John Lackey: Last Ode to the Traitor

I swore I would not write a tribute to John Lackey but then I was interviewed (LINK) by Randy Booth of the SBN Red Sox blog Over The Monster and I ended up paying homage to Big John.

And so I will write about him one last time for Angels fans and Halos Heaven readers and then just try to move on...

Last week the war of words simmered. We were told that it is "just a business" - which is code for "hide your feelings." We were told that the team's management was to blame. Not an issue of right or wrong, but the din of opinions missed the mark. You see, when YOU or ME put on that replica jersey, turn on that game or buy that baseball card, WE become that player. There actually is no "John Lackey." There is a guy with that name and he has an interesting job and works hard at it, employed by a major league baseball team to repeat precise movements under pressure. Yawn... let's just go to the ballet, that is "just a business" too. And the reason it is a broke business is that you don't wear a tutu to the opera-house and become that ballerina (thankfully). But at the ballpark there was a character we became every fifth day during the season named John Lackey.

You and I have at times become John Lackey. We have been on that mound and had that look of raw anger and seething hatred of the opponent... and having it has given our lives a deeper meaning. Feeling it... we have known how to live a little more certain of ourselves because of that night on the mound against the Giants or that afternoon against Oakland where, when you and I were John Lackey, we told Jason Kendall to stick his arm out a little more and then tackled him.

And so now this thing we have been has become a traitor and, repulsed, we stand for a few weeks of this offseason alone, unsure, not ready to become someone else, to grow our imagination of the possible through the perseverance of this stat-compiling character who defies human incompetence and achieves excellence. I have been him, you have been him and the game pulls us in because it allows us that space to share with the archetype of the hero.

Those who tisk-tisk us that it is "just a business" lack the imagination to enjoy this game at our deep level. We are superior to these sanctimonious scolds; WE are fans, the soul of what these players embody is an energy that melds into our consciousness. We become the player... forget that the guy on the field pirouetting like Nijinsky... he is just 3 or 4 percent of the equation. You and I giving him any attention... that is more than 90 percent of it; Just me and you and a hundred thousand others being one with that moment and understanding its greatness in an inter-generational history woven deep into the American character and international consciousness.

The team store has the John Lackey jersey I always wanted on sale for $20. I couldn't even lift the hangar from the rack my desire was so weak. He has "gone to the dark side" ... "crossed enemy lines" ... "sold his soul to the devil" ... you see, without the complex narrative that you and I add, this is just the ballet populated by pudgy men and boys following stupid rules.

But these human cattle are paid well to hone those reflexes and stretch those calves because who they are forever disappears into the trillion layers of meaning each player commits to when he suits up, takes the field and pulsates his psyche out into the cheering crowd, a diaspora of intimacy and archetype that he will never recover as we become him. It is the ritual communion of the fan - it is all for us, it is all about us and when you have hope, you pull in the energy of the player who embodies it for you and you become him, win or lose, it is the leap of a lifetime from your season seat, your bleacher bench, your living room sofa. Being a fan is living. You and I are more alive because we lived as John Lackey, but now it is time to live our own lives until hope finds us again. And we are here because we believe it will.

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