The following is an age-old tale of forbidden love, with the same lamentable ending as all the others.
* * *
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’
–John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn
I wish I could believe Keats was right. I wish that simple formula–Find The Beautiful, Be A Winner–were actually true. But look at the world. The truth is, sometimes The Ugly kicks ass. Microsoft. MySpace. George Steinbrenner. Barry Bonds.
* * *
Confession: I am in love with B.J. Upton.
It was love at first sight. I have yet to lay eyes on Upton on TV (for who watches the Devil Rays on TV?), but here is what I said when I first laid eyes on him in person last August:
..even though Loaiza had Upton befuddled most of the afternoon, striking him out three times, I kinda fell in love with Upton anyway. His swing is so quick and smooth, it’s quite a lovely thing to behold. I think he has the most aesthetically pleasing swing I’ve seen in years.
I saw that swing again yesterday at the Oakland Coliseum. My feelings intensified. I love, love, love B.J. Upton’s swing. I think could watch it for days and nights on end. I have not heard anyone else say such a thing about him, so perhaps it doesn’t show up on TV, or perhaps it’s just the simple blindness of human love and infatuation, but I find his swing to be unbelievably, intensely captivating.
I am a diehard A’s fan. I am not supposed to fall in love with a member of a rival clan. This is heresy; it can only lead to pain and suffering. But who can help who they fall in love with? I am Tristan, having drunk the potion to fall in love with the already betrothed Isolde. I am Romeo, in love with Juliet, the daughter of my family’s most bitter enemy. B.J. Upton does not play for my team, but I find his swing to be the most beautiful swing I have ever seen.
‘Tis but your team that is my enemy;
You are yourself, though, not a Devil Ray.
What’s a Devil Ray? It has no hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, join some other team!
What’s in a team? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So B.J. would, were he not Devil Ray called,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. O, B.J., doff your team,
And for that team which is no part of you
Take all myself.
And perhaps all is well when the object of my affection fails to do any damage against my own clan, but oh, the bittersweet pain when this beautiful swing turns into a three-run home run that sends my own team to defeat:
* * *
B.J. Upton is short and lean and graceful, in a time when baseball players are, in increasing numbers, tall and bulky and powerful. How can Upton compete against men who are seemingly twice his size? Can grace and beauty defeat ugly, brute strength?
Perhaps that’s why I’ve fallen in love with Upton; I want so badly to believe that it can. Evolution has seen fit to wire us, for some reason, to seek out beauty, to prefer it over ugliness. Evolution has the wisdom of millenia behind it; it won’t be fooled by sample size. Perhaps ugly only wins in the short term, because that’s how ugly fights.
What if Keats was right? What if beauty does win in the end, and that’s all you need to know?
Perhaps all these ugly, bulked-up-on-chemicals baseball stars will get their comeuppance in the end. The dealers will squeal, the truth will out, the names will be stained with the word of their sins, and their once-powerful glory will crumble like old, stone ruins in the desert:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
–P.B. Shelley, Ozymandias of Egypt
I don’t want to know that a lean young man with a short, sweet stroke needs to turn into a monster to survive. I’d rather live in ignorance, to suffer the pains of defeat and betrayal and disappointment, if living with knowledge means living without beauty. I choose to believe that in the long run, only the beautiful will reveal itself to be true, and only the beautiful will be remembered as truth. Beauty is not a large monument proclaiming its own greatness. Beauty is a grain of sand, blowing in the wind.