As is often the case (from our point of view, at least.) tonight’s Twins/Yankees game was an absolute tragedy. I don’t (just?) mean “tragedy” in common parlance of like, your loved one died. I mean it in the sense of the Greek Tragedy, which you would be forgiven to assume was just “your loved one died, but also Zeus is there in the form of a goose to sleep with your obscenely hot wife.”
As I’m sure you, random baseball internet blog reader dude, are constantly craving, I need to introduce you to some of the key tenets of tragedy, as a genre, so you can properly understand, academically, how much this game was big, dumb, and poopy.
My boi Aristotle tells us tragedy comprises of two key elements. Mimesis, and Catharsis. Mimesis in its plainest sense is imitation, more specifically imitation of a noble and complete action, though often fantastical, the action is of something very human, which leads into the Catharsis, which is the safe release of emotions through compassion and fear of said mimesis. The original tragedies were performances of ritual mass purgation of negativity by the Greeks whose lives were wrought with death, inequity, and worrying about if the Sea Peoples were going to collapse your whole society by inventing a slightly better chariot.
This, finally, brings me to baseball. There is something extremely human about baseball. Most of us have played baseball at some level, even I can pick up a bat and hit a ball. It is relatable. It is human. It is a triumph that is simultaneously extremely beyond our skill and something we can easily imagine ourselves achieving.
Baseball’s everyman Luis Arraez, leading off the bottom of the second, for the perennially cursed Twins, against the arch enemy all-powerful Yankees hits a gosh-darned homerun. Suddenly he is us in all of our dreams, he is that peasant archer guy who fired the first shot at Helm’s Deep. Mimesis. The action is noble, and little is more final than a homerun, the only play in baseball that can’t get any more over. Mimesis.
And then Byron Buxton followed him with a dinger of his own. And then before you could blink and pinch yourself, Carlos Correa followed, and here the Twins are up 3-1 in the first with no outs.
But you know, deep down you know that this is only the prologue. For there to be tragedy, as there always is, there has to be something to lose.
So in the very next inning when Dylan “Unfortunately still one of the 5 best starting pitchers on your favorite team” Bundy gave up a game-tying Homerun to Joey Gallo, the Orestes to our Clytemnestra, no one could have been genuinely surprised. No, we’re veterans of the theater, too savvy to fall for such obvious trappings of the genre.
But then Byron Buxton hits his second didgeridoo of the game, and this time it is of the 3-run variety. Can it be? Is this finally the tale of the curse lifting. We sit at the edges of our seats. We dare, again, to feel. To hope. We are sucked into the act. Sucked into this mimicry of real heroism and of victory and triumph. We are consumed by the passion at the fine line between revenge and justice.
Trevor Larnach homers in the third. The Twins are up 7-3 and hitting the ball so close to the sun it would make Icarus blush. Nothing can burn these wings, we think, but the baseball gods are expert playwrights. They have us dancing to their strings.
Suddenly Gallo, DJ Lemahieu, and Aaron Hicks have homered and the game is again tied. Oopsie doo. And then the Yankees are lighting up one of our best pitchers, our fielders are throwing away balls and letting them drop between them almost comically, like my cat refusing to leave her bed to play with a new toy. Something I can only explain as defiantly absent-minded.
The game is now 10-7 in favor of our foe. There are innings left to be played, last scenes to get through, but we know how Twins-Yankees games go. We know the deflation the entire state feels. Its already over. All we have now to do is to purge out our sadness, and anger, and passion.
But isn’t that what sports are about from their most primitive conception? Not unlike the Greeks of old, we live in a world of violence, war, inequality, and uncertainty. How does an empathetic person get through it all when they, as a single entity, have such limited ability to enact change or control fate? We release our emotions in lower stakes affairs, through the epics, comedies, and even the tragedies we see played out in media, and yes, in sports.