(Bear with me…this whole article really has nothing to do about baseball, but there is a lot of stuff that happens around baseball that relates to what I want to write.)
Earlier this week Rob Neyer of Fox Sports wrote that it was the 12th anniversary of the release of Michael Lewis’s “Moneyball”. “Moneyball” is my favorite book of all time. (Side note: I’m not a big book reader, so there really aren’t a lot to choose from.) Neyer’s retrospective reminded me how much I like the book. Yes, “Moneyball” is about baseball, but baseball is just the delivery system for Lewis. Lewis writes about financial markets and economics. His purpose in “Moneyball” was to talk about recognizing inefficiencies in a market (e.g. on base percentage (for the record, this is a dramatic oversimplification)) and how to take advantage of them.
But I got something else out of “Moneyball” and the related exposure to Bill James, sabermetrics, etc. I realized that things I believed could be challenged and I could change my mind. So in this instance, I changed from thinking that RBI’s and pitcher Wins were important.
Yesterday The Hardball Times had a post about the 169th anniversary of the first baseball game to be played under a formal set of rules…and how that is mostly a myth. It’s a lie that is retold over and over, so people believe it. Worst than that is the myth that Abner Doubleday invented baseball.
Coincidentally I went to the Phillies game last night with Pops and Dave. (Squirrel!) Pops went on about how smart of a guy Doubleday was in laying out baseball. I didn’t correct him. He can be bothered by change or challenges to his beliefs. I understand that this is typical behavior to think that things were better in the past or that they should be the way they always have been.
I understand it, but it’s definitely not me. As I get older I’m somehow getting more progressive in my thinking. And I’m willing to challenge accepted norms more often. Craig Calcaterra does a great job in expressing this in a post about baseball cards (yes, more baseball).
Last night at the game, they asked for people to remove their hats before the national anthem as a sign of respect. I blurted out “why does removing your hat show respect?” These rules that continue for no reason other than tradition make no sense to me. Does removing my hat make me happy? Does it make me money? Does it negatively impact anyone else? Does it really accomplish anything at all? Then how can it be respectful or disrespectful? It’s not. It’s just a meaningless tradition at this point. (As I was researching the origins of this I found this quote I liked: “I always thought showing true respect for the flag and song itself was in having the right to choose whether to keep my hat on or off.”)
(OK, I think I’m done with all of the baseball-related stuff.)
These are the kinds of traditions that I find myself rejecting more and more often. Gay marriage? I don’t care…because it doesn’t negatively impact me. I have stopped saying “bless you” after people sneeze because I know it’s unnecessary. I don’t get bent out of shape thinking it’s the end of civilization when states legalize marijuana. When I got married it was important to me that Pam take my last name. Now, I would want that she keep hers. I have stopped standing during the Pledge of Allegiance after reading about the Bellamy Salute. The Pledge is creepy and feels like propaganda – and again, it’s unnecessary. Earlier this week I read that moral acceptance of polygamy has more than doubled from 7% in 2003 to 16% now. I paused, but then thought as long as it’s not a sheik acquiring wives or a religion preying on children…yeah, go for it. I’m OK if everyone is consenting adults entering into a polyamorous relationship. It doesn’t negatively impact me. All of these things are unnecessary traditions.
Religion seems like they have more of these unnecessary traditions than anything else. As I like to say…thank God I’m an atheist! I grew up an atheist (or for a time before I was willing to commit called myself an agnostic). I have never been religious and therefore never had a religion to challenge. But I wonder if I was indoctrinated to faith how accepting I would have been of all of the rules and how soon I would have rejected them.
So ditch your unnecessary traditions. The 2016 presidential campaigns have kicked off. At some point a candidate will be called a flip-flopper, and it will be considered a bad thing because politicians are never supposed to progress. I don’t see it that way. I don’t care that they changed. The change itself isn’t bad. You can change your mind on things. Maybe there is new research, or more science, or a better understanding after reading a persuasive argument. In that case it’s OK to abandon past beliefs. Looking at things with an open perspective is good for progress…just like I learned from Michael Lewis’s “Moneyball”.