Monday, July 20, 2009

Umps Versus Imps

John Keats would have made a terrible umpire.

Umpires live in a world of absolutes. You're either safe or you're out, it's fair or foul, ball or strike. It is either raining or it isn't. It can't be both and it can't be neither.There is no time for indecision, nor the inclination.

The imp is full of mischief. He's the trickster,the elf and as such, the poet. Keats encouraged "Negative Capability"; being comfortable with doubt and ambiguity. The poet's trade is nuance, ellipsis, even irresolution.

If the umpire is the reigning patriarch the imp is the misbehaved child.

One umpire famously declared, "I don't call them as I see them, I call them as they are." This a triumph of objective reality over the subjective; as if the umpire, as a supreme being,is more than an expert observer, he is the teller of truth itself.
It is a declaration that truth exists independent of us; he is merely reporting what already exists.In his formidable black suit he signals his decree and walks away.

My rational mind also believes that the tree in forest needs no witness to fall. However I have found that this sort of thinking doesn't serve the imagination, the imp. The now archaic meaning of "imp" was one who furnishes wings. It is those wings that the poet insists upon. While the umpire defines the box and makes it his address the imp/poet/artist finds portals through the box walls.

In baseball we cede that power to his authority in order to get through the innings. In the real world we reject infallibility unless you have assigned your autonomy to one Ayatollah or another.

The closest we come to such irrefutable decision-making is our Supreme Court justices and we all know how astigmatic their lens can be. They are our umpires with a touch of the imp.

A book I am reading describes the fraternity of umpires as generallly conservative Republican, misogynist, WASP and homophobic. Pray that our high court is comprised of no more than four of such in their black robes.

1 comment:

  1. I have not trusted a close decision by any umpires in the last 54 years ever since Summers called Robinson safe at home.

    As far as the Supremes are concerned, depending on the breakdown between the Scalis and the Ginzburgs, decisions are predictable. Bush did lasting damage.