Thursday, April 30, 2015

Civil Liberties Strike Out in Baltimore

The Orioles and White Sox played in an empty Camden Yards in Baltimore
on April 29 because MLB decided that civil unrest made the area unsafe for fans.

America's pastime staged a piece of theater this week that seemed bizarre at the outset, but ended up creating imagery that expressed better than words or deeds how fragile American society has become.

On April 29, 2015, for the first time in the storied history of major league baseball, a regular season game was played in a stadium absent of any paying fans. Those of us who have faithfully cheered losing baseball teams for many years know all about "near empty" stadiums. But this stadium was empty not because of fan indifference but because of a Major League Baseball edict.

For much of this month, the City of Baltimore has been caught up in public protests over the death of Freddie Gray, who was arrested on April 12 and died seven days later, apparently of spinal cord injuries suffered while in police custody. This week the civil unrest turned to riots in the streets with the full complement of looting, arson, smashed and fire-bombed police cars, and a number of law enforcement personnel injured by bricks and bottles hurled at them by demonstrators.

Over the past couple of days, the civil unrest in Baltimore was joined by solidarity demonstrations in other American cities, including Washington and New York, with some of those resulting in violence and arrests. The protests were driven largely by a lack of information about what caused this particular death, along with accumulating instances of police brutality being caught on videotape all around the country.

Anyone following the news knows as much as I do about the issues in play here. There are prognosticators and commentators, politicians and preachers, mothers and kids, finger pointers and finger lifters, looters and brick throwers, peacemakers and peacebreakers, all of whom have points of view, some of them informed and others not so much.

Clearly there is something amiss in this country. The social contract between law enforcement and the people they are supposed to serve is fractured and at risk of being shattered like a broken bat. At the same time, there are violent criminal elements out there who put the lives of those officers at risk every day they put on a uniform, The only answer to this problem is resident in the communities themselves, where neighbors rout the drug dealers, where families raise their kids, where cops become allies, not agents of fear.

Easy words to type, not so easy to do.

In the midst of it all, few people are thinking about the significance of an empty baseball stadium. But since I believe that baseball imitates life, I am able to see connections that are missed by those who foolishly subscribe to the notion that baseball is "only a game."

Consider this. The previous record low attendance of paying fans at a major league baseball game occurred on September 28, 1882 when only six fans showed up for a contest between the Troy (N.Y.) Trojans and the Worcester (Mass.) Ruby Legs at the Worcester Driving Park Grounds.

The fact that such records are preserved and accessible may appear to some as evidence of the decline of Western civilization. I'm borderline on that point myself. However, the response of professional baseball, arguably the most tradition-driven sport in the world, to a matter of civil unrest suggests that something deep and serious is going on here.

Ironically, on April 25 almost 37,000 fans at the Orioles/Red Sox game were locked down for about a half hour in Camden Yards because of "ongoing public safety issues" outside the stadium. A small group of protestors had targeted the baseball game as a good place to draw attention to their cause.

With baseball games and riots playing out on the same stage, the seemingly logical step to be taken if there was a risk to fans would have been to postpone the game and make it up another day. Baseball has done that with natural disasters, inclement weather, notable deaths, national tragedies, and a variety of other reasons.

Instead, the game played on with zero fans, overturning a 133-year-old record, and creating an iconic image for the deepening social divide in this country. Like the tree falling in the forest, one wonders if they had a game and no one came is it still a game? (Well, yes. It was on television, but that begs the point.)

Both the Orioles and Major League Baseball management have been criticized for seeming to make the game more important than the tragedy. But I kind of like the gesture. A quirky thing like playing a game without a fan in the seats is a wake-up call for America. We have a huge problem as long as kids are shot in the back, choke holds are applied to unruly citizens, volunteer cops can’t distinguish between their handgun and their taser, and certain economic and ethnic groups are targeted disproportionally for traffic stops and shakedowns.

