Pop Flies
by Ken Arneson
2020-10-07 23:30

Winning a championship in baseball requires a certain amount of luck, perhaps more luck than in any other major sport. If Chad Pinder doesn’t hit a fly ball to the opposite field at just the right height and angle and direction, under just the right atmospheric conditions, that turns pop flies into 3-run homers instead of fly outs, and the A’s probably lose Game 3 of the AL Division series, instead of beating the Houston Astros 9-7, and I’m probably here writing an essay wrapping up the baseball season, instead of getting ready to watch Game 4 the following day.

The A’s were trailing 7-4 at the time of Pinder’s home run, and it certainly looked like the A’s season was reaching its end. After yesterday’s essay, in which I try to talk myself into a better attitude, I felt like, at that point, I was successfully avoiding both anger and despair, and had reached a level of calm acceptance.

The interesting thing when Pinder hit that home run, for me, was that I didn’t have a “YES! WOOHOO!” type of reaction. Instead, what I think I felt in that moment was gratitude. When that game got tied 7-7, I felt thankful for an extension of hopefulness, however short it may turn out to be. I had never thought of it before, but it makes sense that in fight-or-flight mode, your emotions range between anger and despair, but outside that mode, your emotions range between acceptance and gratefulness.

That’s not to say I didn’t relapse into a fight-or-flight mentality, however. When Kyle Tucker reached base on catcher’s interference in the 8th inning to put two runners on with no outs, after the A’s had just took a 9-7 lead in the top of the inning with a couple of sacrifice flies, I fell into both a bit of anger and despair at the same time, an outrage that the gods of baseball would see fit to once again bring A’s fans so close to making our hopes become reality, only to yank it away from us at the last minute. So I’m trying to adopt the right attitude, but obviously, I’m not a master of this mental technique.

However, Liam Hendriks did manage to close out both the inning and the game without any further damage. I was able to return to the feeling of gratefulness for the memory of this game on this day, and the opportunity to play again the following day.

The Vice Presidential debate was later in the evening. I watched some of it. When you’re in the lead like Biden/Harris are in the polls, all you want from the VP debate is no major screw ups. Harris avoided any major screw ups. In fact, the major popular meme that arose from the debate immediately was a fly that landed on Mike Pence’s head, and sat there for a good two minutes before flying away. If you’re leading, and that’s the kind of thing people are talking about afterwards, that’s a victory.

I think I was able to watch the debate without falling into fight-or-flight mode. Part of that is Pence, who in constrast to Trump is so exceedingly bland that he can say almost the same things as Trump and you barely notice what he said, and a fly that lands on his head while he’s talking becomes more popular than he is. So I’m not going to take too much credit for my own change in attitude for that. I’m sure at this point, I still could not listen to Trump for any length of time without a visceral reaction of disgust and contempt for the guy, which would throw me into fight-or-flight mode again. I still very much want to fight the guy, I want to see him lose in the most humiliating way possible, and have no willingness to forgive him for his many sins against democracy, humanity, and our country.

But that’s today. Maybe tomorrow, we can all get better. I’m grateful for the opportunity.

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This is Ken Arneson's blog about baseball, brains, art, science, technology, philosophy, poetry, politics and whatever else Ken Arneson feels like writing about
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