Down by one. The bottom of the 9th. Men on first and second. Hit to center just over the leather laces of the center fielder, who takes it off the carom and throws. The cut off man sends it home. Now bases ought to be loaded. Still a one run ballgame. But the batter rounds first, trying for second, encouraging the runner on second to move on to third. Until he notices somebody in a uniform matching his own already standing on third. He slams on the brakes to turn back to second.
It is at this point that one wonders, either stupid is contagious, or, is this what jazz players or drip painters mean, by a beautiful mistake. Because the catcher, aiming to throw someone of the two runners out at third, instead hurls the ball all the way into left field. The TV announcer raises his voice as he quickly edits his report, from “Twins fill the bases” to “are gonna score” to, finally, screaming, “are gonna win the game!”
It’s almost like the fielders and the runners all somehow colluded in this craziness. As if the one’s mental mistake could trigger another’s throwing error.
Watching the game, we tend to praise and blame. One team won. The other team lost. Who to credit and who to fault depends on who you’re rooting for. Sometimes you “tip your cap” to the opponent, but mostly you praise or blame the home team. “Root, root, root for the home team. If they don’t win, it’s a shame.” But really the “agon” (αγων) as the ancient Greeks called the crucible of competition that is every game, that is Life, is complex. You can see this most clearly in that special high-pressure agon that is the bottom of the ninth. Every victory comes with the aid of the defeated. All competition is a collaboration. It takes two to walk one off. And so is revealed the interconnection between error and excellence, a bad bounce and good luck, defeat and victory, hopelessness and happiness.