompson's Guide to Physical Fitness will be published in the Spring." — Hunter S. Thompson

The Crux of the Matter?

One more (extended) snippet from Brave New World (p.192):

'Exposing what is mortal and unsure to all that fortune, death and danger dare, even for an egg-shell. Isn't there something in that?' he asked, looking up at Mustapha Mond. 'Quite apart from God — though of course God would be a reason for it. Isn't there something in living dangerously?'

'There's a great deal in it,' the Controller replied. 'Men and women must have their adrenals stimulated from time to time.'

'What?' questioned the Savage, uncomprehending.

'It's one of the conditions of perfect health. That's why we've made the V.P.S. treatments compulsory.'


'Violent Passion Surrogate. Regularly once a month. We flood the whole system with adrenin. It's the complete physiological equivalent of fear and rage. All the tonic effects of murdering Desdemona and being murdered by Othello, without any of the inconveniences.'

'But I like the inconveniences.'

'We don't,' said the Controller. 'We prefer to do things comfortably.'

'But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.'

'In fact,' said Mustapha Mond, 'you're claiming the right to be unhappy.'

'All right, then,' said the Savage defiantly, 'I'm claiming the right to be unhappy.'

'Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen tomorrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind.'

There was a long silence.

'I claim them all,' said the Savage at last.

Mustapha Mond shrugged his shoulders. 'You're welcome,' he said.

Pneumatic Samples

A few snippets from Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, published in 1932:

The Director and his students stood for a short time watching a game of Centrifugal Bumble-puppy. Twenty children were grouped in a circle round a chrome-steel tower. A ball thrown up so as to land on the platform at the top of the tower rolled down into the interior, fell on a rapidly revolving disk, was hurled through one or other of the numerous apertures pierced in the cylindrical casing, and had to be caught.

'Strange,' mused the Director, as they turned away, 'strange to think that even in Our Ford's day most games were played without more apparatus than a ball or two and a few sticks and perhaps a bit of netting. Imagine the folly of allowing people to play elaborate games which do nothing whatever to increase consumption. It's madness. Nowadays the Controllers won't approve of any new game unless it can be shown that it requires at least as much apparatus as the most complicated of existing games' (p.35).

From her dim crimson cellar Lenina Crowne shot up seventeen stories, turned to the right as she stepped out of the lift, walked down a long corridor and, opening the door marked GIRLS' DRESSING-ROOM, plunged into a deafening chaos of arms and bosoms and underclothing. Torrents of hot water were splashing into or gurgling out of a hundred baths. Rumbling and hissing, eighty vibro-vacuum massage machines were simultaneously kneading and sucking the firm and sunburnt flesh of eighty superb female specimens. Everyone was talking at the top of her voice. A Synthetic Music machine was warbling out a super-cornet solo (p.39).

'By his heretical views on sport and soma, by the scandalous unorthodoxy of his sex-life, by his refusal to obey the teachings of Our Ford and behave out of office hours "like a babe in a bottle"' (here the Director made the sign of the T), 'he has proved himself an enemy of Society, a subverter, ladies and gentlemen, of all Order and Stability, a conspirator against Civilization itself' (p.123).

Don't Say That

Salon.com: "What happens when a virtual newspaper covering virtual events runs afoul of a real corporation?"

White Lines

Courtesy of powerpointart.comTicket to ride, white line highway
Tell all your friends, they can go my way
Pay your toll, sell your soul
Pound for pound costs more than gold
The longer you stay, the more you pay
My white lines go a long way
Either up your nose or through your vein
With nothin to gain except killin' your brain

Grandmaster Flash, White Lines

The lines in baseball and football illustrate the difference between production and simulation orientations in the social order. While the boundary lines of football dictate where a player may not go, the base paths of baseball dictate where a player must go. This compulsion is the essence of McLuhan's baseball-as-linear-gaming-endeavour:

Baseball is a game of one-thing-at-a-time, fixed positions and visibly delegated specialist jobs such as belonged to the now passing mechanical age, with its fragmented tasks and its staff and line in management organization (UM, p.211).

Move from home, to first, to second, to third, and back to home again — as if on a Fordist assembly line — and one run is manufactured: this is the nature of offensive production in baseball, and the significance of baseball's chalk lines. But changes have become manifest in society, most notably as we change the fashion in which we communicate. As McLuhan continues:

Baseball, that had become the elegant abstract image of an industrial society living by split-second timing, has in the new TV decade lost its psychic and social relevance for our new way of life. The ball game has been dislodged from the social center and been conveyed to the periphery of American life (UM, p.211).

Replacing baseball at the core of American social life? Football, in its truest form perhaps the modern team sport most in touch with its sensibilities of simulation. For the whole premise of football, particularly the spectacular form created by the NFL, is to model the American military-industrial complex — as it exists to fight an obsolete form of war.

It is here that the significance of the lines in football becomes apparent: the first down line, a fiction without any basis in chalk or paint, is the most significant line in football. Indeed, the sidelines are the Foucaultian iron that keeps the grid intact and the athletes focused on their objective: the goal line, which is in fact not even a line anymore but a plane, now that the sport has evolved into the third dimension. It is the first down line, though, that drives the players ever forward; once it is reached, it disappears, only to rematerialize 10 yards further down the field.

The difference between the lines is best exemplified in how the athletes themselves treat them. Baseball players, seeking to retain a sense of myth in the face of the modern rational industrial machine, refuse to step on the base lines for fear of incurring bad luck. Football players, on the other hand, walk all over the first down line, as it is virtually painted on the field. The line itself is the myth, but it is a myth powerful enough to induce great violence in the men who act like it doesn't exist.