"580. Bad memory. The advantage of bad memory is that, several times over, one enjoys the same good things for the first time."
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human
"Ah, devil ether. It makes you behave like the village drunkard in some early Irish novel. Total loss of all basic motor skills. Blurred vision, no balance, numb tongue. The mind recoils in horror, unable to communicate with the spinal column. Which is interesting because you can actually watch yourself behaving in this terrible way, but you can't control it. You approach the turnstiles and know when you get there, you have to give the man two dollars or he won't let you inside. But when you get there, everything goes wrong. Some angry Rotarian shoves you and you hear yourself mumbling..."
-Hunter S. Thompson , Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
**Oh, and make sure to check out my Q & A with Glenn from "A Sea of Blue" to find out more about Kentucky's power bats and A.J. Reed, the best two-way player to come around in some time.**
Column VI, Week VII: "We Can't Stop Here. This is Bat Country."
Vanderbilt: 21-5 (3-3 SEC), #5 USA Today, #7 Baseball America
v. Kentucky: 17-7 (3-3 SEC), #19 USA Today, #19 Baseball America
Coaches always speak of an athlete's ability to have a "short-term memory" as a good thing. Throw an interception? Forget it and get back on the field. Boot an easy grounder? Concentrate on your next at bat. Miss a wide open shot? Get back on defense. By and large, if they stew on their mistakes, self-analyzing into oblivion, it's a detriment. Sure, it's not the best thing for when college athletes have to do other things than their sport (you know, like classes), but for their success on the field, it's necessary. But is it necessary for those of us whose competing days are long since past or never were in the first place (I'm talking about columnists, analysts, and fans here), especially after witnessing our baseball team come apart at the seams at the safety school for those who dreamed of going to Bovine University?
Well, according to recent studies in the nature of depression amongst contemporary Americans... yes. In a recent article on Salon.com Jonathan Rottenberg presents a compelling argument that our uniquely American drive to "fix" our moods are producing fixation, and though we live in relatively benign conditions, this focus on mood and how to get out of it (think the Self-Help movement, "power of positive thinking" types, etc.) is making things exponentially worse. An excerpt:
Former tennis great Cliff Richey, in his memoir "Acing Depression," described how he became engulfed by low mood: "One of the horrible things about depression-in addition to the foul, odorous, sick, deathly mood you're in-is that you're now spending so much of your time, almost all of it, just trying to fix yourself. You're consumed by, ‘How can I fix this horrible thing?'"
A quite longer excerpt (not suitable for the tl;dr crowd):
Such reflections on mood have a purpose beyond self-flagellation. The mood system is practical and most interested in what to do next, in finding the action that will enhance fitness. What people brood about is not random but tracks key evolutionary themes (finding a mate, staying alive, achieving status, defending kith and kin, etc.). Mothers and fathers worry about their children at summer camp because mistakes in child rearing are evolutionarily costly. A mother who figures out that she's dwelling on a failure to pack sunscreen can send a remedial Coppertone care package, and, the next time Tommy is sent away, he's more likely to be fully provisioned. Even the most backward-looking counterfactual thinking (coulda, shoulda, woulda) has a forward-looking element: understanding why bad things happened helps us prevent their recurrence.
Reacting to low mood with thinking has evolutionary logic; it enhances survival and reproduction (fitness). Sadly, what's good for fitness is not necessarily good for happiness. Only sometimes does thinking about mood enhance happiness. We see this fairly reliably in certain brands of psychotherapy, in which the process of thinking about mood and discovering its meanings is specially structured and guided by an expert. For a novice to think his or her way out of low mood and depression to get to a happier place-that's a dicier proposition. Humans are understandably confident when trying to think our way out of a low mood. We solve so many other problems by thinking, such as how to get a stalled car to start or how to make a healthy meal out of scraps in the fridge.
Becky, a college professor in Maryland, organizes a team to analyze old production data from a distillery to figure out the determinants of good whiskey quality and use this information to ascertain why the distillery's product loss between brewing and bottling is nearly twice the industry standard. She is now in an episode of depression. Every morning Becky wakes up and says to herself, "What can I do today to solve this problem?" But even with a PhD degree, considerable insight, and bookshelves filled with self-help books, her depression hasn't budged for thirteen months. If you speak with her, even in her depressed state, it is immediately obvious that she is intelligent. On paper, she has every reason to believe that she can solve her depression.
