As mentioned before I want to teach a class (group of 5-10, as usual, by Google Hangouts video chat) on what makes a great team (multiple World Series titles in a decade or consecutvely) as opposed to a very good team (a World Series win and a bunch of playoff appearances, or the like), by looking at baseball literature–Moneyball vs. Eight Men Out, The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty vs. Before the Machine, and so on and so forth. (Contact me via the box below for more details; I need a group of 5-10.) I thought I had it all mapped out, even though one of my great skills–and the reason my students love me–is that I’m constantly learning as I go.
This World Series is changing that. David Ortiz‘s performance suggests that if the Sox manage to close it out, he is the World Series MVP (and I’ll need to get an autographed ball to add to my collection). And–again contingent upon one last Red Sox victory, which is by no means guaranteed–he would be the common link between three World Series teams in a decade. Not only does that suggest something we didn’t know about great teams, in terms of the potential of the Designated Hitter, but it suggests something that we didn’t know about great players. Ortiz would have to be a lock for the Hall of Fame, despite somewhat lackluster career statistics (largely due to time spent on the bench in Minnesota). It is worth noting also that the common assumption about DHs and their defensive skills, or lack thereof, which have set the tone for their general exclusion from the Hall, would be seriously called into question. To win 3 World Series titles, Ortiz would have had to play passable defense, even if only at 1B, several times when the Red Sox played in National League parks.
This is not to discredit the usual reasons for a great team: great pitching, solid defense up the middle, and the ability to hit the ball out of the park. In each run the Sox have had some version of that, though I am not sold on Stephen Drew as a great defensive shortstop, just as I was never sold on Julio Lugo. It is, however, to say that the pitching has changed–it is certainly not as great this year as it was in 2004, with Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez, or in 2007, with Schilling and Josh Beckett (one of the great postseason pitchers of all-time). David Ross has never, so far as I can remember–and I remember him back in his Dodger days–been a great defensive catcher. Neither has Mike Napoli (which is why he’s mostly been playing 1B).
Give it some thought.
Here is the most recent book review I posted on Amazon (and LibraryThing and Goodreads)! I will start posting these as a matter of course, but I admit my reading has slowed considerably.
‘This is an amazing book in its content. Morris’ study of the importance of sincerity–rather than success–to the formation of a Japanese hero sheds light on some cultural differences that may not appear obvious at first glance. As someone who has long since felt a deep connection with Japanese culture–I love Japanese baseball players and studied the Japanese language in high school (which despite what my students might think was within the last decade)–I felt like this cemented my feeling of attachment to it.
But I will also admit that in trying to form a distinction between Japanese heroes and Western heroes in terms of how the Japanese ones knowingly lead themselves to failure, whereas Western ones supposedly didn’t, Morris makes a pretty large mistake. Western literature is littered with heroes (both fictional and real) who know they will inevitably meet with complete failure, or who are self-sabotaging, only a few of whom are referred to in the text. Achilles, Socrates, Nicias, Brutus, Cato, Cicero, Beowulf, Othello, Robert E. Lee, Gatsby, Robert Jordan, and Winston Smith are some examples.
This particular version is after my own heart as it contains a typo in the Table of Contents–where it reads “Diety” instead of “Deity”. Some of the formatting is a bit unusual, too. Nevertheless I highly recommend it.’
I am having an essay launch/book release gathering on Saturday at 1 pm (lasting until 2:30) at Woodranch Park in Simi Valley. That’s where I play basketball, and if anybody brings a ball I am also happy to teach you fellows a few lessons on the court–beware of three-pointers from way out yonder because I play like a huge guard offensively (though I’m not afraid at all to play the post and defensively I can guard all 5 positions equally well). Lord knows if anyone cares enough to show up, but I have 40 copies at my disposal and will be signing them for those who please to buy them.
To get to Woodranch take the 118 W (if you are coming from the Los Angeles area) and get off at the Madera Road South exit, then hang a right onto Madera and go for about 2.5 miles to Woodranch Parkway. Make a left there, pass the first light, and at the next small intersection (no light) there is a left-turn pocket; head in there and turn left, then make an immediate right into the parking lot.
Also I am reading a FASCINATING book called The Nobility of Failure: Tragic Heroes in the History of Japan, by Ivan Morris, first published in 1975. I enjoy reading about Eastern cultures every now and again, especially Japan, for which I have some bizarre deep affinity. I think everyone here knows I studied Japanese in high school–or you should, because you should have long ago checked out my full reading list,and it’s mentioned right at the beginning–on top of a couple other languages. (I have a whole chapter in The Decline of the Epic? on comparative linguistics and the consequences of the rise of the English language for epic poetry, which I was able to do well not because I’ve taken the subject but because I’ve studied so many languages of different linguistic groups.) This book cements my feeling of attachment to Japan. Here’s to the Great Books program succeeding and my being able to afford a trip to Japan in a few years. Or to some rich young woman taking me there on an all-expenses paid trip with her. Kinda like the latter idea.
So it’s been an interesting few weeks. Obviously everyone here knows about my recent publication–if you don’t, see my last post–but the bigger part is that I’ve started to get my friends to allow me to help them. For a long time they were resistant to it, and also wouldn’t refer me any work. Now the big key is that I have to get them to do well, and that’s not always so easy when working with friends.
So how has it gone so far?
The first friend I helped was a basketball buddy–someone I ABUSE IN THE POST &c, and also from behind the three-point line–who needed to write a paper how character and setting contribute to meaning in Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Harrison Bergeron.” I’d read this story when I was at Pierce College taking English 101 and remembered it fairly well, and we wrote it on the destructive nature of totalitarianism both in terms of Vonnegut’s own experiences and how he uses the story to bring those out. It seemed that he didn’t quite understand how I brought the whole thing out, but he took my advice and wrote the paper as I recommended. The result: an F-. I kid, I kid. He texted me this weekend to inform me that he had gotten a 92.
The second friend I helped was an old classmate of mine at Pierce College. We took Environmental Science together in the Fall of 2008 and I had tutored him for the final, but this is different because it’s not peer tutoring. He graduated from LMU, but he still has one more writing class that he needs to finish, and he’s in it now, with, apparently, a very boring old lady as the instructor. He was asked to write a paper on Nietzsche’s conception of truth in Beyond Good and Evil. Now I am not a fan of Nietzsche, and I find him to be not only arrogant but completely abstruse and unable to connect words with meaning very often. I find teachers who teach his works to be dull, and I think they must know next to nothing because there are so many great philosophers out there who they have to overlook to teach this nincompoop. But when it comes to writing, that’s my gift. So I helped my pal out. He got his score back tonight, and called me with the news: a 95.
If you ever wonder what my results are and whether I can teach writing, there’s your answer.
Hot off the press!! Everyone please get and read it–I will be interested to hear your thoughts!
This book is hurting my head! But it is a great book for teaching as it has lots of material. And it’s relatively modern (written in 1917). And it’s “out there.” It also goes very well with The Vested Interests and the Common Man. The problem is that Veblen’s language would (and likely did) make Orwell cringe. He uses lots of long words when he could use shorter ones, adds words that can clearly be cut out without any change in the text’s meaning, and uses lots of words whose origins/etymologies are non-English. So it is a classic case of great ideas clouded by bad writing.