Thursday, October 14, 2004

Bloom and Baseball

*****[Reprinted from an editorial I wrote for Washington Square News--NYU's student newspaper--on March 12, 2003. The letter was originally titled "Well's Anxiety Blooms to Ruthian Proportions."]

Kudos to Greg Burke for his cogent article on New York Yankee pitcher Dave Wells' usurpation of legend Babe Ruth's notorious off-field behavior ("Boomer, Beer and the Bambino," March 3).

I would like to point out, however, that the question oozing out of Wells' autobiography is not whether Wells drank himself to oblivion prior to his perfect game, nor is it to what degree Wells pays "tribute" to the Babe. It is a question of anxiety. One way to get rid of your predecessor is to use him, hence Wells' incessant confession over who it is he is emulating.

I am, of course, exploiting the paradigm of influence formulated by eminent literary critic Harold Bloom during the early 1970s. In his classic treatise on the subject, "The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry," Bloom writes that the history of poetry can be construed as the history of strong poets misreading each other in order to clear imaginative space for themselves.

Say what? Crudely simplified, the conflict between disciples and masters is the prerequisite of poetic originality. If, as Bloom writes, poetic influence is "a disease of self-consciousness," then Wells clearly wears his anxieties on his sleeve. The meaning of an athlete can only be another athlete.

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