Musings from the Bunker 11/2/20
Friends, This is a different Musing—not so political as emotional. It is the result of a number of interactions in the past week:
The above meme that I received last week after the Dodgers’ World Series victory;
Matthew Allnatt admonishing me for failing to say anything in the Musings about the aforementioned victory—SHAME ON ME!;
Interviewing Zev Yaroslavsky last week for the USC Real Estate Forum;
Election ennui; and
The observation that perhaps sports has a greater effect on us and value to society than I once thought.
THE DODGERS AND THE DECISION
Kudos to the Dodgers for finally winning a World Series since the 1989 classic that featured the famed “Kirk Gibson Home Run.” Among other things, Dodger fans will no longer have to hang their heads in shame, uttering, “the Angels won the World Series more recently than we have.”
Those of you who are not baseball fans should understand that the Dodgers victory, which likely would have occurred regardless (they were the better team on paper and during the season), was secured in part by one of the most bone-headed of all managerial decisions in recent years. The Rays’ manager pulled a pitcher pitching a gem of a game to replace him with a reliever that was subsequently shelled.
The above conversation between Sandy Koufax and Manager Walter Alston never happened (and, of course, never would have happened) because Alston knew a good thing when he saw it. But baseball a number of years ago became dominated by analytics. Some of that is good; much is not. Managers monitor hit counts and analytic data to the extreme. In this critical game, the pitcher, who was pitching a nearly flawless game, was pulled because a computer reviewed scads of data and decided there would be a modest improvement in the odds of getting the next batter(s) out with a new pitcher. The entire sports world was aghast, seeing the error of this decision.
In a larger sense, what we saw most clearly is that any game—of baseball, of politics, of life—is not one that always can be reduced to numbers. Everything is situational. Nothing will replace the real time analytics that the human mind performs as events unfold. The players are people, with their muscle aches, anxieties, adrenaline, and insecurities. A computer cannot figure in the vagaries of individual human beings on a day-to-day basis. A computer analysis is based on number crunching of thousands of potential scenarios--but in the moment, there is only one scenario that matters.
SPORTS AS A COMMON EXPERIENCE
I think the World Series couldn’t have come at a better time, just as the basketball playoffs could not have come at a better time (which, by virtue of a Covid-delayed season, occurred merely weeks earlier). We are hurting as individuals and our society is hurting collectively. We have been bruised and beaten up, some more than others, by a combination of a plague not visited on our country since the early 20th century, economic calamity and uncertainty, a divisive election, and the rising specter of long-term polarization and possible future violence, fueled by the media, foreign influence, our politicians, and the keepers and distributors of the information we receive on-line.
Sports has been a welcome distraction. We could all “root, root, root for the home team,” and could share in a communal event. Sure, the results of sports contests long ago lost their importance for most of us; yet, there was a palpable sense in Los Angeles that we were all “in this together.” Sports is one of the experiences that can be enjoyed by huge numbers of people, many with hardly anything in common, other than their common humanity. Sports was a welcome balm of shared optimism, respite and calm.
Someone told me the other day that “we may not all be in the same boat: but we most assuredly are in the same river.”
WHEN WILL CULTURE BOUNCE BACK?
Sports is back. And that’s great. But what of museums? And more critically, what of music and theatre in these days when large crowds can’t congregate indoors?
As I was speaking with Zev last week, I noted his leadership in the arts in southern California. There are few visionaries like him, who could appreciate how important culture is to the emergence of a world class city, and of how important the arts are for our young people. His efforts in these areas are a legacy that survive his tenure as an elected representative. The arts allow us to express and interpret the beauty and the challenges of the world.
There is going to have to be a rebuilding of our cultural landscape. The Los Angeles County Music Center lies vacant, as its resident companies struggle financially and, due to inactivity, creatively. Broadway essentially is dark for the predictable future. Museums are putting exhibits on line, but they hardly replace the in-person experience. School children who went on field trips to local museums and theater not only aren’t able to be introduced to the arts in this way; they can barely be seen together in a group.
This is the greatest crime of the pandemic. People already polarized are being forced further apart. And in forcing us apart, the pandemic is forcing us out of the Ahmanson Theatre, Dodger Stadium, LACMA, and countless other venues. These institutions, which represent the best of our civilization, will need our attention and our support as we emerge from the pandemic. After we heal our physical selves through vaccines and therapies, we will then have to heal our society when this election is mercifully over. Finally, we will have to heal our souls—as measured in the celebrations of human wisdom, achievement, and creation that the arts represent.
AS WE HEAD OFF TO THE ELECTION
The most disturbing thing I read on Facebook this week was not the usual invective and arguments on social media. It was the post of a friend of mine. The prayer was in praise of our president and invoking the intervention of the Almighty to deliver Donald Trump another four years. That he believes that Trump is so great is disturbing enough, but that he believes the Lord him/herself would intervene because it is so important that this tyrant-in-training requires divine blessing takes the cake. It’s hard for me to comprehend.
Tom Masenga offers up a couple of interesting perspectives:
Coronavirus and the increase in mail-in ballots will delay the count for a couple of weeks
When the result is definitive, it will be clear Mr. Trump has lost and Mr. Trump will not dispute the results through recounts or legal means. It is a far better result for his brand and continued mischievous rhetoric to claim that the election was fixed than to be found, after a protracted battle, to have actually lost. He never wants an adjudication or demonstration of his defeat. I’m persuaded. If it’s more than 20 electoral votes between them, he will go (not very quietly) into the night. And then we will only have to listen to his very loud voice from the platform of a discredited charlatan, right wing pundit, spinner of conspiracies, and criminal defendant.
The last word goes to Zev. In lamenting the status of our national polarized political scene, he observed that City and County offices are non-partisan. He indicated how great it was that he could work with Supervisors like Don Knabe, nominally a Republican but also a non-partisan Supervisor. They had the benefit of no “caucus,” no “whip,” and no party fealty. They could just do their jobs. Even with these problems that are endemic to the system, perhaps our legislators can roll up their sleeves in January and do their jobs… Stay safe, wear a mask, vote, don’t let the pundits get you down, and cross your fingers. Warm regards, Glenn