Until that stops, the words of the Constitution will be as empty as the baseball stadium.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Misery in Missouri - The Tragic Consequences of "Show Me" Politics

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis is a powerful symbol of the
opening of the West.
I have been a resident of the state of Missouri for 55 years. For the most part, it has been a pleasant place to live. Located roughly in the center of the United States, it sometimes gets referred to as America's Heartland. It has a little quirky reputation as the "Show Me" state, has fostered silly arguments about pronunciation of its name (Missour-ee’ or ‘Missour-uh), and sometimes gets identified as the place where hillbillies from the Ozarks live. The latter image was turned to gold by the development of Branson as a country music destination second only to Nashville.

But those irksome notions are easily overcome by the state's more redemptive features. Mark Twain is connected with Hannibal and the Mississippi River adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Western Missouri is the jumping off place for the Santa Fe, California, and Oregon Trails and the majestic arch in St. Louis is a memorable image commemorating the opening of the West. The Latter Day Saint movement, the largest indigenous faith tradition in the United States, claims Independence as a place of historic and spiritual significance. The University of Missouri boasts one of the most prestigious schools of journalism in the country.

The Lake of the Ozarks and the small mountain range in which it nests, offers a particularly picturesque setting that surprises first-time visitors. Harry S Truman is Missouri's favorite son, a plain-speaking President beloved more after he left office than when he occupied it. I watched Thomas Hart Benton paint the majestic mural in the foyer of the Truman Library, and it was not unusual for us to see Mr. Truman walking to the Library in the morning, waving his cane at our school bus as we passed him on Delaware Street. St. Louis and Kansas City each have Major League Baseball and National Football League franchises, a claim few states can match. 

Missouri was a Border State during the Civil War and supplied troops to both the Union and Confederate forces, a form of bipartisanship in its own way. That was echoed well into the twentieth century. Although politics was usually defined by Democratic Party strength in the two urban areas and a more conservative presence in the rural areas, it also led to some spirited and healthy debate as moderate Republicans began to gain strength in the last third of the twentieth century. I remember being proud when our two U.S. Senators were Democrat Tom Eagleton and Republican John Danforth, both decent men who worked cooperatively for the good of the state and the nation.

Former senator John Danforth delivered the
eulogy at the funeral for State Auditor Tom Schweich
It was Danforth's appearance in the news today that prompted me to put these words to some things that have been troubling me and really came to a head this week. This was a horrible day for the state of Missouri, but this state has been dropping like a rock for several years now. 

Danforth, formerly a senator but also Ambassador to the United Nations, was on the television today because he was delivering a eulogy at the funeral for Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich, who took his own life last Thursday. Danforth, an ordained Episcopal priest, delivered a powerful take-down of the cesspool that has become Missouri politics. It reminded me of how much I miss voices like that of John Danforth.

The death of Tom Schweich, a Republican, twice-elected auditor and recently announced candidate for governor, has sent shock waves throughout the state, but not enough of them for my taste. This is a terrible tragedy, but it is also a wake-up call for this state and its elected or wanting to be elected politicians.

Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich
Here is a link to a more detailed account of the Schweich suicide, but in essence this appears to be a case of a sensitive and perhaps thin-skinned man being unable to cope with a humiliating radio ad and a whispering campaign about his alleged Jewish heritage. He was not Jewish, actually an active Episcopalian, but was proud of some family roots in the Jewish faith. 

But there is a backstory here that is yet to be fully told. It involves the state chairman of the Republican party, the other announced Republican candidate for governor, a billionaire who has injected hundreds of thousands of dollars into Missouri politics, and untold allegations of corruption being alleged by Schweich. All of this has been more or less known, but now it is embodied in the death of a decent man. Something has to change.

This post is triggered by the Schweich tragedy, but is more broadly about the distressing fall of this state, now on our way to becoming a laughing stock because of the absurdity of the legislature, the ineffectiveness of the governor (a Democrat), and an increasing perception that we are a kind of cultural backwater over here. 

On the day of this funeral, many may have overlooked the report issued by the Justice Department regarding the racist culture present in the Ferguson police department, resulting in the tragic shooting and rioting last November. The report details disgusting jokes and scores of discriminatory actions by the supposed public servants. It is an account of Missouri in shame.

