I wrote this in hopes of publishing it somewhere in Atlanta, but it's shelf life has expired, so here you go world:
Everything’s going to be OK.
That was the message of Wednesday’s unattended game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox. This may seem odd, given the circumstances — the first game in Major League Baseball history to have been played in an empty stadium. Without doubt, it was weird, but the fact of its having been played at all is encouraging.
Consider: amid all of the chaos and pain in Baltimore, baseball decided that for the sake of the integrity of the game as a whole, the O’s and the South Siders would have to take one for the team. And whenever the integrity of the game is a concern, things can’t be too bad.
The hometown boys — Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, and the rest — seemed perfectly happy to do their part to restore normalcy, however small their contribution may have been in the grand scheme of things. Watching Jones’ press conference before the game, one gets the distinct feeling that he cares deeply for his adopted city, just as David Ortiz demonstrated two years ago when he spoke at Fenway in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. If that’s not convincing, go read Orioles’ executive John Angelos’ impassioned defense of Baltimore’s protesters on Twitter.
“The innocent working families,” he wrote, “of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, an ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importance of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards.”
Like any sport at this level, baseball is a business, and one in which a high premium is placed on the public avoidance of political subjects. But when the pressure is sufficient, even the most stoic athletes drop their masks. As a fan you can be critical and dismissive and ding them as “just athletes,” or you can simply savor the realization that athletes are real human beings with human concerns like the rest of us. I have found in the last few days a sympathy for the Orioles that is conspicuously absent from my rooting concerns. Go Birds!
We’ve had little fleeting hints of this sort of thing here in Atlanta too. Who can forget Chipper Jones in head-to-toe camouflage braving Snowmageddon on his four-wheeler to rescue a traffic-bound Freddie Freeman? Sure, it was a little silly, but for a moment we recognize these two guys for what they are: two guys dealing with the same adversity as the rest of us. Icy Atlanta was a warmer place for a moment.
And what of the ills that await us? This may be the City Too Busy to Hate, but for a good slice of the population, it’s also the locus of their all-encompassing misery. We recently learned that Atlanta has the greatest gap between rich and poor of any of the 50 largest cities in the U.S. A quarter of our citizens live below the poverty line. Atlanta is increasingly two cities, and not just metaphorically, as the attempted secession of so many northern suburbs attest. Surely we’ve had time to digest the lesson of a house divided? But no.
Very near the center of this fractious house is a ballfield, built for one of the most triumphant moments in Atlanta’s history, the 1996 Olympics. And now the Braves are poised to pull their team out of it like a drain plug from a bathtub. What happens when Atlanta boils over, as it surely must one day if we continue to be unwilling to come together? Will the crisis simply be unattended by the Braves and their fans? The contrast to the Orioles’ civic engagement is searing.
It’s hard to see how any of this ends well. I love baseball, but ultimately Atlanta is more important than any kids’ game. I suppose, like so many people I know, I’ll start learning about soccer.
And with any luck, and a dab of humanity, everything will be OK.
Hello to everyone I met on my train trip between April 3 and April 9. Sorry I've been such a lazy stiff about posting this.
Anyway, I'm working on a draft of the story and expect to have it finished by around the beginning of May. Then we'll move into editing, and I have no idea how long that will take. If I had to make a wild guess, I'd say the story will be published in late May.
Thanks all of y'all for talking to me and telling me your stories. The whole trip was a gift.
Drop me a line at email@example.com if you have questions or remarks.
William Tecumseh Sherman was a year younger than I am now when he embarked on the Atlanta Campaign. He was responsible for nearly 100,000 men, God knows how many animals or how many millions of dollars of ordnance and supplies, all of which relied for its continued existence on a hundred miles of railway in a hostile country. And he managed it with aplomb.
Me? I can barely manage my bank account.
The fun never ends. This weekend I discovered that my employer, Georgia Tech, possesses PDFs of all 148 volumes of The War of the Rebellion, the official record of the Civil War. PDFs can be downloaded right from the library catalog; you just gotta be a GT student, staff member, or faculty. Or I suppose you could be given special dispensation if you're a researcher somewhere else. Very cool.
There are a lot of crap things about living in the early 21st century, but Project Gutenburg ain't one of them. The other day I was musing on the memoirs of William T. Sherman and it suddenly occurred to me that, well hell, they're in the public domain, I bet some fool has digitized them. And sure enough, here they are. It's a fairly good bet that among the several hundred people I know well enough to merit a Facebook friendship, I'm the only one truly willing to read this 1400+ page monster. But if you get a wild hair to digest the work of a non-writer from 140 years ago, you could do worse than Uncle Billy. His writing is concise and direct, and feels relatively modern, since those two characteristics are more or less the hallmarks of "modern" writing, unless you happen to read French post-structuralists for fun. Anyway, if you're interested in the Civil War, it's pretty good stuff. Like many memoirs, one walks away with the impression that Sherman was preternaturally wise and possessed of perfect judgement. It's easy enough to see through (though, let's be honest — Sherman is undoubtedly one of the great heroes of American history), but it will be interesting, when the time is available, to delve into the memoirs not only of his opponents in the field, but those jealous souls who served — and chafed — under him.
If ever the world needed an example of a person who can't keep his own house in order because he's busy fixing up other people's houses, this website is it. Not that anyone is looking anyway, but every now and again someone asks for a link to it, and I suddenly feel the need to sort some things out. So I spent a half hour sorting things out today, and the house looks slightly better. Until you open the door and go inside, of course, but we can't have everything.