oddments and fascinations
My mother once told me that trauma is like Lord of the Rings. You go through this crazy, life-altering thing that almost kills you (like say having to drop the one ring into Mount Doom), and that thing by definition cannot possibly be understood by someone who hasn’t gone through it. They can sympathize sure, but they’ll never really know, and more than likely they’ll expect you to move on from the thing fairly quickly. And they can’t be blamed, people are just like that, but that’s not how it works.
Some lucky people are like Sam. They can go straight home, get married, have a whole bunch of curly headed Hobbit babies and pick up their gardening right where they left off, content to forget the whole thing and live out their days in peace. Lots of people however, are like Frodo, and they don’t come home the same person they were when they left, and everything is more horrible and more hard then it ever was before. The old wounds sting and the ghost of the weight of the one ring still weighs heavy on their minds, and they don’t fit in at home anymore, so they get on boats go sailing away to the Undying West to look for the sort of peace that can only come from within. Frodos can’t cope, and most of us are Frodos when we start out.
But if we move past the urge to hide or lash out, my mother always told me, we can become Pippin and Merry. They never ignored what had happened to them, but they were malleable and receptive to change. They became civic leaders and great storytellers; they we able to turn all that fear and anger and grief into narratives that others could delight in and learn from, and they used the skills they had learned in battle to protect their homeland. They were fortified by what had happened to them, they wore it like armor and used it to their advantage.
It is our trauma that turns us into guardians, my mother told me, it is suffering that strengthens our skin and softens our hearts, and if we learn to live with the ghosts of what had been done to us, we just may be able to save others from the same fate.
Lewiston Daily Sun: Sportswriters are often criticized for taking sports too seriously. Do you agree with that?
Roger Angell: No, I think our trouble is that we don’t take sports seriously enough. I mean, we’re always trying to turn sports into something else—into entertainment, or into another television show.
In sports at its best, there’s something really stirring and moving and different about it. It isn’t entertainment, it has an entirely different meaning. It’s not something you can buy, because you can’t guarantee the result. That’s why there’s boring games—there’s diversity; we don’t know how it’s going to come out.
But a lot of the people involved in sports, certainly some of the owners today, don’t seem to be aware of that. George Steinbrenner wants a guaranteed result of every game that’s played; he wants the Yankees to win. And winning isn’t all there is to it. Winning is nice, but you have to deserve to win, you know?
Read the rest: "Angell on Baseball: Every Day There is Something New" (1982)
And then read everything Angell ever wrote.