A High Priest in Tweed

A lot of baseball purists hate Bill James.  By attempting to intellectualize aspects of a game that had up until then been left to “experts” who used their gut feelings to lead teams in one direction or another, James sought to overturn baseball orthodoxy.  These experts/purists/fundamentalists hate James because they no longer get to employ their mystical powers to direct the religion of baseball.

This should hardly come as a surprise, though.  Baseball is a uniquely American sport and Americans are uniquely anti-intellectual.  It only makes sense that a group of people who disparage America’s professors and other learned people would also disparage someone who tries to apply reason and science to America’s pastime.

But those who hate intellectuals the most are also those who fear them the most.  The old school scouts hated James because his emphasis on the quantifiable aspects of baseball undermined their previously hallowed positions as arbiters of all things baseball.  They feared losing their previously sacrosanct positions so these high priests of the game had to evolve or risk becoming irrelevant.

Something similar is taking place in the Republican party today.  The party of belligerent anti-intellectualism has somehow embraced a self-styled intellectual as their new savior.  The truth, though, hides a little deeper in the phenomenon.  Newt, intellectual that he claims to be, brings nothing new to the game.  He’s merely a priest dressed up in the trappings of an intellectual but he uses this affectation to scare his flock into believing what sounds intellectual to them.  Newt is riding high on this image but hopefully his new religion will soon follow the same path as the baseball scout’s “sure thing” and the Contract With America.

-A

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