A Modest Proposal

by rthieme on October 25, 2005

The battle over a new stadium is unsettling to everyone. Most of us know about this event because the media give it so much coverage. This is only appropriate. During a week when the Israeli Prime Minister warns of the likelihood of nuclear terrorism, mass graves are uncovered in the Balkans, and economic data reminds us of the growing abyss between the “underclass” and those who are firing them, it is imperative that we remain focussed on what really matters.

I offer a solution that will not only end our hand-wringing about the future of Milwaukee baseball but will solve critical social, economic, and political problems at the same time.

Through the long days of summer, thousands of men get lost in “fantasy baseball.” Players invent teams of selected “real” players, then use actual performances to determine results. They make trades, keep detailed statistics, win and lose small fortunes.

I contend that “real” baseball is impossible to distinguish from fantasy baseball.

The most popular site on the World Wide Web is ESPN’s SportsZone. Why? Because sports fans live entirely in their heads and the virtual reconstruction of what is a fantasy in the first place is simply a bump up to another level of abstraction.

There are good economic and political reasons for this. Professional sports are our version of the “bread and circuses” provided for the rabble as the Roman Empire slid downhill into the mud like a Malibu cliff-house in the rain. The major activity at baseball games is eating – not bread but brats and beer. The ingestion of so much numbing stuff keeps our economy humming and also keeps us oblivious to what is going on around us.

Baseball, in short, like all professional sports, is an effective way to channel the competitiveness and hostility of millions of people into a relatively harmless form. A European soccer fan might occasionally be killed in a riot, but a dead fan now and again is hardly a high price to pay for social stability.

Even those who still attend “real games” don’t tune in to the game but to media simulations of the game. Giant video screens and loud announcements make it impossible to watch a Bucks game (thank heaven). Baseball fans plug headphones into their ears so they won’t even hear the shouts of the crowd of which they’re a part.

The replication of the game by the media IS the game.

Simulations of reality have become copies without originals. It simply does not matter whether baseball is played in a real stadium or not for the larger purpose for which professional sports exist to be achieved.

Therefore I propose that we create a virtual stadium using the Internet, radio, television, and print media, recognizing that it is all fantasy baseball anyway. We will save huge amounts of money because players, the most expensive and least important item on the balance sheet, can be eliminated. With no human beings interfering with the purity of the virtual construct, the game will at last reach its potential.

I predict that no one will notice the absence of an external point of reference. We will stumble numbly through the painful trauma of social and economic transformation, bloated with beer and brats, a vast harmless herd in an immense fantasy SportsZone. With a little luck, we’ll reach the 21st century with a minimum of social disruption and even less awareness of how we got there.

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