But that is only the beginning of our embarrassment. Here are a few illustrations of what we are experiencing here in Missouri:
  • 28% of the executions in the United States last year took place in Missouri, which tied Texas for the most executions in 2014.
  • More black elementary school students have been suspended from school in Missouri than any other state in the country. (14% compared to 7.6% in U.S,. and compared to 1.6% white in both Missouri and U.S.)
  • Todd Akin, campaigning to be elected senator from Missouri in 2014, advanced the notion that if she is "legitimately" raped a woman has the ability to "shut down" and prevent pregnancy. This proved too much for even Missouri. They reelected a Democrat.
  • The legislature has had on its agenda this year a proposal that if evolution is to be taught in a school the parents must be notified and sign a note agreeing to their child being submitted to this information.
  • Governor Jay Nixon, who has managed to get elected to several statewide offices as a Democrat in a red state, managed to embarrass us all by his inept handling of Ferguson, all of it played out on a very large national stage.
  • In 2012 the legislature honored a famous Missourian by putting a bust of Rush Limbaugh in the State Capital. Fortunately, it doesn't talk.
  •  The range of efforts to curtail lawful abortions has become so ridiculous that it can only be described as ludicrous.
  • Missouri managed to prevent many of its residents from benefitting from health insurance coverage by refusing to expand Medicaid and by attacking the Affordable Care Act at every turn, thereby denying Missourians significant benefits from federal subsidies.
It goes on and on. These are only suggestive of the kind of thing we have been coping with in this once proud state. 

We need some serious dialogue in this state around our dysfunctional political system, our willingness to succumb to the most barbarian of ideas without denouncing them as such, and by laying claim once again to being the heartland of America.

Lies, bullying, and ridicule by political officials and their take-no-prisoners consultants have resulted in a good man taking the most ultimate step possible to relieve his pain. I am ashamed to be a Missourian today. My profound hope is that people who care will take John Danforth's words and begin right now to clean this system of those whose names were not mentioned but whose identities are not a secret.

And then let's grow up and live in our own century. With our record these days we've got no business demanding anybody to "Show Me" a darn thing, as if we already know everything. It's time for us to go deep within ourselves and then hope we have something to "Show Them." Don't hold your breath. 


Literally as I was writing this piece, with my television playing in the background, the Rachel Maddow Show started playing a segment on the Tom Schweich story, including Danforth's eulogy. It is excellent and you can find it here

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Five Reasons for My Malaise in 2015

On July 15, 1979, with the country facing runaway inflation and long gas lines resulting from a frightening dependence on foreign oil, President Jimmy Carter addressed the nation to discuss the dire issues facing the American people.

"The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways," said Carter. "It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation."

The speech was one of the most significant of Carter's presidency, coming about two-thirds of the way into his term, which would end 16 months later with a defeat at the hands of Ronald Reagan. The speech described a flagging spirit in the country and called on Americans to sacrifice in an effort to stem the energy crisis and overcome our economic woes. Initial response was fairly positive, but soon thereafter political miscalculations and international issues started to take hold and the Carter presidency began to unravel, resulting in a humiliating defeat in 1980.

Then and ever since it has been tagged as his "malaise speech," although Carter never used the word in his address. In some respects it was an indictment of the American lifestyle, blaming consumption as a reason for the costly dependence on foreign oil. It was an unusual tone struck by the nation's leader; the president is usually expected to convey optimism and hope, delivering the message that all is well or at least that whatever ails us can be readily fixed.

Carter's speech came to mind as I have been thinking about what is going on in this country, trying to define a sense of unease, a fundamental discomfort, that I am feeling these days. Those words--unease, discomfort, a lack of well-being--are the very definition of "malaise." Maybe that is what I am feeling. If so, is it a justifiable response to the issues facing our American lives?

Here are some of the things that are informing my unease:

1. Money and Politics. This past weekend two billionaire brothers known for political activism around right wing candidates and causes announced that they planned to contribute and raise almost $900 million to support Republicans in the 2016 elections. This staggering sum is made all the more ominous when you realize that in the last presidential election the entire Republican National Committee and its two congressional funding arms contributed a grand total of about two-thirds of what the Koch brothers aim to infuse into the 2016 campaign. It is clear that the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which opened the door to unlimited corporate funding of elections, has been even more disastrous than predicted five years ago. The source of my malaise? Our election process, once a pillar of our democracy, has been bought and paid for. It feels like nothing you or I can do will make a whit of a difference.

