RTO: Baseball and the Anti-Christ

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Each week, author and poet Y.S. Fing looks at the state of baseball, the movements of the game, the ebb and flow and soul of America’s pastime in Roaming the Outfield. This week: “Baseball and the Anti-Christ”

When I say that we live in a godless universe, I don’t mean to upset anybody. I posit it as a scientific theory — equivalent to gravity, evolution, and the speed of light — as the best ideas we have until something better comes along. Friedrich Nietzsche was the first to see (or was at least the most ferociously prophetic) that human knowledge was superceding the powers of the gods that we humans had created, and utilized, to assuage ourselves of our ignorance regarding the actual functioning of the universe. Nietzsche saw that we knew enough to tell new stories about creation and salvation, enough to say that god was dead. And if that was the case, Nietzsche also knew, then we would need a new reason to be moral.

So he looked into how his current, mid-1850’s European morals had come to their dominance. And he identified the central core of those morals as the slave-mentality, Judeo-Christian notion of the golden rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you – or in a word, pity. Again, I mean no offense. I’m summarizing Nietzsche, who scorned pity as useless self-sacrifice in a natural world where pity did not exist and certainly was not rewarded with an illusory hereafter.

So we are all floating existentially in this world without mooring for our morals. Nietzsche, metaphorical as he was, and limited in his foresight, suggested there would be a ‘superman’ who would come along and truly show the way, a Greco-Roman centurion of the 20th century, a man of decisive, pitiless action. The metaphor has been compelling people ever since to look for and redefine who the ‘superman’ is. The Nazis, with the help of Nietzsche’s sister, said it was Hitler, which was proven false. The Americans said it was the Superman of cartoons and Hollywood movies, and that still rakes in billions of dollars annually. Nietzsche didn’t help matters when he referred to the superman as Anti-Christ. Without the apocalyptic bombast of Nietzsche’s language, I can take his meaning to be a striving person who is not cultivating pity in the pursuit of his or her goals.


Nietzsche saw the concept of a ‘superman’ who would overcome the apathy and pity of humanity.

The vagueness of the metaphor is powerful, but Nietzsche was limited in his foresight regarding the development of technology and the best civic conditions for the creation of a ‘superman.’ And because he couldn’t predict the empowering and widely distributed use of technology, he failed to see that America was producing ‘superpeople’ by the millions. I fear that being taken as a political statement. Americans as a whole are not ‘superpeople,’ but I use that phrasing because Nietzsche couldn’t have foreseen how power would devolve down to the level of citizens being their own salvations. They could be their own supermen, superwomen, and superLGBTQ. You can be your own super-anything in America! But if you look closely, that statement also has a moral vacuum at its center.

So, when I’m seeking for something to occupy that empty center in my life, to show me that my pursuits are noble and worthy, I turn to baseball for that foundation. Firstly, any fan will tell you that baseball is  a godless game, afloat in an amoral world of surreal irony. Thus one who participates, player or fan, must accept the entire thing is out of any one person’s hands. It’s like a giant Ouija board.

In the way the game is organized and played today, the margins for error, the difference between success and failure is one game in seven. What is needed is endurance, a will to power, a will to succeed pitilessly. That doesn’t mean amoral slashing and bludgeoning. It means disciplined long-term, slow and steady exertion toward attainment of the goal.  Sure all kinds of people do that, but baseball players, such as Washington Nationals Ian Desmond, Adam LaRoche, Denard Span, Jayson Werth are cold-eyed, pitiless, anti-christ-like, supermen. Well, they can be.

It’s not difficult for me to harken back to Werth’s 13-pitch walk-off home run in Game 4 v. the St. Louis Cardinals last October. How do you know when a person is ready to be a superman? When, after great exertion, he/she simply takes greatness as his/hers for the taking. The event, known to  Nats fans as the ‘Werthquake,’ was a superman moment. Baseball can physically fill that hole in the center of the moral universe because a person can bestride the narrow world like a colossus. Because we can know what greatness is, we can define it, teach it, learn it, practice it and become it, with pitiless action. Like Zarathustra coming down the mountain, the greatness we see demonstrated on a baseball field inspires and reminds us of the reason to be moral, to be supermen.

Nietzsche might have thought of baseball as a bit too democratic for his taste, but I’m good with it.



<em><strong>Y.S. Fing</strong> is an author and poet working out of Washington, DC. He roots for the Nationals when he isn’t composing beauty.</em>