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"We love who we love."

If you want to experience the human condition, watch sports. It hardly matters which one. Baseball works best for me because I naively presume to understand the game, but soccer or football or golf will suffice. Each relies upon the fan believing that they know something about the game, though the numbers strongly suggest that they could not possibly know very much. The baseball fan up in the cheap seats wearing the porkpie hat and holding a kraut-smothered dog in one hand and a frosty Iron City in the other, could hardly be expected to grasp the statistical swirl they witness. They, like me, focus upon probably irrelevant elements, fully expecting that they can predict what might happen next. That home run hitter, coming up to the plate, brings with him the strong statistical probability that he will return to the dugout deeply disappointed, but the fan sees the opportunity to pull ahead in a lurch.

I guess it does't matter how many times the fan's expectations end up being disappointed. Enough homers happen to encourage that hope essential to encourage any supporter to hope yet again.
The failings get filed under anomaly, never referenced again. The home team remains the home team regardless of their record, remaining worthy of support, by which I mean continuing hope, whatever the baseball gods deal as their hand. Controversies erupt over the most insignificant events. The manager challenges a call. The umps put on ridiculous-looking headphones and wait for a ruling from some office in New York. Safe, they say, and he's safe. Out, they declare, and he's out.

Lay the whole scheme out on a statistical grid and the essential randomness becomes clearer. Run the numbers and the game shifts into something far less determined than expected. My home team, the, to my mind, venerable Washington Nationals, lost on Sunday night, skunked five to nothing by what might be the worst team in the big leagues. Tonight, they won twenty five to four, three of those four opposing runs scored in the last half of the last inning when the Nats manager ordered a fine pitcher onto the mound before he'd fully recovered from a stay on the disabled list. The pitcher wasn't fooled. He clearly understood that he had no business out on the mound tonight. He gave up three runs and his dignity to close out the game.

Humans seem to love long odds. Many flock to casinos, which to me seem to exist only to endlessly reprove how innumerate people can be. My brother-in-law's brother counts cards and tends to make a bundle gambling. He's a far outlier. The rest of the gamblers mostly go home poorer, but they don't seem to remember their failures any better than that guy in the porkpie had remembers his home run hero striking out most of the time. They remember a few fleeting successes and identify with those. Any objective observer (as if there was such a thing) would conclude that we're dumber than a stone, and they would not be wrong. We love who we love. Don't ask after the justification unless you want to hear unbelievable fiction. I love the Nats because The Muse and I once lived in Washington DC at a time when having a home team seemed reassuring. They were a terrible team the first few years but we followed them everywhere anyway. They have good years and bad years but our ardor seems unaffected by their performance. How clueless is that?

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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