Saturday, December 10, 2011

   "Did it really never happen before that? Before 1973?"
   Aparicio breathed in and out - a kind of ethereal idea of a shrug. He waited a very long time before answering, as if registering a dignified protest against the demand Affenlight had placed on him. "How many times does something happen before we give it a name? And until the name exists, neither does the condition. So perhaps it happened many times before, but was never named.
   "And yet. Baseball has many historians, including among its players. There are statistics, archives, legends, lore. If earlier players had experienced similar troubles, it seems likely the stories would have been passed down. And then the name would be applied in retrospect."
   1973. In the public imagination it was as fraught a year as you could name: Watergate, Roe v. Wade, withdrawl from Vietnam. Gravity's Rainbow. Was it also the year that Prufrockian paralysis went mainstream - the year it entered baseball? It made sense that a psychic condition sensed by the artists of one generation - the Modernists of the first World War - would take awhile to reveal itself throughout the population. And if that psychic condition happened to be a profound failure of confidence in the significance of individual human action, then the condition became an epidemic when it entered the realm of utmost confidence in same: the realm of professional sport. In fact, that might make for a workable definition of the postmodernist era: an era when even the athletes were anguished modernists. In which case the American postmodern period began in spring 1973, when a pitcher named Steve Blass lost his aim
   Do I dare, and do I dare?

- Chad Harbach
The Art of Fielding

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