Fear and Loathing in the National League, East

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
The Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear, from Dune, by Frank Herbert

First, an announcement: Over the next few days (maybe the next couple of weeks, as I get time), I’ll be looking at each N.L. East team in turn and projecting their 2012 seasons. These projections are a bit of a co-production with Blown Save, Win. They’ll supply the passion and emotion–I’ll try to be as logical as I can. It’ll be fun.

The fellows over at Blown Save, Win and I got into a pretty spirited debate on Twitter the other night about our expectations for the next baseball season. The BS, W crew are inclined to write their projections in terms of best- and worst-case scenarios. Why? Well, I’ll let Dave explain:

…[W]ith baseball comes the true greatest of human emotions, hope and dread. It is these two emotions that make baseball fun, and fun is what it is meant to be. We might fancy ourselves scholars of the game but the reality is we’re fans. If we crunch out numbers and run our scenarios and end up right the best we can hope for is self satisfaction. The better approach to the sport of baseball is to sit back and enjoy the show.

As will surprise no one who’s been reading me so far, I disagree. Our ability to study and break down baseball can liberate us from unjustified fear. I started Natstradamus in part because I was sick and tired of listening to the endless cycle of despair–and, to be honest, sick of myself at being taken up in the same cycle of despair–as the Nats failed first to sign Buehrle, then failed to enter the Yu Darvish sweepstakes, and finally failed to sign Prince Fielder. Every turn of the hype cycle got me more and more angry. I asked myself: OK, if the Nationals do nothing else, how bad could they posssibly be? Not that bad, I concluded.

Now, I’m not entirely certain about the predictive ability of my model, but it at least gets me into the right ballpark. This exercise is all about learning to set reasonable expectations. Once I have an idea of what I can reasonably expect, I don’t have to feel that every day is a crisis any more. The long-term perspective has done much already to preserve my stomach lining and my sanity.

That doesn’t mean I don’t love watching baseball. Few things can beat a warm summer afternoon spent watching a skillfully-played game of baseball at the park with a few thousand of your closest friends roaring their approval at every turned double-play or home run. But rational analysis and projection allows me to check myself when a win streak threatens to carry me away, or when a losing streak threatens to plunge me into despair. It lets me face my worst fan fears and replace fear with–well, if not knowledge, then at least intelligence.

So to face those fears, I’ll be taking my first look at the most-feared and most-hated team in the N.L. East: the Phillies. Stay tuned.

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One thought on “Fear and Loathing in the National League, East

  1. I’m more inclined to agree with the BS, W boys on this one. A big part of the beauty of all sport (not just baseball) is the levels of hope and dread that it inspires in me as a fan. The emotional investment that I have in something or someone that in reality I cannot influence is liberating. This includes not only the positive emotions, the feeling of elation and getting carried away that comes with, say, a win streak or the hope at the start of every season but also the sense of hopelessness (rational or irrational) that a losing streak or a series of poor performances creates. It’s cliched but the fear and dread, whether they are truly justified or not, experienced during the bad times make the positive emotions all the sweeter. Besides, if life is all about the journey as opposed to the destination, then it makes sense to experience as many different feelings as possible along the way (positive and negative, justified or unjustified) and few experiences evoke such an emotional range as the ludicrous attachment we develop to, in this instance, what essentially amounts to a group of men hitting a ball with a stick, but our sports teams in general.

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