Thursday, March 28, 2013

Data with soul

So I went on another trip abroad and missed the end of the World Baseball Classic. I would say this was worth it:

It's the town of Amalfi, Italy. Despite Italy's impressive performance in the WBC, I saw no evidence of baseball on the Amalfi Coast.

But I didn't care. I dismissed the world for ten days, disconnected myself from social media and the news, got away from everything in my life except Chris. That included baseball. However, the Reds weren't totally out of my mind:

I missed nothing but my office's fantasy baseball draft. I've never participated in fantasy baseball, probably because I wouldn't do very well since I am totally biased towards the Reds. But this year I was considering it because I work at a political research firm where everything is about numbers, and there are many passionate baseball fans, including two other Reds fans in addition to myself. The draft passed, however, while I was eating pasta and sipping cappuccinos by the Mediterranean. Oh darn.

Fantasy sports are pretty strange to me in that people devote so much time, energy, and money into something that isn't real. Baseball, a game of numbers, was the first, of course, with football mimicking that of our superior sport. I've never been much of a numbers person. To me, they are naked ideas, raw and soulless. I prefer words, words dressed in style, in substance, words that indicate emotions and spirituality and that which makes us human. There is this trend - big data, data analysis, data mapping, data visualization - that is all the rage among those who are soldiers in the technological revolution. We think we're so advanced because we can communicate instantaneously and print weapons and avoid lines at the grocery. But really we've lost the soul of things. We've deified data at the expense of human truth. Once words had meaning. Now everything seems to be a series of ones and zeroes. That's great if you're a starting pitcher, not so much if you're a poet.

This may sound stupid, but baseball seems like the intersection of numbers and words. Baseball numbers aren't naked; they wear shiny uniforms and colorful caps and aren't afraid to get grass stains and dirt marks on their pants. They are painted on walls and engraved on plaques. 4192. 715. 2131. It makes sense that fantasy baseball is a part of the game. Fantasy baseball is science for the art of science. The art. Data with soul.

But it isn't reality. Reality is the plain white plane surrounded by carts and carts of supplies for Syrian refugees we saw at the airport in Istanbul. Reality is the bullet holes we saw in the buildings of Beirut. Reality is the Italians we saw preparing for the upcoming tourist season and the cappuccinos we sipped by the Mediterranean and the hardened bodies we saw in Pompei, bodies that had been smothered and buried by the lava of Vesuvius in 79AD. And reality is the memories we make with the people we care about while sitting at a baseball game.

So don't sit too long in front of your spreadsheets and forget to enjoy the game!

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