Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald

[LINK] "Baseball and History: Narratives, Part Two"

History and Futility co-blogger the Oberamtmann has another post up in his series on baseball and history. Stereotypes can be so limiting, especially when they harden into accepted dogma.

The problem with WPA and other contextual stats is that they are teleological. This is not really a problem for a description of a single baseball game, of course. They are purely for entertainment and the reader often already knows what happened. The need for dramatic effect means that writing up Aaron Boone’s 2003 homerun includes lots of foreshadowing and details that would not have been included if he struck out. I do not have to even tell you which one I am talking about. It becomes an issue when this turns to labeling some players as “clutch” and others as “chokers” even though small sample sizes abound. This essentially creates narratives that writers will use before the end result is known, which is even worse.

[. . .]

While it is true that great teams often have a feeling of destiny around them – and if they do not, writers create one – it is an illusion. The teams that seem to have a destiny aura but fail in the playoffs simply get forgotten and their stories left untold, unless there is something else going on in the background like the 2001 Yankees.

[. . .]

Teleology has long been a major problem in history. Major narratives explaining all of history in simple, easy strokes, also known as tropes, dominated much of the field until World War Two and later. Luther and Hegel led to Hitler! Prussia bad! No wait, Prussia good! Erm, actually, Prussia bad again! Manifest destiny! French Absolutism! Calvinist work ethic! These have been brought down over the last several decades. While some are defeated only to be resurrected in changed form, it is always with more nuanced understandings of the historical context. Prussia is a perfect example. Despised since World War One for its authoritarian, state-within-a-state tradition, marred by the monarch allying with the Junker nobility to oppress the serfs, recent research has uncovered that the monarchy and the nobility did not ally any more than in any other notable state. Its recent political tradition is at least as much social democrat as it is authoritarian. While the army’s special status remains an important piece of historical knowledge (one I think still holds true) Prussian society was far from militarized.

Go, read.
Tags: germany, history, links, sports
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