Saturday, August 05, 2006

Yet the Odds of Getting to Heaven Remain: 6-1

The great Patrick Finley Fantasy Baseball league furor seems to have sputtered out. A couple league members raged against my obscenely ingenious trade. A couple said why don't the rest of you get a life?

Half the league said nothing. I'll be coming back to that fact.

But first the outcome of the great trade debate. I rescinded the trade because disapproval of myself by others makes me uncomfortable. That's just a fact. That's the wind I sail into, tacking all the while so that I am not blown too far off course. Some people have the constant wind of self-approval and self-interest at their back -- on a "dead run" in the nomenclature of the sailor -- and they sail straight on till morning. Anyway, I backed off with the permission of the other party in the trade.

I was disappointed but not so much by the outcome as the process. I had hoped that the league members would vote on the acceptability of the trade. I had hoped for involvement, ideally resulting in a 5-4 vote (I had recused myself) and then an acceptance of the result. Indeed, I would have preferred losing 5-4 if you get down to it. I like the idea of a fair debate followed by a close vote. Of course, I want minority rights protected, etc. etc., but to me the emblem of a people's government is an up-or-down vote and the acceptance of that vote.

It's apathy that irks me. That's one of the aspects of the reign of George Bush that infuriates me. In 2000 and 2004, so many people voted with their broad bottoms; that is, they sat at home and did not vote at all. That was even worse than voting for Nader, which was pretty horrific.

And, of course -- and you may say more to the point -- Bush lost the 2000 election and may have lost the 2004. The process must be fair and it must be transparent. I would not want to have my trade rescinded by a vote of 6-5 with only nine people voting. At that point, I would have called in Jimmy Carter.

But back to the fantasy baseball league. On one level I would have been delighted with a 5-4 vote against my trade and the logic underlying it because it would have shown an enthusiasm for our little league, and it would have pleased me to be part of a functioning democratic process.

This is sentimental, I know, though it seems to me that the greater sentimentality is always to insist on consensus. You have been in such situations probably, where participants in a discussion are bullied into superficial agreement, a process that drives the tensions underground rather than acknowledging that even though we are not on the same page, that does not mean we going to throw away the book.

I recall my election as department chair in the old Communication Department at beautiful USF a long decade ago. I had a rival. The unit was divided, but I knew how to count noses and I figured I would win by a vote of -- here's a true irony -- 6-3 but no worse than 5-4. A supporter of my rival asked that I withdraw from the race because the vote would be divisive. I was told that anything other than consensus would damage department morale.

In retrospect, I might have said, well why doesn't he quit since I am going to kick his ass?

Instead, I said that I would be perfectly happy losing the election, but that I was going to stand. I was going to stand even if I lost 8-1. It seemed to me that it would be valuable to acknowledge disagreements publicly and then get on with the business of getting along. Too much was hidden by smiles. Correction: Too much was accompanied by a side dish of smiles that did nothing to mask the bitterness of the disagreement.

My rival withdrew, and I was elected by acclamation, in a spirit of false consensus. I still remember the expression of woe on a colleague's face, which at least was honest.

It was not a particularly successful three years as chair, my goodness no. I think I would have been better off winning 6-3 or 5-4, all the cards on the table, the pennant at the department's mast showing exactly from which quarter the wind was blowing.

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