The Ken Birns nine part video documentary on baseball depicts fans as late as the fifties, perhaps early 60s, attending baseball games dressed in suits, ties, men in fedoras, women in hats, photographers at the World Series running along the base lines to capture pictures in fedoras and overcoats.
Compare that with re-runs of the televised games of this year’s World Series. See young males bared to the waist, wearing baseball caps backwards, mugging for possible distant television exposure, often drunk, symbols or letters of the alphabet smeared on their chests, making some sort of joint statement about modern America.
Look at the crowd of fans. Finding a suit and tie is harder than finding Waldo in a phantasmagoria of drawn figures. Even if you wanted to attend the fall classic – classic is hardly a word to describe the attire and conduct of the present fans – take your children, induce them to dress in a fashion that you think ‘suitable’, sports jacket, slacks, a sweater, a kind of vestige of the Joe College image of bygone Ivy league games, you’d have to drag the youngsters to the game with a lariat. They’d feel overdressed, mortified, feel ‘stupid’, dressed like that.
See the Yankee players honored after their glorious victory, awarded keys to the City of New York, most walking to the podium in casual attire, some wearing sweat shirts, the only jackets being windbreakers, nary a shirt or tie to be found, much less a sports jacket.
See the legend Joe DiMaggio, sitting on the dias in his legendary dark blue suit cum tie, who dressed like that every day of his legendary playing days.
See the heralded players of today, particularly in football and basketball, going through some childish rehearsed ‘celebration’ for the viewers; infantile, macho man, antics by alleged adults paid millions to be anti-hero/role models to numb the minds of youth.
In a court house the other day, at lunchtime, one of the court officers doffed his uniform for shorts and sneakers to play touch football. “So good to get out of that black uniform tie”, he says. “It’s the only tie I own. I don’t have any suits”. This is a forty year old man, not a boy, speaking.
Get in a crowd, any crowd, anywhere. If it weren’t for Levi Strauss’s creation of jeans, eighty percent of the people would be naked – which would be an even uglier scene, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.
Some of you may say to yourself as you read this, ‘what’s the point?’ Others may have actually noticed that something has changed in America, changed radically.
The cinema and television has broadcast not only liberty and equality to the rest of the world, but an instant form of nihilism, a mass crowd, anonymous, non-social, anti-social, violent syndrome, displayed everywhere.
See Woodstock, masses of people, inundated in a darkness punctuated by strobe lights, like ants or snakes, writhing in anonymity.
Listen to the language of the cinema, or its imitation in reality on any street or sidewalk. To object to four letter words in front of children or women, is to attempt to displace the ocean into a hole with a shovel (shovelling against the tide is the standard metaphor, for those who remember).
See the amusement of the day: multi media, Pentium personal computers, so that individuals can be closeted, alone in their bedrooms, in front of a tiny screen, watching films, listening to music, playing games, and, most enjoyable, and frightening, of all, enjoying anonymous E-mail under cloak of key word pseudonyms.
In days of yore, if a young person stood on the sink of the public toilet in school to write their message of protest in tiny letters, high above, the school psychologist would have several sessions trying to fathom this aberrant, disturbed, withdrawn individual.
Nowadays, see faces in the crowd, surge and smile, wave to television cameras panning the crowd, in the vain hope for a second’s recognition, the only recognition of their lives, on television screens seen by unknown people, somewhere.
What a pathetic, dehumanized, world, stripped of elegance of dress, speech, manner, social graces, you name it. Will the mothers of today have any idea of how to advise their daughters and sons, when their only mentor has been a panning television camera, viewing naked to the waist hooligans, spewing general venom, unable to converse except in language until recently reserved for the longshore, violence everywhere, because unrealistic, stunts and effects in films, with blood spurting into your face from cavernous wounds, seems normal, when tearing off limbs and heads is a pleasant diversion of video games.
If anyone recalls the anguished commentary of the radio announcer viewing the actual flaming destruction of the zeppelin ‘Hindenburg’, with bodies falling out of the flame engulfed structure as it sank to the ground, wail: “oh, the inhumanity of it all”, you will have heard a voice crying out with despair over the modern condition that has now engulfed us all.