Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Good Old Days

I'm finally got to watch MLB Network's broadcast of Don Larsen's 1957 World Series game. It wasn’t just about the ballgame, the beauty of perfection, or getting to see Hall of Fame players at their best. It wasn’t watching Jackie or Duke or Mickey or Yogi. No, the thrill and interest in this game was much more than that. It was a time period. It was Americana. It was nostalgia.

The men in their hats and the women in their dresses sat politely, not rowdy, not heckling, not unwieldy or unruly. There’s an element of innocence to it all, from their attire to their faces to the respect they seem to have towards each other. Americans were different back then. They looked different. Their faces were different. Their expressions were different. The way they spoke, too, was different. There was a sort of naivety about them, childlike in their adult bodies, not so arrogant.

Television. Before there was television, there was photography. Before photography, there was painting, sculpture, sketching. We can read our history books and visit our museums for an idea about how the past looked, how it sounded, how it felt, but records and art were commissioned by the wealthy. The record of the common man is sparse. But television, television was made for the common man. Television records his every move, his every look, his every word. Television gives his meaningless life meaning, gives his class immortality, even if his own name exists only on a headstone. There he sits alive, a bright October day in the Bronx, forever recorded for future generations who have the curiosity to see.

Ah, the good old days, how good they would be had they existed. Or maybe they did exist. That innocence is real there on those cameras and on other video recordings from the same period. But why was it there? Why did people dress respectably to go out in public? Why did they treat each other as they wanted to be treated? Why did they not need “family sections” so parents could sit with their kids without drunken idiots surrounding their children? Where did it all go?

This is more than “kids these days.” It’s more than nostalgia. Sometimes it’s downright unpleasant to go to a ballgame when you’re surrounded by bumbling idiots and selfish, arrogant bastards. Today’s Americans think they’re entitled to anything they want and screw whoever gets hurt in the process. How many times have you moved seats because of some moron around you? How many times has someone spilled beer on your stuff? How many times have you been subjected to some nimrod screaming obscenities at opposing players (or if you’re in Cincinnati, at his own players)?

I watched that crowd as much as I watched Larsen, as much as I watched Mickey behind him, as much as I watched Yogi catch each pitch. And while I am happy that I am no longer expected to wear a dress to a ballgame, that it is perfectly acceptable to wear my Reds tank top with shorts and flip flops, I still can’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia for something I never knew. Where has the civility gone?

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