When the news is relentlessly bad, when the numbers are in the tank and the sniping is vicious and the disasters just keep mounting and no one seems to have any answers, sports become a refuge. It may be bread and circuses (or just circuses, really), but we can escape the drumbeat of doom when our team chalks up one in the win column.
Unfortunately, my team -- the Braves -- haven't gotten one in the win column for a week now. A nine-and-a-half game lead in the National League wild card race has become a four-and-a-half game lead. Leads have been few, and squandered when they occur; hits in RBI situations have been anemic, the slim one- and two-run margins of victory have consistently not fallen in our direction.
I get piqued at times with how personally Noel takes all of this. He gets angry or cynical or fatalistic when the Braves can't get it together. I usually want him to show his frustration less, to maintain a front of "ah well, it's only sports," at least for the purposes of the smooth functioning of our home life, which gets disrupted when somebody's mood goes black. But deep down I understand. When nothing else in the news is going well, when the outlook everywhere is negative, when the political "teams" or causes that we root for are on the ropes and gasping for air, you need the more even-handed and less morally-charged world of sports to throw up a couple of moments of joy for you.
Probably I shouldn't be writing this while the Braves are still in the midst of their game tonight, with a small lead still out there to lose -- or before their playoff spot is clinched. And I recognize that the view of the sports world as fair competition without significant moral downsides is horrendously blinkered. It's hard for me to take the same refuge in college football, for example, being all too aware of the tradeoffs schools make in ethical standing and prudent academic management to bring us those contests.
But damned if we don't really need those wins right now. Every one gives us a few hours, maybe a day or two, or feeling like it's possible to do something right. Go Braves.