Yet most humans, including Becky, are not nearly as good at this as they think they are. And our confidence in thought makes it more difficult to recognize when thinking is not working. The pitfalls of such an approach are underappreciated. In fact, "thinking your way out" might actually provide new ways in, new ways for low mood to deepen into serious depression.
I say all this not as a panacea to quell your doubts following the MSU Friday and Saturday blood-letting. Rather, try to realize there are certain things we just aren't able to figure out. Why does Coach Corbin bunt a hitter on a hot streak with 2 on, 0 out, down four runs? Forget about it. Why can't our hitters touch the soft-tossing lefty lobbing 83mph "heaters" at the corners? No clue. Why are we put on this planet if only to die? Shut up.
How will you be able to do this, you ask? Becky, the aforementioned college professor, like many a genius before her, had it under her nose the whole time: bourbon.
It must be noted that despite being a haven for oxycodone addicts and Ashley Judds alike, Kentucky produces bourbon. Not only the best bourbon, but the only bourbon. Sure there are other whiskeys and whiskys, from the peaty Islays to the Tennessee sour mashes to the third rate crap Canada produces in second-hand barrels, but none of that is bourbon. Like oil-rich Saudi oligarchs, the Norwegian royal family, and women in yoga pants, we must recognize their existence as sovereign due to their possession of precious natural reserves. We grow mint to sacrifice at their sweet, char-barreled altar. We race horses and put on ridiculous ladies hats to appease their angels and keep their share light. We give them our sleaziest Italian-American and our nation's highest rated AAU players of shooty-hoops so they will allow their barrels to age away from harshness of the sun's rays for 10, 15, or if we give them Ron Mercer, 23 years. We welcome them to our towns, despite having met their kind before, and try not to punch them immediately.
We must do this all for bourbon. And hot browns. But especially for bourbon.
This weekend, we must be gracious to the visiting Judds. This weekend we must behave as gentlemen. We much change our bar televisions to accommodate their basketball needs. We must talk of their freshmen peaking at the right time. We must congratulate their conquering of the state of Wichita. We must keep them focused on basketing balls, as on the diamond, we lull their bats into slumber, and in the bottom halves, we strike. For those of us watching at home, we root on our boys in black and gold, and savor some of the finest elixirs the Hill People of the state to our North have ever produced until we forget how to even spell Starkvil.
Oh, and with the bunts? On Tuesday night, in the bottom of the 8th inning against Belmont, with our bats silenced by the same pitcher we destroyed earlier in the year, Corbs called a fake bunt. And. It. Was. Glorious.
Friday: RHP Tyler Beede (4-2, 2.06 ERA) v. LHP A.J. Reed (4-1, 2.20 ERA)
Prediction: Vandy 4 - UK 3
Saturday: LHP Jared Miller (5-1, 1.26 ERA) v. RHP Chandler Shepherd (5-0, 2.20 ERA)
Prediction: Vandy 8 - UK 6
Sunday: RHP Tyler Ferguson (4-0, 1.34 ERA) v. RHP Andrew Nelson (1-1, 2.89 ERA)
Prediction: Vandy 2 - UK 13
*One of these games, their bats will explode. I'm just not sure which one.
Whisky to pair with having to put up with the guy sitting next to you talking non-stop about Alex Poythress for no discernable reason: Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 23yr. Neat.
*If you can't get your hands on that, and let's face it, you can't, just ask Will Terry. He lives in that state.
**If you would really rather not talk to Will, and are more of a beer man than a whisky guy, go with the Against the Grain/De Molen collaboration "Bo & Luke" Imperial Smoked Stout. It's aged in Pappy Van Winkle barrels and is just about the finest beer I've ever had.
*Author's note: "Baseball, Bourbon, and Bad Decisions" will be a weekly column throughout the 2014 baseball season. Andrew VU '04 is a writer, educator, and ne-er-do-well living in the whirlpool of despair (Baton Rouge, LA) and is writing this column based largely on the fact that VandyTigerPhD is a large Italian man threatening his life if he doesn't hold up his end of the bargain. Throughout the season, the writer will use no advanced statistics, whatsoever, and will go purely on what he sees, instinct, and bourbon-fueled bluster. Check in Sunday nights (or whenever I damn well feel like writing it) for "Scouting Report: Something Something, Burt Ward" in which the writer will provide a recap, 2nd guess at least one key decision made by Coach Corbin, and provide a full scouting report on one pitcher and one position player.