Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 20, No. 1, 2021
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
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David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nick Catalano
Chris Barry
Don Dewey
Howard Richler
Gary Olson
Oslavi Linares
Jordan Adler
Andrew Hlavacek
Daniel Charchuk
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Mady Bourdage
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Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Navi Pillay
Ernesto Zedillo
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward


baseball, mythology and



Donald Dewey has written some 40 books of fiction and nonfiction, as well as contributed scores of stories to magazines and other periodicals. He has also had some 30 plays staged in Europe and the United States. Dewey was editor of the ASME-award winning magazine Attenzione and was editorial director of the East-West Network, overseeing a dozen in-flight magazines and the PBS organ Dial. Don's latest book, Franchisement: The Alan Gibb Story, is now available.

One of baseball’s earmarks is in upholding the myth business itself -- not merely in terms of individuals and their statistical deeds or even in the perpetuation of such canards as Abner Doubleday, but in creating a virtual world for its deeds and having it accepted as a reality. The megatrillions of dollars invested in motion pictures and television are to observe, record,or emulate everyday human actions for appealing to an audience; by contrast, baseball, like other sports, concocts a cosmos of rules and behaviour for the same purpose, but reduces the spectators on which it depends to so many Gullivers in the land of the Lilliputians. Whiffle ball may be the introduction for children playing baseball, but the relevant relationship for the fan -- the lungs of its business -- is ambi-dimensional, such as when a boy maneuvers his figurines across his bedroom floor. In the jargon of the day, this makes the players pieces; in the adulation industries of the day, it makes the public not the fans of fanatics but, dating back before contemporary rotisserie leagues and the infinite convolutions of game statistics, the fans of fantasists. Some imaginations conjured up the feats of Zeus and Odin, others those of Babe Ruth and Willie Mays.

Baseball as a game says much less than it delivers. Since it involves invented rules and behaviour for play, that description is unsurprising. But it also reflects a period when the English language was reeling from exposure to the unbridled, the rapacious and the self-indulgent. A hired killer was a regulator, if not a peacemaker. Settling the West meant colluding in mass exterminations. Information was what the William Randolph Hearsts and the Joseph Pulitzers could boast about improvising for sale. Reconstruction was looting, then restoration as if nothing had happened. A trust was never to be trusted. The ideal was not to curb greed, but to organize it efficiently. As for a game, it was what commercialized as much joy and satisfaction from athletic activity as paying customers would tolerate. They might not have been lies in a lexicon sense, but descriptives from the era contained their own rebuttals, and organized baseball was no exception. What you got was not necessarily what you saw. Not many junctures in American history were so indebted to Let’s Pretend.

That said, the national receptivity to baseball was hardly inevitable. Regarding just bat-and-ball sports, cricket was not only so entrenched as to draw as many as 25,000 followers to matches, but it had influential friends behind it; e.g., for years it was the only sport that could get city permission to play in New York’s Central Park. Attaining popularity let alone status as a patriotic pastime required circumstances as often triggered by large-scale rancour as by sectorial encouragement. Immigration trends weighed mightily in baseball’s ultimate ascension over cricket, but no single factor compared to the proselytizing impact of wars -- first the Mexican War (1846-1848), then the Civil War (1861-1865) -- during which troops from around the country mingled and converted bivouac areas into playing fields between battles. (A legendary story said that up to 40,000 Union troops were within sight of a game played on Christmas 1862, but the accent there is on legend). The sport was also familiar enough to figure as a ubiquitous poster motif in the presidential election campaign of Abraham Lincoln, and already by 1873 newspapers were reporting that every hamlet throughout the country had one ballclub if not more. Cartoons mocking immigrants from abroad often did so by depicting their inability at baseball. But it would still be a few years before the sport gained a professional standing, another couple of decades before it was stabilized by its original myth maker, and two decades beyond that before its most abiding myth took hold in tribute to an era already fading.

In the meantime, baseball was a very marginal pursuit amid economic depressions, labour strikes and management thuggery, massive immigrations, sweeping industrialization, foreign wars, and myriad other social eruptions that had produced the transformation of a country that no longer resembled what George Washington or even Abraham Lincoln would have recognized.

