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Coating of Certainty

cloudsoveraballpaulklee
Clouds Above a Ball by Paul Klee, 1928, water color.

“The lords of baseball have always ruled that a strike isn’t a strike because it fits neatly into a box; it’s a strike simply because it is called one by an umpire. The very reason an umpire uses such bravado in making the call of “Strike!” on an obviously close pitch is to put a coating of certainty on what could be doubt.”

—From Baseball as a Road to God by John Sexton

Plot:
A man decides his wife is mad and calls the authorities. The men in white coats show up at the couple’s house with an order to restrain the wife and take her to the state hospital, i.e. the loonie bin. The accused woman assures the orderlies that there has been some mistake, she’s not crazy at all. Her husband is the madman! Sure, she cries a lot and talks about her feelings to strangers, but that’s actually healthy. The men with white coats refuse to listen—they are not good listeners, and they have their court order. She gets increasingly upset and hysterical, a lamp gets broken, the dog gets upset, it’s chaos. And indeed, it does appear that the wife is mad: shrieking and defensive and desperate to escape. Off she goes in the paddy wagon.

Of course, today we don’t have paddy wagons or straitjackets. They would just drug her gradually with meds prescribed by her family doctor. She would be allowed to stay at home with her ten cats.

I saw a news clip on TV about immigration laws in the U.S. A weeping mother was talking to her teenaged son through a chain-link fence. She had been deported back to Mexico, after raising her son in California. He didn’t want to return to Mexico permanently and she didn’t want him to. So they talked to each other through the fence at the border between the two countries. She cried uncontrollably, but she certainly wasn’t crazy.

Down the street, Javier’s Bardem’s character from No Country for Old Men. He is walking around the same border town with a bad haircut scaring people. Hurting them, even. He is a psychopath.

Psychopath, that’s pretty easy to spot. Or is it? What about all the pitches that cross on the edge of the plate? Ball? Strike? Who says?

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