Monthly Archives: January 2014

Steam Rollers

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again. Oh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come. …”

Field of Dreams is a pretty well known movie. It has a young, pre-Oscar Kevin Costner and it is about the disgraced ghosts of baseball. All-in-all, it’s a pleasant way to spend and hour and a half. The quote above, was a line delivered by James Earl Jones, the actual voice of Darth Vader, in Star Wars. His gravitas in the scene stems from his character’s back story, a cross between J.D. Salinger and Malcolm X. It’s a captivating cinematic moment. The obvious hole in the logic, however, is that America is way older than Baseball.  And sorry to kill the nostalgic buzz of the moment, but the Constitution has been our nation’s one constant. What would be a more accurate statement, is “Progressive’s have rolled by like an army of steamrollers.” I say that because, baseball became organized around the same time as many of the social reforms that we live with today. This summer, baseball will change once more, almost in lock step with the change in our reality. The reality is, we are under a new form of surveillance, as will baseball. Major League Baseball will allow instant replay, via HD cameras. Managers get 3 challenges and an additional one after the 7th inning. Sounds simple, but it changes the game. It creates a game, within the game. It changes the strategy, with which the manager will approach the game. It fundamentally will change the speed and nature of the game.  All in the name of fairness and safety. Sounds eerily familiar, right?

We, as Americans, have had to come to terms with the reality that we are under a new form of surveillance and it came like “an army of steam rollers”. People were called “fear-mongers” and “conspiracy nut jobs”, for saying this was happening, 3 years ago. The first and most notable being Glenn Beck, the owner of The Blaze, a now stunningly successful online network. More recent and hipster friendly figures like,  John Stewart of “The Daily Show”, who conjures images of a millennial Walter Cronkite. Are now crying “foul” on citizen surveillance. Although, Stewart was begrudgingly late to the party and only seemed to show up, because the facts were too numerous and clear to mock any longer. (It should be mentioned that it was Beck, who Stewart mocked most often and seemed to take great pleasure, while doing it.)  Like managers in baseball, we now have to re-evaluate our game plan in the game of life.  The realization that the government is now able to monitor all our emails and phone calls, is a fundamental change to our day-to-day lives.  Unlike managers, this isn’t a game being watched by tens of thousands at the stadium and millions at home. It’s just you and your digital trail, something created privately and without thought.  Also, unlike managers, the rules for our new form of surveillance aren’t clearly defined and closely followed. In fact, the government, our daily umpires, seem untruthful and slow coming with the details of our new reality. The changes to baseball were debated, dissected, and discussed by the most prominent baseball writers and minds, unlike the changes to our rule of law, which just kind of showed up one day.

Will baseball help ease this transition, like it’s done at other points in our history? I can’t say, only time will tell.

And it is at this point, that my analogy fails to express what’s at stake. We aren’t paid handsomely to play a kids game for the amusement of the masses. This is our lives (most of us are happy in our mediocre anonymity) , with which we are supposed to be free and guaranteed, by our Constitution, to pursue our best idea of happiness. It’s one thing to set-up an account and have the company slide sneaky terms and agreements about your digital activity past you, that’s easily corrected by the free-market. As shown by, Beck’s company 1791.com, who, for a price,  guarantees to not share your digital activity. It’s a whole different game for a government, for the people and by the people, to do this to it’s people.

I’m not sure what will come. I hope for a mythical, Lincoln-like figure to rise up and once again, grab our nation by the scruff of the neck and show us the errors of our way. In this point and time, where cynicism rules the day, I fear that I hope for too much. All that seems to be left to rely upon is the theory that history and greatness are thrust upon a group of reluctant and self-centered individuals, in this case, “millennial’s”.  It’s in the hand of the hipster’s..