2. Income Inequality. Oxfam has reported this month that by next year the wealthiest one percent of the world's population will control over half of the world's wealth. A year ago a similar study demonstrated that the 85 richest people on the planet have the same wealth as the poorest 50%, totaling 3.5 billion people. These numbers are so overwhelming that we mere mortals have no framework with which to understand them. Perhaps this will make it more applicable: data compiled by the AFL-CIO and published in Forbes shows that in 2013 American CEOs earned an average of $11.7 million, 331 times more than the average worker and 774 times that of a minimum wage worker. Current indicators are showing that this gap is widening, sometimes in dramatic fashion. I believe this is perhaps the signature issue of our time and it will lead to severe consequences if it is not brought under control. The source of my malaise? The guiding principle of our constitutional democracy, that all persons are created equal, is becoming a sham; inequality is the norm and division of the economic classes is the dangerous status quo.

3. Beheadings. Let's cut to the quick and blow off the bravado that deems to persuade the world that we are unmoved by these terrorists and religious or political extremists, no matter how horrific their acts may be. I am haunted by these images, terrified by what they mean to our families, to our kids and grandchildren. It is not the question of whether this might happen to someone I know or within some close circle of people or institutions I care about. It is instead the increasing foundation of violence that emerges naturally from a world increasingly defined by such brutality. It means more guns, more children dying in the streets, more crazed teenagers with disconnects in their brains and machetes in their hands. The source of my malaise? They don't just chop off heads in Friday the 13th movies anymore; terrible things are done by people who don't care what happens to themselves, and I don't know that we can stop it.

4. Justice and Fairness. It has been a tough year for justice in the streets of America. The debacle in Ferguson, Missouri, highlighted problems with policing, but even more it pointed to the sorry state of racism in our country. Ferguson, along with similar cases in other cities, demonstrated how fragile black/white relationships really are, despite the progress made over the past few decades. Other issues reinforce that point. Economic disparities, especially unemployment, fall disproportionately on African Americans. Race and economic class have more to do with prison incarceration and capital punishment than do guilt or innocence. And, despite the seriousness of the conflicts, there seemed to be an absence of leadership around these issues. The source of my malaise? Although I may have more hope here than other issues, I still found it deeply disturbing to see a return to riots and looting as a way of protesting inequities. By the same token, some police actions were reminiscent of the racial conflicts of the American South in the 1960's. I thought we were past that.

5. Deflation and Inflation in Entertainment:  If I may be forgiven a bit more whimsical point, I take it with assurance that there is a serious issue at its heart. I am weary of our preoccupation with deflated Patriot footballs and inflated Kardashian bosoms. I am a sports fan, sometimes enthusiastically so, and I can certainly understand the appeal of an attractive woman. I am not a prude nor an advocate of Queen Victoria, of whom it is said she would awaken in the middle of the night, fearful that someone, somewhere, was having a good time. But the fascination with trivialities like "Deflategate" and the obsession with celebrity culture is troubling. I know people who can enumerate the dating partners of obscure Hollywood personalities, many of whom are without talent, character, or ideas. But they walk the red carpet and that is why they matter. The source of my malaise? We are easily diverted from important things by a celebrity culture that often offers neither worthy ideals nor adequate role models. But widespread media coverage of this nonsense gives me little hope that it will change.

I considered other candidates for my malaise list, but some of them give reason for hope, so they don't qualify. Our healthcare system is a mess, but millions of people now have insurance for the first time and health care is on the national agenda, unless it gets derailed by money and politics.

I was tempted to grumble about the ineffectiveness of the church in the midst of these crises of confidence, hanging as many do on mindless Biblical literalism. But more and more we are seeing people of faith discovering fresh understandings within the texts, opening pathways to social justice. We will miss Marcus Borg, who died this month, but left a legacy of scholarship informing faith. And Pope Francis? Wow! I didn't think I'd see the day when I would point to the Catholic pope, especially in this time of ecclesiastical scandal, as a reason for having hope for the Christian Church.

I came of age in the 1960's, not an era of goodwill and harmony to be sure. People died in race riots across the country. An unpopular war in Vietnam put generations in conflict, many thousands perished in the jungles of southeast Asia, and college students emptied the classrooms and protested in the streets. Women defined their status as second class citizens and social, corporate, and family institutions conformed as women's roles evolved. Communitarian experiments vied with traditional family structures to reshape the way we live in relationship to one another.

