Praying for Miracles Not To Melt
August remains my favorite month in this city. Maybe it's because I never have enough money to get away and other people do. I'm a solitary type of guy. August finds me sweaty and hot. Humidity rocks! I've never been a lover of cold or winter - no sleds or skis for me. Did Eli Whitney invent the shovel after the cotton gin? What's the difference between snow and cotton when it comes to lifting and you're getting up in age? When you become older you start thinking about your back hurting much like the pitch count in a game.
Which brings me back to baseball. This is the month one sits in the ball park and prays for miracles not to melt. Nothing worse than a team having a losing streak and falling behind a division leader. August is the month when players smell September and playoffs. Some hitters get hotter than the weather, while a dead arm can be a nightmare for a pitcher who was once a flame thrower. It's worse than losing sight of the strike zone. It's a writer's block in front of a crowd.
In a few weeks I'll start following wins and loses. Every game will matter. This will be around the time relationships fail. A late summer argument beginning at the beach might end on the boardwalk. Your favorite player starts to slump. A no name kid begins to make a name for himself. Is this why the ball park is called a field of dreams?
In a hot August night I could be one fan among many; one crazy cheering individual stretching in the seventh inning, looking around at a sea of red hats and jerseys, a big pond of curly Ws overflowing with excitement and suspense. Why would I want to be anywhere else?
This August will mark the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. What if baseball was our barometer or measuring stick of how much our country has changed? Is improved race relations a pennant chase? Who is our MVP or Rookie of the Year in 2013? I remember after the Watts Riots of 1965 how every summer was predicted to explode into a festival of violence and anger spilling into our urban streets. We pulled together special commissions and compiled reports in order to explain the ills of our nation. We relied on stats and numbers long before the arrival of moneyball.
Back in 1963, King said the following:
“In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.”
If you are in the minority, America will make you sweat at times. Baseball reminds us that we commit errors - not fouls or penalties, but errors. Fifty years ago King challenged our country to fulfill its promise to all of its citizens. Our playing field when it comes to economics must be fair with everyone having an opportunity to move beyond first base. So, this August I tip my cap to King, knowing that it's hotter than July. But who ever said things would be easy?
At the beginning of every baseball game we pause for a moment and listen to the singing of our national anthem. If one imagines a slight chill in the air it might come from great expectations and our inability to hit the curve.
E. Ethelbert Miller is a literary activist. He is the author of several books of poetry and two memoirs. Mr. Miller is the director of the African American Resource Center at Howard University as well as the board chair for the Institute for Policy Studies.