Go Wizardry

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Fun and Games


Baseball is the national pastime of the United States of America, much like go is the national pastime of Japan. Both of the games reflect the character of the people of the respective countries. And we are right now in the middle of the baseball season, when the “boys of summer” take to the fields all over America to revel in the sport. While in Japan, there is a noticeable slowing down of activity in the go world at this time of year as the hot summer days induce lethargy all around the country.

As I write these words, the Wimbledon championships are coming to a climax as well. Tennis offers many analogies to go, and that is one reason why it is instructive to watch matches played between top professionals. Above all, balance is essential to success in either game: one seeks to maintain one’s own balance while doing everything possible to knock the opponent off balance. It is fascinating to watch master tennis players use top spin and slicing cuts to balls to deliver shots that are impossible to handle. In the same way, go players utilize tesuji to pose difficult problems over the board.

Compared to this, baseball does not provide many useful analogies to go. Although the Japanese baseball world is the most successful replication of the American version of the game throughout the world. It is just that baseball demands unique physical skills that are far removed from the intellectual requirements of go. The perspectives of the games do not intersect often.

And yet, I am listening to a Dodger game as I write these words. This is exactly why I like baseball. It is such a slow game that it is enjoyable to listen to a game on the radio while doing other work. I am sure that I am not unique in this respect. I can imagine gardeners all over this country listening to baseball games on the radio as they tend to their plants. The baseball game today will play out over three hours or more. Just listening without doing anything else would be tedious.

Of course, the fact that the Los Angeles Dodgers have the best record in the league at this stage of the season gives fans like me more incentive to follow the play. And seemingly every day there is a new hero in the line-up or a new twist in the action to fire up enthusiasm. For instance, today, Cody Bellinger, a rookie, hit for the cycle. That is, he hit a single, a double, a triple and a home run over the course of the game. This is the first time in the history of the Dodgers this has ever happened. It is nice to be a witness to history. And to see a remarkable talent blossom before one’s eyes. Or ears in my case, since I followed the game on the radio.

I remember years ago when my ex-wife watched me listening to a baseball game on the radio and incredulously asked me how I could possibly follow the action on the field without seeing anything. Well, it is simple. Here is what 80% of baseball commentary, whether broadcast on radio or televised on TV consists of: Announcer: “Bottom of the third, Dodgers 6, Opponents 1, two and one to Smith. Pitch is low, three and one. Smith steps out of the box. Pitcher gets the sign from the catcher. Winds up. Delivers a slider. Swing and a strike. Three and two.”

And so on and on. Is there any wonder that it is best to listen to this kind of slow motion commentary while doing something else, making productive use of your time?

At the same time, the fact that Dodgers have the best record in the league and are on a roll pumps one’s enthusiasm up. It is exciting to watch the hometown team contending for the crown. And every day it seems that a new player in the Dodger line-up steps up and contributes to a victory. Just the day before Bellinger’s feat, the Dodgers were down in the ninth inning 3-4 with Yasil Puig at the plate, two strikes in the count with two outs. And then… Puig hit a home run! With two players on base. So in an instant the game was won, 6-4. All sports fans know how gratifying it is to have their team win in this way. It gives a rosy glow to the rest of the evening.

Will the Dodgers win the World Series this year? I hope so, but who knows? I had hopes the last two years, but the ace of the pitching staff, Clayton Kershaw, got rocked in the play-offs, setting the scene for a quick exit by the team. The Dodgers look good again this year, but that might happen again, and regardless of that, unexpected injuries could derail the prospects of the Dodgers.

But that is baseball. Which other team is posed to make a run? Don’t know? Check the Las Vegas odds. I have not checked. (I do not bet on sports, and even if I did, I would not research odds in Las Vegas. I know the statistics involved, so I could calculate them myself, including the spread and overs and unders.) I do not even know what clubs are in the running.

What is funny to me is when I mention baseball to “regular” people. That is, when I talk to people I meet who are average, working class people in stores or other public places. “What do you think of those Dodgers?” I often get an answer like, “Huh? I’m sorry. I don’t follow sports.”

Great! What exactly do you follow? Civic matters? What is your position regarding California Governor Jerry Brown’s gas tax increase and rail project? Oh, you don’t know. How about health care? What about the effort to repeal and replace Obamacare? Oh, you don’t know. How about tax policy? Oh, you don’t know. Well then, how about “Game of Thrones?” NOW you have something to say! Great. Let’s decide on public policy based on citizens whose only opinions come from television melodrama…

A well-rounded individual can discuss all sorts of subjects. Ignorance of sports or any other subject is a failure of social perspective. At least one should be aware of what is happening.

Those who wish to comment on the opinions expressed here may send their thoughts to info@GoWizardry.com. The most interesting responses will be addressed in future postings.

Robert J. Terry

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