It was a divisive time, but it was not a time without hope. To the contrary, I felt confident about the future and empowered with friends and colleagues to be agents of change. And we did make a difference. The country changed, especially on human rights issues, and ordinary people made that happen.

I want to believe that is still possible, but I'm not sure it is. This is probably the most pessimistic piece I have ever written and that saddens me.

There is one ray of light, however, and it is a bright and shining one. It is called Ashley and Ayla. They call me Papa. It is their world that we are creating. How can we give up on it?

Begone, malaise. Begone.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

In Search of a Voice for Ferguson's America (Revised 12/2/14)

I watch Ferguson, Missouri, from the safety of my suburban home as my television displays a bizarre juxtaposition of incongruent images--a torched police cruiser, tear gas and smoke bombs, a mock display of uplifted hands, and a bright red illuminated banner crossing a major thoroughfare and proclaiming the traditional greetings of the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. I am ill at ease.

My discontent is palpable but I don't know how to express it or what to call it. I think it is because the truth is so elusive, that the moment is populated by separate realities, many of them unspoken but defining nonetheless. There are many truths here, and not just because people have different experiences. It is because truth is layered, measured, clipped, and disproportionately applied. And so we flounder around in search of explanations. Their banality become most evident when CNN holds a microphone to someone's face and invites a sound bite. God save us from sound bites.

Some think it is all summed up by watching the looters acting like they're running an early Black Friday sale at the local liquor store. It is so infuriating you want to throw a shoe. And sitting in the cheap seats, like my living room, it is tempting to point out how this is the real problem--people don't get it, human greed takes over, and obedience to the rule of law is the issue that needs to be confronted. But it's not that easy.

Then one can turn to the rational examination of facts. Just read the Grand Jury transcript and everything will become clear. The cop was being attacked by a 300 pound thug with stolen cigars, reminded him of Hulk Hogan, had a demonic look in his eye. Convinced his life was in danger, he pulled a gun for the first time as a police officer on duty. He fired off a multitude of shots in defense of his own life, and a teenage kid lay dead on the street. His blood was inside the police car and on the gun, he wasn't shot in the back, and the disparate recollections of many witnesses finally got sorted, adjusted, and crafted into a reasonably believable narrative. It's sad, unfortunate, even tragic, but there is the answer. No, it's not that easy.

How about the threat of anarchy? Who got the bright idea that the way to protest police brutality was to burn down the neighborhood beauty products store, to loot the automotive parts outlet, or to essentially raze by bats or matches an entire block of commerce in your own town? There's no rhyme or reason; there is only the crazed mob mentality that simmers beneath the surface, nesting within the constellation of injustice, unfairness, and inequality that is the lived-out experience of so many people of color and poverty. It takes just a particular moment, a convergence of circumstances, to ignite and then explode. It may not be the best of reasons. But it is a reason; some might say an excuse. That explains it--the presence of anarchy, or the fear of it. Alas, not that easy.

It has been a lot of years since Martin Luther King climbed to the mountaintop--about 46 of them. The nation of equals he marched for, prayed for, got arrested for, and ultimately died for, has come a long way since 1968. We have an African American President and Attorney-General, previously a Secretary of State. Life has improved for people of color. Few could deny that.

But King's dream is far from fulfillment, even if it has been adopted by many Americans of many ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Nonetheless, the events in Ferguson have reminded us of how urgently this nation needs a prophetic voice that can transform this mess of pottage into poetry.

We watched Missouri's governor bumbling his way around on national television, dashing hopes that he could bring sensitive leadership to the defining moment of his political career. We listened to a prosecutor reading a sanitized bill of particulars without seemingly having a clue about how his matter-of-fact prosecutorial tone would only deepen the pain of a community that needed assurance that he had not just a head but also a heart. We observed an array of officials speaking within their limited scope of authority, but few seemed able to understand where their brick fit in the cathedral under construction.

