Art of Fielding 61-70: Win the Pain Away

" "I take 10 to 12 different things a day, and on the days I pitch, there's four more things." - Joe Sargent

As our story wraps up here in Westish, things start getting totally Greek. Except with pill addictions.

Schwartzy can't keep living like this. He's 22 and his body has completely fallen apart to the point where he's scrounging up pills from wherever he can get them. Are painkillers a performance enhancer?

Chapter 61 talks about Schwartz' burgeoning addiction, but on the other hand, his team has unbelievably made Nationals. I truly mean "unbelievably," I find it a bit of a plot hole that they can make it to Nationals with Owen batting third. But then again, I remember Aparacio's Art of Fielding; the shortstop has to project calm. Maybe Owen was the true team leader all the way, with his calming presence. He's the one who broke up the no-hitter out of lassitude and calmness. Everyone's going to miss him when he's off in Japan.

On the other side of Buddha is Schwartzy, celebrating in the hallway like Herb Brooks in 1980. His "they would die if they lost" reminds me of the Stephen Kiesling we used to read in college:

Hundreds of feet above us, cars whisked by, oblivious to our drama. Up there were the shortcuts, the excuses, the world of infinite possibilities separating man and his potential. We had four miles and the best competition in the nation. We linked hands in the boat and committed ourselves to each other.

Since the book has a theme of confronting your inadequacies, we need to have Schwartzy contemplate these inadequacies. Does Henry truly fear success? Is Schwartz' fear his ambition outstripping his talent? That's what he says, but isn't (or at least, wasn't) Henry successful? Isn't it far better to have ambition outstrip talent than to have talent outstrip ambition? Is there anyone ever who people were like "You know what, that man has just the right amount of ambition for his talent level."?

This book also gets quite Greek quite quickly (and not the way jch gets Greek, either). In Schwartzy's despair, he feels like all he can do is find things to try at, desperate at finding the one in which he will be successful. In this he feels "like some minor Greek god you've barely heard of," successful until the major gods -- personified in this case by Henry -- chooses to "insert himself into the equation."

There are tons of Greek references all of the sudden. Henry is built like a god, Henry references himself in a Odyssean struggle, Schwartz is a lesser god. I'll admit to being completely unstudied in the classics, so what do you make of this? Is Harbach referencing how epic our struggles feel like at a young age? Or is he just impressing us all with his Ivy League education? Does anyone have thoughts here, because I sure don't.

I will, however, use this opportunity to point out my previous reference to Greek epics in baseball.

Chapter 68's "Tomorrow, I'll get up early" is a private joke Henry had with himself. This was as devastating to me as Henry's walking off the field, though a bit more approachable since I've been there. He's such a lost soul at this point, and I find myself begging and begging for Owen to show up and talk to him for a bit.

Which, despite saying that, I got angry when Pella offered Henry pills. I actually have written down in my notes, "Fuck you, Pella." Pills ripped her apart.

"A pill was the opposite of what he wanted. A pill was the answer that someone else had to come up with."

I love that little line of Henry's. Here's a spark of Henry's fight. A spark of what he can do. But I'm biased, I hate hate hate pills, medication of any kind, and even though I'm sympathetic to mental illness, obviously, I have a lot of trouble admitting it when it comes to myself. So are me and Henry right? Is Pella right? Pella can't be right, can she?

What Henry needs, he realizes, is platonic love. The platonic, sportsmanship, love is something that the book hints at for a while before finally crunching down on here. Henry doesn't love Pella, and doesn't romantically love anyone. To his credit, he seems to have done a good job of not getting bogged down in a relationship he clearly doesn't want despite what I'm sure are women baying for him like cats. What Henry needs is a best friend, but society *man* privileges romantic love over the love of friends. Reading this passage made me miss my own best friend or two:

He could imagine how someone could love her, and that someone was Schwartzy.... But if you were Henry and needed Mike, you were simply screwed.

Chapter 69 has a less abstract question: why do you think Schwartzy doesn't want the job offer?

Chapter 70, with which we close this week, harps back on vigilance, vigilance, and more vigilance. Is there a sub-theme in here about the extenuation of vigilance?

We close with, what I hope, will be Henry and Guert sitting down to talk. I really want Guert to talk to Henry, maybe that will have some promise. Shit, I'll take anyone talking to Henry right now.

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