Monday, December 06, 2004

Dance Dance. Drink Drink. Remember, Regret, Forget.

Today I am battered by pleasure. Saturday night my wife and I attended the Holly Ball, where those of us who follow the old ways in social dance -- the waltzes, the fox trots, the swings, the rhumbas, the tangos -- gathered in Berkeley and floated our collective booty across the dance floor as smoothly as moonlight on water.

Or so we like to think. The average age of the participants is about 117. Go straight down Memory Lane just past the blacksmiths and turn right at the typewriter repairmen and there you will find us.

My wife and I had a fine good time -- drank a little, ate a little, even did a self-admiring tango that was probably comic to see but was pure Fred-and-Ginger to experience from the inside. Enough said. I've written about us and social dance back in the days when the Chronicle still bought freelance columns. Click here for Tuxedos of the Dead.

Saturday night merely softened me up for last night, when the Patrick Finley Memorial Fantasy Baseball League had its annual banquet. Everyone knows what fantasy baseball is. In its simplest form, you buy a major league baseball player in the spring of the year and somebody else buys another major league baseball player and then you sit back and watch their statistics accumulate. Best cumulative stats at the end of the year win. It's more complicated than that only in the sense that in a league like ours more guys are buying and more guys are being bought. For a deeper discussion, click through to Baseball vs. the NASDAQ, also from back in the day in which I didn't have to give this stuff away, when I could put $75 or even $100 in my pocket oh two or three times a year just like that!

I am not writing today about the rules or mechanics of our league, which has just finished its 21st year and is as heavy with silly rules and anachronistic mechanics as baseball itself. I write about the human element, which always spoils everything and sometimes make me think that this universe has both a creator and a purpose, and the creator is a joker and his creation is a joke and the joke is on us. Our league has been tested and deformed this year by the behavior of a league member who -- though otherwise a good citizen and worthy friend and I'm not just going Marc Antony on his ass when I say that -- decided to take one small corner of his life and huddle in that small corner and go completely nuts.

He has been a league member for a long time, though he dropped out several years ago only to reemerge this year to everyone's surprise. He drafted well. Early on he took the lead, which he held. And early on he began to send emails to the rest of the league that essentially said we were stupid for being in the league in the first place -- it being so wasteful of our time and energy and no suitable pastime for a thinking human being in this year when the future of the country and the whole world itself was in the balance -- and that we were also stupid inside the microcosmic world of the league since he was beating us so handily.

Now, my male readers may say, "Well, this is how men relate. It's cursing and shoulder-punching and awkward hugging that seems more like flailing than embracing."

And I reply, "Yeaaaaaaaah." But this got really mean. It got personal. It got under people's skin. It was like a mind game in which you weren't sure what the game was. He said over and over again that he would not participate in the league in the future. Over and over again. Over and over again. And again.

And again.


And we had heard him the first time.

He is a friend. He is a friend. I told him he was being really irritating. He said as an anarchist he liked creating chaos. I don't think that is a one-sentence summary of the anarchistic philosophy. Moreover, he did not create chaos so much as he created a simmering resentment that was coherent, well-proportioned, even monolithic.

Ah well, it is sad to see men quarrel because so many of us lack that emotional tool kit that (I sincerely believe) women more commonly have that enables them to repair damaged relationships. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe some women will read this and comment? But aren't women better at maintaining the conversation when the relationship is under duress? And don't men suffer from the compulsion to step back and summarize the relationship and extrapolate the future of the relationship thus:

Fuck you. I mean it. Fuck you!

And so the 21st year of the Patrick Finley Memorial Fantasy Baseball League came to an end. The winner, He Whose Name Must Not be Spoken, one last time impugned us and belittled us and summed up his superiority and our inferiority in a very long email that I decided (ever the secure adult) just not to read but to trash trash trash because it was pretty sure to hurt my feelings.

We had a good banquet. Our host, who is a talented cook, prepared a salad of duck confit, a kind of spicy pork stew with (I think) corn-and-cheese tortillas and asparagus and a baked apple with ice cream that was pumpkin colored but probably not pumpkin flavored. There was a good deal of wine, some of it pretty good, so after a certain point who knew? We laughed and laughed and talked about possible baseball trades and who, at last year's draft, paid too much for players that did far too little. We caught up. After 12 years a league member finally married his sweetie. Of course, we asked if she were pregnant, for all language is code, of course, and men are always jumping at meaning from the side, back or even the soft underbelly, of course, for any fool can express an honest emotion in words of one syllable.

Oh, that would be too easy.

Our champion was not there. Our champion was not invited. Our champion has been erased from all our email distribution lists. Ah, to be deleted so. We have all been deleted so, unknowing, without feeling the slightest twinge, the faintest vibration in the ether. The silence deepened and we did not notice, at least not at once.

And the league? The problem is solved there never was a problem I don't know what you're talking about Michael who?

We'll recruit a new member for next year. As for The Deleted One, I hope I don't have to recruit a new friend, mourning the loss of an old one. Words would probably fail me on both sides of that zero-sum exercise. I would have to punch the nearest arm.

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