In the days that followed the non-indictment of a police officer and the subsequent torching of a community people took sides. But it was too late for that--the issues had already left Ferguson. Officer Wilson is no longer a cop, but he will find riches by telling his story to the media. Michael Brown will be grieved by his family forever, but he will soon slip from the collective memory of the nation. The question is what will be done with the remnants? What will happen to the ashes in the street, the shards of glass, the bullets collected from the crime scene, the police cruiser laying on its side, gutted and burned and remembered now as an iconic photo in the news magazines. What will happen to it all? Can redemption ever come from this?

A voice. I think that's what I need, what I think we all need. I don't know where it comes from, although I'm betting against cable TV. I doubt it's to be found among the bevy of minions acting as our Congress these days. They can't agree on the type of paper towel dispenser to be used in the Congressional bathrooms. My disposition would lean toward the churches, but they seem so busy deliberating on whether gays and lesbians are persons of worth along with a variety of other preoccupations.

Is there someone out there without preset agendas, with an ability to listen as well as talk? Is there someone who can clear their throat and speak with conviction and yet with humility about life in these United States of America? Is there someone who can convey a message that resonates with the proud moments of our past while pointing to a future of promise. We need words that sound strangely familiar and yet altogether new. Perhaps something like this:
"Listen, my friends, I have a dream about a journey and I must share it with you because I want to invite you to come with me. In this dream we are all together, climbing a mountain, seeking its summit. In this amazing dream we all understand that each and every one of us is of inestimable worth. There are no exceptions, no human quality that separates a human being from our essential worth. Some think it is a silly pipe dream, that it is too hard, too idealistic. Perhaps. I don't know if I will get to that mountaintop or if any of you will. But this dream is about a journey that is worthy of the human family, The mere effort to fulfill it will make us better, more hopeful, more loving. Surely I am not the only one who has this dream? Will  you join with me and risk some scoffing ridicule that we have embarked on a fool's errand? I don't care. I yearn for that mountaintop. I can't quite see it from here. It is, I am sure, out there somewhere, just out of view, just beyond the horizon. It will be a long journey, I am sure. But, oh my, how important that journey will be, how joyous. Do not look back. Do not let voices of skepticism and dissent turn us away. Take my hand, and the hand of another. Come, let us journey together. Let us live the dream once again."
We need a voice like that--clear, visionary, compelling, gentle, prayerful, and trustworthy. Many of us yearn for such a voice. The message from Ferguson's America is that the need for such a voice is no longer just a wistful hope. It is now an urgent necessity.


 (This post was published in the early morning on November 26, 2014. During the course of the days that followed some stylistic edits and a few content revisions were made, especially in the last few paragraphs. These changes did not affect the thesis of the original, but hopefully allowed the English language to express those ideas more effectively. It is doubtful that further revisions will be made, however much they may be needed. In any case, the most current version will always be the one published on the GRANTaMUSEd blog.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Fan's Joyful Lament

It was the last gasp of an extraordinary baseball season for the Kansas City Royals, and the tying run stood 90 feet away. Kauffman Stadium was jammed with over 40,000 fans decked in blue and rocking, waving, screaming, hoping.

A 25-year-old cyborg creature masquerading as a San Francisco Giants baseball pitcher was staring down a 24-year-old catcher armed with a bat that a month ago had salvaged an improbable wild card game and launched the Royals into a mystical, magical playoff run--the first such appearance of any kind in Kansas City for a generation.

All kinds of history, records, and personalities populated this single moment. Las Vegas had figured the odds. Pundits had fingered the key players and made their predictions of potential stars. And there had been whispers, hushed only by the audacity of the claim, that perhaps the Royals were (Shhhhh!) a Team of Destiny. They had won eight straight in the playoffs against teams with superior records. They  had taken the Giants, seeking their third World Series win in five years, to a rare seventh game, one of the most exciting of all events in sport. And now, in the 177th game of the season, it all came down to this single, very pregnant, moment.

In a matter of seconds it all wilted--the pitch, the swing, a pop-up on the infield gathered in routinely by the third baseman, who then flopped down on his back as if he had caught a cannon ball.

