The Magazine

Play Ball

That’s what they did, and that’s all that matters.

Apr 18, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 30 • By ZACK MUNSON
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So The Dago’s suzerainty was a danger zone full of man-goring bulls. No wonder he was such a moody cash cow. He was also, apparently, no intellectual. After he returned from Moscow, DiMaggio’s main observation about the capital city of the Soviet Union was that “you can’t get a corned beef sandwich there.” Charyn laments: “The man who had the eyesight of a hawk, who could spot Bob Feller’s best curve by the way the stitches spun around on the ball, could not lend us one syllable about the particular fall of sunlight on the Kremlin’s spires or describe the crowds in Red Square.”

Here is some insight into the main problem for people who write “seriously” about sports: Hitting and catching a baseball have nothing to do with intellectual curiosity or philosophical acumen or artistic ability. Professional athletes are, from a very young age, of a completely one-track mind: They play sports, all the time. What is most interesting about any athlete is what he (or she) does on the field, and problems arise when writers begin imputing implications to hitting or throwing a ball. In the old days, people were amazed that Joe DiMaggio could spot Bob Feller’s best curveball and smack the daylights out of it, and that was enough. But then writers got it into their heads that sports had to mean something, there had to be something deeper going on: It couldn’t all just be for fun. Unfortunately, those same people have made careers writing about sports, inflating their importance and seriousness and creating expectations of what athletes should be as humans. And it’s unavoidable that great athletes fail to live up to those expectations, especially with writers like Jerome Charyn behind the typewriter.

Zachary Munson is a writer in Washington.

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