Existentialism on Game Night: Forget who you are
Life is mitigated chaos. It's mostly disjointed noise and arbitrary action that we attempt to ascribe meaning to, often fruitlessly. But there are salves for the existential burning; structures we employ to navigate the static. Baseball, with its rules and order, is one of the good ones. It makes sense.
And then a pickoff throw bursts through the first baseman's glove and shatters the illusion that any of us knows anything.
These are the moments of lapse in our carefully curated baseball, the moments when we lose ourselves to the vastness of the universe, when everything melts away and we aren't ballplayers or bloggers or fans -- we are simply organisms, alive. This is existentialism on game night.
On May 5, Rick Porcello throws a pitch that flies behind his catcher. David DeJesus, the runner at first, takes off for second. He reaches the base but keeps running, nearly to left field. In that moment, he is not David DeJesus, baserunner. He is anyone else: He is a postman trotting along on his daily mail route, he is a professional dog walker, he is Usain Bolt.
A few days later, Delmon Young forgets what a baseball is. The approaching orb might as well be an exploding supernova, imminent destruction and the extinction of life on Earth in its wake -- and when it hits the leather of his glove, Young will be nothing more than vapor. He prepares for impact.
In the ninth inning of a game against the D-backs, Craig Kimbrel throws to a person who simply does not exist.
After a sluggish start to the season, Andrew McCutchen self-administers a dugout ritual that sheds his previous self. It is a grasp for rebirth.
In the middle of a delivery, Tim Lincecum's skeleton vanishes from his body and he spills to the mound. What will it be like to live as a marionette whose strings have been cut? Can invertebrates play baseball? These are the questions he asks himself as he prepares for the next pitch.
Bartolo Colon sprints to first base and the world keeps spinning.
On May 21, Prince Fielder fouls off a pitch and then, suddenly, his memory is gone. He doesn't remember what the stick of wood in his hands is for, what intentions the masked people behind him have or why he's surrounded by literally thousands of onlookers. He knows -- we know -- nothing except the chaos in his head.
These are the moments from the past month of MLB when the entire concept of identity broke down, when we were reduced to mere beings. But at least there was baseball.