TRICKSTER GAZETTE: Halloween Sports Edition

October 31, 2023

TRICKSTER GAZETTE: Halloween Sports Edition

The Buster Keaton of Baseball
Creator: Wally Gobetz <<<<<<
Block 4th
SLAPSTICK! It can be defined as the exaggeration of physical comedy to the point of seeming violence—the pratfall, the pie in the face, the collapsing building—but slapstick speaks a language more profound: the conveyance of the child’s premoral playfulness, without any signaling of good or evil, all in the interest of surprised laughter and unadulterated giggles. And this fun is generally enjoyed through the conventional narratives of film. Slapstick’s a practice rife with Trickster spirit. It opens the mind to realities beyond the mundane, and even suggests that the status quo ain’t necessarily so. Slapstick evokes laughter in the very young and old alike as it acts out a world view that takes almost nothing seriously. Many confine slapstick to the 1920s, but from Bea Lillie to Katherine Hepburn, from Buster Keaton to Lucille Ball, Red Skelton to Jim Carrey, its pranks and pratfalls continue to tickle us well into the 21st century, generally on stage, in film, and on television.
Block 8th
Creator: Wally Gobetz
But is there also a slapstick component to sports? I’m an avid sports spectator, usually in small doses . . . except during the major league baseball playoffs every October. I love the drama, the entertainment, and the meaningfulness that comes as much from the defeats as the victories, the emerging stars and the final acts.
Is sports just about winning? My answer is an emphatic no. I mean yes, for many athletes, they perform the best with a mindset that winning is all that matters. But I’m talking about the rest of us. For the viewer, the fan, sports is about being entertained as much as it’s about your team winning.
Block 11th
Creator: Rob Masefield
Let me illustrate by way of an argument I usually win. Among National Football League quarterbacks, who is the GOAT (Greatest of All Time)? Many answer Tom Brady, with the New England Patriots. I contend that it is Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49ers. Why? Brady has superior statistics that edge out Montana. But Joe Montana is really fun to watch, and Brady is skillful but boring. For entertainment value, for an engaging drama, Montana leaves him in the dust. Brady’s all about winning and takes it all quite seriously. Montana, having fun winning and occasionally looking clumsy even, proved to be his signature.
Block 14th
Creator: Richard Bartlaga
Because dammit, it’s just a game. Playfulness in the arenas of competition, what I call cultural play, can be a lot of fun if the balance is right. But inherent in competition is the hazard of games that can devolve into harmfulness and toxicity. Non-competitive playfulness, what I call original play, by definition runs no such risks and in fact stimulates the imagination and puts fun first.
In the 1986 World Series, where the Boston Red Sox faced the New York Mets, a great hitter and first basemen, Bill Buckner, made an error that changed the course of a critical game and contributed to a Mets victory, in that game and the Series. Buckner subsequently received death threats, heckles and boos by hometown fans, and derision from other teams. The defamation almost ruined his life, and it was only 18 years later, when the Red Sox finally erased the supposed curse of Babe Ruth and won a World Series, that he was forgiven and redeemed. This is not sports, it’s brutal, shameful fan behavior. It’s just a game. Taking it too seriously can wreak serious mental and physical injuries on players and fans alike.
I think we get it. Being fun to watch is on equal terms with winning. For example, the incidental slapstick of blooper reels. There are hours and hours of blooper reels that tickle that funny bone. In fact, sports fans who have their heads screwed on reasonably well would have gotten over Buckner’s faux pas within a year and it might have made the blooper reels.
Block 21st
Creator: Alan Livingstone MacLeod
Follow me out on a limb here. A recent and likely unprecedented phenomenon in baseball is something I affectionately call the Clayton Kershaw Postseason Choke. I have it on good authority that Mr. Kershaw is a fine, more than decent, and all round good-natured person, and he is one of the greatest pitchers of our time. I wish him all the success in the world. So it’s important to state that I am ‘making fun’ and not ‘making fun of.’ The CKPC is possibly of the stature of Buster Keaton’s incomparable pratfalls and physical genius. In other words, I believe that the CKPC is comedy gold, and Kershaw could make the most of that.*
Let’s look at some statistics. For those of you who understand the Earned Run Average (ERA), Kershaw’s is 2.43 in the regular season (outrageously good) and about 4.50 in the playoffs and World Series (not!). He wins 70% of his games during the regular season, and only 50% in the postseason. That’s huge. And the defeats have been, if you’re in the right mood, almost funny. Here’s a summary of sad sack moments with Kershaw on the mound, pitching in the MLB Playoffs:
2009: The Philadelphia Phillies score five runs in 4.2 innings.
2013: The Cardinals score seven runs on 10 hits.
2014: The Cardinals score eight runs in 6.2 innings.
2014: The Cardinals hit a three-run, game-winning home run.
2015: Kershaw leaves the game with two Cardinals on base, who score for the win.
2016: The Cubs score five runs and go to the World Series.
2017: Dodgers win against the Diamondbacks, but Kershaw allows four home runs.
2017: The Astros score six runs on their way to a World Series victory.
2018: The Red Sox win the World Series on four home runs.
2019: The Nationals score two home runs on their way to a victory.
2020: The Braves score three runs on their way to a victory.
Block 24th
Creator: Richard Bartlaga
Kerhsaw’s eleven fails are offset by seven excellent postseason outings, but you get my point. Oh yeah? what’s my point? Well, there’s this year’s October, when Trickster spirit hovered over Dodger Stadium and according to ESPN, he pitched “possibly the worst postseason start in baseball history,” allowing five hits and five runs in the first inning before recording an out, and another run before the manager, a livid Dave Roberts, pulled him. It was ugly. Or hilarious, depending upon how you look at it.
It’s from the perspective of slapstick that I think Kershaw’s hit the comedy jackpot. These fails are just uncanny coming from such a great pitcher..but if this guy could laugh at himself, and I think that he’s a big enough person to do that, he could have a lot of fun with it and maybe educate fans who miss the entertainment value of sports, a value that vanquishes negative conflict and nasty behavior.
Block 27th
Just ask Giants fan Brian Stow whom Dodgers fans beat into a nine-month coma in 2011. He’s still recovering. Just ask the two men who beat him and went to prison. But you can’t ask Dodger fan Jonathan Denver. He was fatally stabbed by Giants fans two years later. In contrast to such sports fan(aticism) gone awry, Clayton Kershaw could assemble his own blooper reel (see summary above), attach it to some product he wants to endorse if we must, speak some very clever and fun lines…and he could remind us all that it’s just a game, that rivalries can be fun, that even defeats can be meaningful and entertaining, and that it’s good sports like Kershaw who give us good sports.
After posting this, ahem, I may not get many invitations to speak in Boston or L.A., to which I reply, why so serious?  But if you live in Washington state, I want you to know that I’m now part of Humanities Washington’s Speakers Bureau, and I would love to come to a high school, college, library, civic or nonprofit organization in your community…with my fee and costs covered by Humanities Washington. I want to have fun with you via a conversation where we’ll get familiar with Tricksters in culture and politics, and learn how they can inspire us to imagine a better, a much better world. Just click here to get the booking process started, or email me at with your suggested site, and I’ll get in touch with them. THANKS!!!
*Full disclosure, I hail from San Francisco, where “Beat L.A.”  in Giants/Halloween orange & black is tattooed on our behinds before the age of 3.
Happy Hallowe'en! Tricks and Treats!
…and Peace. Real Peace.
Shepherd Siegel


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