Deceptively Simple Quote of the Week

“Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.”

                                                      –Lily Tomlin, quoted in Jonathan Lethem’s The                                                     Ecstacy of Influence

Why We Care, Even as Our Teams Collapse. . .

There is, however, one demonstrable value to being a sports fan. It allows you to feel real emotional investment in something that has no actual real-world consequences. In any other contest (presidential campaigns, for example), the outcome can be exhilarating or dispiriting to its followers and, by the way, when we wake up the next day, the course of history has been changed. As for fictional stories, you can certainly get swept up in them, but their outcomes don’t hinge on the unpredictability of real life. Sports stories, on the other hand, are never guaranteed to end happily. In fact, as we’ve seen, some end in a highly unsatisfying way. As a fan, you will feel actual joy or actual pain — this is precisely what non-sports-fans usually ridicule about being a sports fan — in relation to events that really don’t affect your life at all.

The full piece is here.

We’re Hyper On Account of Our Genes!

Gee, Officer Krupke. . .Can’t keep your mind on that blasted report due by 5 PM? Don’t blame yourself, blame genetics! From a psychiatrist in  today’s NY Times:

There are two main reasons the diagnosis of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder is high in the U.S. First of all, our gene pool is loaded for A.D.H.D. Consider the central symptoms of the condition: distractibility, impulsivity and restlessness. Consider also the positives that so often accompany A.D.H.D.: being a dreamer and a pioneer, being creative, entrepreneurial, having an ability to think outside the box (with some difficulty thinking inside of it!), a tendency to be independent of mind and able to pursue a vision that goes against convention. Well, who colonized this country? People who have those traits!

Back in the 1600s and 1700s, you had to have special qualities — some would say special craziness — to get on one of those boats and come over to this uncharted, dangerous land. And the waves of immigration in subsequent centuries also drew people who possessed the same special qualities. In many ways, the qualities associated with A.D.H.D. are central to the American temperament, for better or worse. I often tell people that having A.D.H.D. is like having a Ferrari engine for a brain, but with bicycle brakes. If you can strengthen your brakes, you can win races and be a champion, as so many highly accomplished people with A.D.H.D. are. But if you don’t strengthen your brakes you can crash and burn as, sadly, many people who have A.D.H.D. but don’t know how to manage it ultimately do.

Why Baseball Matters. . .

. . . even when it breaks your heart and leaves you baffled in the wake of last night’s infuriating Yankees fold, which reawakened the pangs I felt as a 10- year-old kid watching the Pirates beat the Yankees in the ’60 series. Can’t remember a time I didn’t care about this team, though sometimes I wonder why.

 Some consolation  from the poet laureate of baseball writers:

It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitive as a professional sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut (I know this look — I know it by heart) is understandable and almost unanswerable.

Almost. What is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring — caring deeply and passionately, really caring — which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naivete — the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the haphazardous flight of a distant ball — seems a small price to pay for such a gift.  

Roger Angell, from Five Seasons, 1977

Jobs: An “Insanely Great” Micromanaging Dictator

As with everyone else, Steve Jobs was like a coin. The coin has a head side and a tail side. They are  inseparable from each other. You want one side, you have to take both. Here’s one of many Book-of-Jobs anecdotes being recalled today, from Fortune mag:

So exalted is Steve Jobs that often he is compared, metaphorically at least, to Jesus Christ. (Exhibit A: Alan Deutschman’s revealing 11-year-old book, The Second Coming of Steve Jobs.) True to form, the shepherd to his Apple flock often teaches in parables.

       One such lesson could be called the “Difference Between the Janitor and the Vice President,” and it’s a sermon Jobs delivers every time an executive reaches the VP level. Jobs imagines his garbage regularly not being emptied in his office, and when he asks the janitor why, he gets an excuse: The locks have been changed, and the janitor doesn’t have a key. This is an acceptable excuse coming from someone who empties trash bins for a living. The janitor gets to explain why something went wrong. Senior people do not. “When you’re the janitor,” Jobs has repeatedly told incoming VPs, “reasons matter.” He continues: “Somewhere between the janitor and the CEO, reasons stop mattering.” That “Rubicon,” he has said, “is crossed when you become a VP.” (Apple has about 70 vice presidents out of more than 25,000 non-retail-store employees.)

Love his products, but I wouldn’t want to be in the “reasons stop mattering” department. Imagine how many angry 4AM texts Jobs’ minions must have endured in order to bring the world these wonderful devices.