Monday, March 18, 2013

Make Puerto Rico the 51st state now so Americans can cheer the finals of the World Baseball Classic tomorrow, and Americans can remain exceptional

Time has come
to make Puerto Rico the 51st state, whether the Puerto Ricans like it or not.

Then, of course, we could say USA baseball is still alive in the World Baseball Classic. USA baseball, would, in fact, be preparing for the world finals tomorrow.

Instead… Well, the millionaire USA baseball players are back to their Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues, preparing for another high-priced season.

But, you argue, Puerto Rico’s baseball team is American baseball. And, in a way, you are right. Many of Puerto Rico’s players are Major League ballplayers; some are even big time stars of American baseball. They may not be Americans by citizenship – though some are – but they are Americans by paycheck.

If you buy the paycheck argument, you can rest easy because American baseball beat Japanese baseball yesterday. The Japanese nine sported no American major league players.

What a relief, eh? After the ‘pure’ major league team was ousted in the semi-finals, it is nice to know a team of American major leaguers – not, perhaps, the white bread players you had in mind, unfortunately – but major leaguers nonetheless – beat the Japanese.

This World Baseball Classic is tough on American chauvinists. We grasp at straws.

The world, our times, our reality, is kind of hard these days on American Exceptionalism. I grew up with this idea. It was everywhere – books, movies, television, the stories your father told. It was Cold War driven, but its roots were much, much older… in fact as old as the republic. And the idea wasn’t always the exclusive province of Sarah Palin conservatives. It was in the poetry of Carl Sandburg and the music of Woody Guthrie. It was deep seated in the notion of ‘The People.’ The People, who despite their crude, often uneducated, always rebellious ways, knew more than the snot nose aristocracy, worked harder, and always prevailed.

Yes, the aristocracy was never – until very recently – the object of American exceptionalism. It was an idea reserved for "The People." It took Palin and Rove and the other conservatives to contort it to include the likes of Trump and Goldman Sachs. They managed to twist the idea into the view that doing anything to limit the excesses of American Millionaires and Billionaires was tantamount to limiting American Exceptionalism. Maybe the millionaire American ballplayers fit that new idea of American exceptionalism – if someone is willing to pay you $100-plus million dollars to play the game you must be exceptional. How could you possibly be out-hit by the relatively impoverished Italians or out-pitched by minor league, or never-been, Puerto Ricans?

Well, here we are, baseball once again a mirror for the reality of its times. But I think for tonight and tomorrow night, I’ll put these silly political ideas away and just enjoy this fascinating world of baseball, in the broadest sense of the word. The passion of the World players in infectious; it is the polar opposite of the American millionaires going through the paces wrapped in cotton by their corporate owners, in the lackadaisical sun of spring training. There, winning is meaningless. In San Francisco tonight and tomorrow night, winning will be everything.



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