Monday, August 6

Condemned to Repeat It

It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME.

1. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Bam. That one little sentence, that casual string of symbols and scratches flowing from George Santayana’s quill explains why we study history. We wouldn’t want to repeat the miseries of the past would we? Certainly not. Indeed, William Shirer made that line the epigraph for “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” an account of some history we definitely don’t want to repeat. The sentiment is right. Repeating the past is best avoided. In too many cases the past is simply awful, but even when the past is beautiful is it really something we wish to repeat, or is progress the goal of eternity?

There is, however, a problem with Santayana’s little cliché. It is wrong. That is not to say that it is an incomplete model, that it, like how the Newtonian laws, explains some things very well, while at the same time being verifiably untrue. It is not merely flawed; it stands in direct opposition to truth. Those who do remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

What has an excessive devotion to history ever brought us? Hubris, anger, vengeance. Would we not be better off if no Serb had heard of the Field of Blackbirds, or knew the tragic story of Tsar Lazar? Would social progress in India not proceed more smoothly if no one remembered his caste?

History is not a teacher. It is not some kindly scholar eager to impart wisdom to the generations. History is a propagandist, eager to demand moral clarity where none exists

History is not a lover, gently letting us know that we are part of something bigger. History is a bitch, offering any flattery to get the drama she craves, spreading disease and decay across generations.

History is not a friend. It offers no counsel, no compassion, no support. History is traitor, leading us to disaster with promises of insight.

History is the problem in two way ways. First, history is an illusionist, a master of misdirection. Much as the conjurer distracts us from his manipulations with movements of the hand, history distracts us from the issue of the day by focusing our attention on the movements of the past. The Maginot line, that monument to the ineffectiveness of backward thinking, is nothing if not an indictment of close attention to history. Baseball has its Maginot lines, and one guards the Bronx. The Yankees are fixated on the past. For them, the solution to any problem, it seems, is a closer study of that which has gone before. First base is a problem? Bring back Tino Martinez. The starting pitching is lacking? Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens used to be good, so they must be good now. The Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens of today are nothing more than a machine gun bunker on the Franco-German border, threatening, but ultimately irrelevant.

The second curse of history is that one’s very fixation on it is the greatest guarantor of its recurrence. So much conflict in the world, so much despair, is driven by fear of what has happened before, of past conquest, of past slavery, of past pain. And much like Oedipus, desperately trying to avoid a perceived fate, people around the world, over and over, have charged recklessly into the arms of their damnable past thereby guaranteeing a damnable future.

Remember 1978? Forget it. Only because we know that the Red Sox blew a huge lead in 1978 do we think it possible that it could happen again. Yet, only by acting fearfully, could it happen this year. This is not 1978. The Yankees have no Ron Guidry, save the graying pitching coach. We are better than them. And yet, fear persists. What if it happens again? But it will not. It cannot. It cannot, unless fear moves us to irrationality.

The genius of the 2004 Red Sox was their utter mindlessness. Their lack of attention to tradition, to history, allowed them to avoid letting fear direct their actions. Conversely, the 2004 Yankees’ fixation on history led to hubris, and, invariably, nemesis. The 2004 lesson, the silliness, the shallowness, the disregard for the norms of the game, that is what must be emulated if we are to have success in 2007.

Of course, that would be taking a lesson from history. Best to avoid it.

2. Curt Euro returns tonight after more than a month on the disabled list, but what kind of return will it be?

The first possibility is that it will be like Return of the Jedi. In other words, Curt Euro returns, deals with some emotional problems and family issues, but at the end he kicks *ss and everything turns out great. Under this scenario, the season ends with Ewoks banging out melodies on a marimba made from the helmets of decapitated Yankees.

The second, far grimmer, possibility is that the Return of Curt Euro is more like the Return of Martin Guerre. Under this scenario, Curt Euro returns and is better than we’ve ever seen him before. But something is different. He’s nicer. His teammates like him more. He doesn’t talk as much and blogs a lot less. It’s almost like he’s a different guy.

Then the trouble starts. One day, another man, shows up claiming to be Curt Euro, a man who is missing his leg. Chaos ensues, and after a lengthy process it is concluded that the one-legged Curt is the true Curt, after all, we all saw the guy’s ankle bleed. Why wouldn’t his leg have been amputated? The fake Curt, the two-legged, strong throwing Curt, is hanged and the Red Sox are stuck with a one-legged blogger/video game developer as their third starter.

On the plus side, the Curt who got hanged turns out to be Gerard Depardieu

3. Yesterday, center fielder Rococo Crisp was almost seriously injured by a moose, Mariner Moose, driving an All-Terrain Vehicle. Even putting aside the question of why a moose is the mascot for a nautically-themed team, this is big news.

In fact, it is the biggest news involving an athlete, a vehicle and a moose since July 4, 1988, when wrestler “Adorable” Adrian Adonis swerved to avoid a moose in Newfoundland and was killed.

The lesson is clear. Don’t give driver’s licenses to moose… or to pro wrestlers.

I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.


Mark Staton said...

I was at the game yesterday, in the Club Seats behind the Sox dugout courtesy of my former college roommate, Dave, who is now an executive at a small Seattle software start-up called Microsoft.

As the Moose was tearing around the park on his ATV, I turned to Dave and said, "Why isn't the mascot an angry Alaskan fisherman or a shameless knock-off of the Sea Captain on the Simpsons? Ohmygod, he just hit Coco!!!"

As someone who witnessed in person way to many of the nine games in a row the Sox had lost at Safeco, it was great to see them get off the schneid.

Keep on keepin' on, Jose.

Jose Melendez said...

It's nice to see you using "to" rather than "too" in tribute to Jose's famed homonym confusion. He appreicates the thought.

Nick Valvo said...

These were the best keys ever. It's uncanny, to me, that you also associate Jean de Florette with the Return of Martin Guerre, but I suppose it makes a certain amount of provencal sense.

Jack said...

Jose knows way to much about Pro Wrestling (and two little about homonyms...apparently)