The music for the mood is Scott Walker's Climate of Hunter, a devastatingly odd record, one that can plunge the healthiest of psyches into schizophrenia and at the same time provide schizophrenics a nipple from which to extract relational comfort. Walker’s voice is the screaming soul of man trying to find avenues out of the body. Right now, Scott Walker’s robust baritone is a warm cup of tea and a friend.
On the subject of friends, I just said goodbye to one of my oldest and dearest compadres. He died in his sleep of a heart attack at age 39. He was an 80-grade friend. His sudden death brought about a wave of raw emotion, the kind we keep safely secured in the basements of our psychological homes. The kind that we fear will scare those around us if too much light shines on its structure. The kind that forces your hands to reach out for the keys, in search of the safety you assume can be found in words. That emotion is very present.
This is when the obligatory hierarchy of importance makes a grand entrance, reminding us all how insignificant our interests and passions are when faced with the realities of mortality and the sadness and grief associated with it. Just a few days ago I took to Twitter and sold myself on this reductive truism; at the time, I was trying to find focus in an opaque environment, and I attached my name to this product. [“When you lose a good friend, it's amazing how little baseball (or sports in general) actually matter. Shout-out to a top-5 friend, Bill Ivy.”]
But the real truth is that sports do matter if sports play a role in the pumping of your blood. If the countdown to spring training stimulates your existence and propels you into thought or action, that has value beyond the basic definitions of existence. If watching a young prospect on the backfields makes you feel alive, well, you are either a pedophile or a prospect fanatic, and the passion that fuels that lunacy is why we live in the first place. Death makes us feel small and insignificant; it reinforces the fact that we are all breakable and therefore bound to eventually break. But neglecting (or better said, downgrading) the passions that exist in life when faced with the mother of all eventualities in order to play pity or potato is merely the act of waiting in line to officially die. No apologies need to be made for choosing the richness of the heartbeat over the indifference of the flat line.
The fire that burns deep in my baseball loins is what helped pull me up after the death of my close friend pushed me down. He didn’t share my passion for the game; in fact, he often wondered how a bug like baseball could have pushed so much of its apitoxin into my bloodstream. But he did embrace the push for passions in life, and even though he only lived 39 years, he lived every single day of those 39 years as if he realized that he only had 39 years allotted for such an adventure. After letting it soak in, my friend’s death actually failed in its pursuit to render my passions insignificant; rather, such tragedy made me realize just how significant baseball is (for me). The passion for the game is one of the building blocks of my actual existence, which is far more complicated and emotionally significant than the rudimentary realities of life and death.
This isn’t a baseball article, and this isn’t an obituary for a man you didn’t have the privilege of calling your friend. It’s a reminder that sometimes we are pushed out onto the ledge of our emotional structure, forced to gaze into the emptiness and find solace in our own destruction. That foreseen destruction can cast a wide shadow on the parts of our lives that exist in the sunshine, and for me, the malignant void my heart took sight of couldn’t overwhelm the significance of why that heart pumped in the first place. To live without that light would be to die in the dark, and this event made me appreciate that fact more than anything else. So if it’s baseball or badminton or breakdancing, never be afraid to champion the significance of what drives you, even in the face of misfortune. In the end, the appetite for life is what will be remembered, not the banality of death.