So instead of reading me here tonight, head on over to The Classical, where I wrote an essay on Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling, a young midfielder from England (by way of Jamaica) and one of the most promising young footballers in the world.
He’s one of my favorite players right now, but he also has a problematic history of violence against women which makes watching him play an internal struggle between right and wrong. I’m proud of the piece and I think it’s important insofar that the conversation I’m trying to have about Raheem Sterling is relevant to guys like Kobe Bryant, Jason Kidd, Jameis Winston, Adrian Peterson and so many other disgraceful but supremely talented athletes.
I hope you enjoy it.
[This piece was originally published on The Umpires in May. It has been re-posted here with permission, and a couple of footnotes.]
“To field a groundball must be considered a generous act and an act of comprehension. One moves not against the ball but with it. Bad fielders stab at the ball like an enemy. This is antagonism. The true fielder lets the path of the ball become his own path, thereby comprehending the ball and dissipating the self, which is the source of all suffering and poor defense.” – Aparicio Rodriguez, The Art of Fielding
Defensive wunderkind Henry Skrimshander, the protagonist in Chad Harbach’s wonderful novel, The Art of Fielding, lives by the words of his idol, fictional St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Aparicio Rodriguez (based, it would seem, on real-life Cardinals shortstop Luis Aparicio). “Skrimmer,” as he was called, consumed Rodriguez’s book (of the same title) as if it were gospel, memorizing lines and recalling them while in the field. The Art of Fielding, for Henry Skrimshander and Aparicio Rodriguez, was more than Yoda-like fielding advice, it was a philosophy.
If Aparicio Rodriguez was based on Luis Aparicio, his book, The Art of Fielding, one would think, is likely based on Ted Williams’ The Science of Hitting. In Harbach’s fictional universe, Aparicio Rodriguez was the greatest defensive shortstop in history; in other words, Aparicio Rodriguez was the Ted Williams of fielding the baseball. The difference between Aparicio Rodriguez, Ted Williams, and most other ballplayers is that Aparicio and Williams approach the game cerebrally (even if one only did so fictionally). Baseball, to them, isn’t a competition of physical tools, it is a science; an art form.
My second piece for The Umpires is up today, be kind and give it a read.