Friday, April 20, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: I Rooted for the Giants: A Look at Shakespeare's Comedies

This week's Sunday Scribbling prompt is rooted.

When I was a boy, Dad rooted for the N.Y. Yankees. I'm not sure why. He loved Mickey Mantle, maybe because legend had it that when Mantle got called up to play in New York he arrived with a cardboard suitcase and an Oklahoma way of doing things. Being a small town Kellogg guy, maybe Dad felt like he and Mickey Mantle were rooted in a similar way: beer drinking, late nights, uncomplicated world view, love of sports.

I parted ways with my father in 1962. I rooted for the San Francisco Giants. My hero was Willie Mays. Mays and I could not have been different in how our lives were rooted. I found Mays electrifying. He was an acrobatic player, powerful, fast, agile, and dramatic.

I began rooting for the Giants in 1962. They played the Yankees in the 1962 World Series. Dad rooted for the Yankees. He seemed more than disappointed in me. He was repulsed. Wasn't I like him, rooted in Yankee lore and love? Why, at the age of eight, had I betrayed him? Why did I become a fan not only of the Giants, but of the National League?

I can't explain it very well. All I know is that with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, with Matty Alou on third and Willie Mays on second, Willie McCovey tatooed a line drive off of Ralph Terry that Bobby Richardson, the Yankee second baseman, played perfectly and speared. The Yankees won.

I was heartbroken. My baseball rooting became rooted in heartbreak. The Giants would not return to the World Series until 1989, a Series shattered by the earthquake of that year. My sports fan life became rooted in rooting for the underdog.

Somehow, then, in my twenties, having rooted for underdog sports teams led to my love of Shakespeare being rooted in the comedies.

I began to realize, first of all, that most fellow students and professors thought of the comedies as inferior to the tragedies. They were the underdog plays to me.

As I studied the comedies more, I realized they were about timelessness, about time going on forever. They ended in marriage; marriage promised procreation. The comedies promised continuation. They often took place in a green world where miracles and reconciliation and forgiveness occurred, making the marriages and continuation possible. In the green world, time seemed to stand still. We were in a world made real by dreams and wishes and imagination.

In my twenties, my thinking was more rooted in baseball than Shakespeare. The two met. Time in baseball is not rooted in clock time. It's measured in outs. If no outs occur, the game continues for ever. Like in the comedies, where forgiveness and marriage bring characters to a place of security within themselves, bring them home, baseball is rooted in players leaving home and returning again.

Baseball is a green game, played on pastures that became enclosed by stadiums. I experienced baseball as a game of miracles, unexpected twists of fate. I understood comedy because of how my thinking was rooted in baseball.

Toward the end of his life, my father no longer rooted for the Yankees. They became too corporate, no longer a green world team, but a team of the city. By the time he died, we had come to reconcile ourselves to each other. I no longer rooted for the Giants, but even if I did, I think we both knew that our relationship was rooted in something much deeper than what baseball team each of us rooted for.

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