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November 21, 2012 5:00 am
The Mike Trout-Miguel Cabrera debate reminds us why the sabermetric movement was what baseball needed.
The Ai Weiwei retrospective at the Hirshhorn in Washington isn’t about baseball, but it is indirectly about ways of seeing baseball differently. Well, really it’s about ways of seeing everything differently. So perhaps it’s appropriate here to revive the old saw that when your only tool is a hammer, everything tends to look like a nail. I left thinking about baseball—or rather, thinking about thinking about baseball. A dancer would probably leave thinking about choreography, a banker about the economy.
Ai Weiwei’s gift is in the way he makes you rethink your own tools, your own subject. The Hirshhorn retrospective is called According to What?, a title borrowed from a 1964 Jasper Johns painting. Ai situates himself in Johns’ pop-art tradition, which is perhaps why thoughts of baseball seem near to hand: it may be a national pastime, but the game is also a pop icon as much as Mao is. Its solemnities are ripe for sentimentality and sentimentality’s (more) evil twin, kitsch, and ripe too for sheer, soulless moneymaking.