The crowd that had for three hours cheered as one suddenly cheered as none. The quiet was deafening. That lost moment had sucked the air out of the stadium. Even the people who hadn't been to a baseball game in ten years but were sitting in $1000 seats stopped networking for a bit, recognizing that something untoward had happened out there. The focus of attention immediately shifted to the victors converging on the field. Microphones were pushed into the faces of the celebrants, most of whom served up the platitudes typical of post game interviews. There were only a few exchanges with the losing team--"How does it feel to spill out your guts every day for seven months and then lose it with the game standing just a few feet away?"--sensitive questions like those.

The magical, improbable journey of the decades with its last minute comebacks, its startling catches, stolen victories, and inspiring drama had fallen one run short. And that made all the difference. There will be no appearances on Letterman, no ticker tape parade, no visit to the White House. The record books will be altered by this series and this game, but most of the big ones will have "Giants" beside the numbers. If a new face appears on a Wheaties box it will not be topped by a blue cap with KC above the bill.

And worst of all, we will all have to start hearing "wait till next year" way sooner than we're ready to hear it, embrace it, or comprehend it. It is like asking a woman who moments ago gave birth after a long labor if she planned to have any more children. Not the right time to ask.

That said, my lament for the fact that my team had scratched its way to the top only to fall a fingernail short is injected with an undeniable sense of joy that is not measured in baseball terms although it is prompted by this baseball story with its sad/happy ending.

My feelings are not from thinking about the team that will take the field next year, although I am heartened by the returning core players and the minor league prospects who are on their way to the Big Leagues. They are not really about the fascinating personal stories in the clubhouse, although I have been inspired by many of them. They aren't about the national and international goodwill enjoyed by the team as well as the city of Kansas City and its environs, although it warmed my heart to see our town and team in that positive light.

Rather than those probable sources of joy, mine came out of a feeling I have been experiencing for over a month, but of which I never spoke. I have been immersed in this playoff run, thought about it every day, listened to sports radio, read the thorough coverage by the Kansas City Star and other publications, managed to see one of the ALCS games in person with my son, and did all the other things one might expect of a lifelong baseball fan after a 29-year October baseball drought.

I had a general sense of what was going on in the world, but was far less focused on that than I usually am. I knew there were awful beheadings in the Mideast. I heard the reports of the scary Ebola virus killing thousands of Africans and beginning to threaten this country as well. I was saddened by a senseless shooting in the capital of the peaceful country of Canada, the place of my birth. I saw that more children had died from the senseless gun violence that is so pervasive these days. I was assaulted by tasteless and deceptive political commercials from both sides of the shameful political divide in this country. I was saddened by the untimely death of a friend. And in the midst of all of this the game played on.

So yes, in my preoccupation with men playing baseball games I began to feel some uneasiness prompted, I guess, by guilt. How can we devote so much time and energy to entertainment which, despite the outlandish salaries and misplaced priorities, it still is? How can we spend thousands of dollars for a seat at a three-hour game when that same amount of money could feed a starving Third World village for months? And on and on.

But then I started to think about this baseball team and to consider what it represents. There are young men there who grew up in the most humble circumstances and were able to channel their natural gifts into the fulfillment of a dream they never would have imagined. There were aging stars who had labored through an entire career without tasting baseball's greatest prize until now, contributing more with their heart than their bat. There was the video of a Royals player in Baltimore who picked up a game of catch with some kids outside the stadium; the video went viral. There was a phenom-in-the-making who played in the College World Series and the MLB World Series within a period of about four months--never had that happened in the history of the game. There were scores of tributes, some of them tearful, from players who wanted everyone to know that they would never have been here without the sacrifices and support of their moms. The list is endless.

Life is about imagination and hope. Both of those things have to be carved out of real experience. I think that is why this amazing journey by a baseball team caught the attention of people literally around the world. The team and the game transcended baseball and embodied hope.

I'm trying to understand why I am not in more pain over losing it all in the last out of the last inning of the last game. I feel empty, but not profoundly sad. This story strained for ninth inning heroics, for David slaying the Giant (get it?), for the satisfying sense that all is right in the world.

But perhaps that is the joy embedded in my lament. It is not a perfect world, and not all endings are happy, but they can be joyous. That happens in the deeper sense of the word when something occurs that is so good, so real, that it is etched forever on our hearts. That has happened to me during this glorious month of October.

And as to next year, I'm not ready for that. This World Series isn't done with me yet.