In Europe the designation of an age covered centuries, in the United States it answered plausibly only to a decade or two. Except for one thing, the claim cannot even be made that baseball was, as it is said, emblematic of the swift changes overcoming American society at the end of the nineteenth century. There were other sports drawing enthusiasts, other entertainments establishing a premise of mass audiences, other physical activities that were equally routine for cities and rural areas. Its elaboration as ‘directed play’ in a century when there were equal commitments to vaunting the youthful and collaborative while also maintaining a super-structural order was a sine qua non but not exclusive to a diamond. The one thing that the sport did mine uniquely, however, were the veins of mythology that glistened with opportunity for contentions of strictly American creativity, and, together with monopolistic promoting in an era when the nationalization of culture was paramount, that proved to be enough for its thriving. It was what people -- American people -- did and watched after many centuries of not doing and watching it and for that acquired identification within its specific historical context. Sometimes the connection was blatant, sometimes only reflexive, but always it was organic.

At the height of the Cold War, rare was the scientific, cultural or social breakthrough anywhere in the cosmos that the Tass news agency did not claim had been discovered years earlier by the Soviet Union. As absurd as Moscow’s obsession for having been first was, it had a precedent in the nineteenth-century United States. The vanity of being the best in some category might have hinged on fickle opinion, but being the first attracted as far less disputatious. The only thing to be demonstrated was prior absence, and if an American cultural outlook conveyed anything in the nineteenth century, it was how comprehensive a prior absence could be interpreted as being. The Garden of Eden had more of a past history. Those were the groundrules of the game -- and the sport, business, and mythology -- and the context for everything that followed.

Oh, and one other thing. There has never been anything new about a mythology based on factual fraudulence. Far rarer has been one elaborated precisely because it is fraudulent. Context was all. Without it, the Doubleday story has no seriousness whatsoever, is at best a graceless ploy by sectarian hustlers that ended up being called quintessentially American. And therein also lies the story of two noted men who never met and who added to their individual fames because of it.


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Also by Donald Dewey:
Double Bill
Heroes and Victims
The Relationships Conundrum
The Finger
Smoke Blowers
Noticing Death
Passive Resistance
Not Playing It Safe
The Expectation Medium
Crisis in Critics
Words Not to Live By
Knowing the Killer
Racism to the Rescue
Punk Times
Not Playing It Safe
Meeting the Author
The Overwriting Syndrome
Writers As Ideas
Let Them Entertain Us
It's a Kindergarten Life
Being and Disconnectedness
History of Humour in the Cinema
Cartoon Power


Before becoming the world's most respected life, death, and everything in between coach, Alan Gibb shared that common frustration over the failure of astrology, numerology, and similar religions to direct all aspects of human behavior. They might have all been sacred systems for establishing a personal identity, but there was a rusty screw at their core. Even when the revolutionary tenets of Franchisement occurred to him, he knew they might remain stillborn without the attacks, arrests, and tragedies customarily accompanying an original vision. Happily for Gibb and the tens of thousands of his fellow believers, he was assaulted in physical, mental, and dietary ways and hauled in as a fraud, thug, and stalker even as he pressed forward on his crusade to share Franchisement with the hordes crying for it as a national pastime superior to baseball. More happily, the tragedies struck others, not him, enabling him to enjoy the millions Franchisement brought through the Internet, the telephone, and pay-on-demand cable. As he noted repeatedly, the delivery vehicle was unimportant as long as a customer thought he wanted what he was getting. "If you listen to people, the world is divided between the Yankees and the Red Sox," he liked to chuckle fondly. "Tell that to those with a crush on the Minnesota Twins. A vision that isn't comprehensive sees only its own nose."


"Granted there are many similar books too numerous to count, but this book is sui generis." --- Benjamin Acocella, S.J., President of the Council for Mental Observances.

"This book changed my life when it most needed changing." --- Sidney Willinger, Leisure Sciences Department, University of Indiana.

"Sometimes love is a 13-letter word." --- Jennifer Pryor, Harvard School of Theoretical Business.

"Gibb demonstrates how life is more than steak knives and storm windows." --- Joel Sternheim, Informercials Institute.

Trade Paperback - 6 x 9 x .7
150 Pages
FICTION / Humorous / General
FICTION / Satire
FICTION / Sports











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