If Karl Marx wrote “Das Kapital” today

Written in the winter of 2010, after the Phillies lost the World Series to the Yankees. It might still apply today.

If Karl Marx wrote “Das Kapital” today I don’t think he would have referred to religion as the “opiate of the people.” My guess is that, he would go to one of Circle of Hope’s public meetings or one of the many cells that we have in our neighborhood and be convinced that our faith is something of an amphetamine. Our religion doesn’t put us to sleep and sedate us, it excites us, rejuvenates us, and gives us hope for a revolution. Maybe it’s not the communist revolution, but maybe it’s not too far off either. In fact, isn’t it precisely loving your enemies and having everything in common really what will change the world? We hear that a lot here, and we act it out a lot, too.

But there must be an opiate, right? Something that distracts us. Something that dulls our pain. You can probably think of a million answers. Alcohol is common. But I think that Churchill was drunk for most of WWII. And he was killing all sorts of people in the war that even some of the strictest pacifists call the “just one.” But I’ll tell you what he wasn’t doing, watching the Phillies lose the World Series. So perhaps, it is those disappointing Fightins that are really what keeps us Philadelphians from overthrowing the powers that are putting casinos in our town, or at least from overthrowing the Philadelphia Parking Authority. It certainly can’t be the Iggles doing this, primarily that team quickly forgets how to play football in the postseason — at least the Phillies wait until they get into the World Series before forgetting how to play baseball. Beyond that, the Eagles have destroyed any revolutionary spirit by questioning the how well their fans can spell. Ugh. E-A-G-L-E-S. Even at hockey games.

So the world pauses for some of us from April to October (if we’re lucky) and we watch those 162 games or more (if we’re lucky). It all is important. Every pitch of every game. For those of you that think the season’s too long, I think you’re attention span is too short. They say it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Well, I don’t know many marathoners that can throw a breaking ball… well, I’ve lost my train of thought.

I guess that’s exactly what watching the Phillies, or baseball in general does, allows us to lose our train of thought. Or perhaps it focuses our thought on what’s really important: double plays, 95-mile-an-hour fastballs, and extra-base hits. I know what you’re thinking, with all of those things mentioned, you couldn’t be talking about the Phillies, could you? Not just because this cynical fan doesn’t remember them performing at that level, but because they really are important.

So important, that no one cares that every night the local news describes that same 20-something, six-foot black guy that’s committed every crime in the last five years, we just want to make sure that Sad Lidge hasn’t blown it again. He did that a lot. I feel like forty times in 2009. In 2008, he was perfect you know. But, we pay him so much money — money that could go to AIDS victims, or hungry people in East Africa, or to stop children from being sold into slavery in Southeast Asia, or maybe just the money that could pay for heat for residents of Kensington–the least he could do is have one-two-three inning.

I mean the Phillies suck so much money out of Philadelphia’s workers, and really give nothing back (ever since the city stopped taxing them as aggressively), the least they could do to those fathers who are ignoring their children to watch Jimmy Rollins strike out again or watch Chase Utley fumble a double-play, is win baseball games. That’s the least they could do. Do it for the kids, Charlie.

You know what else you can do while watching the Phillies? Be sustainable. At a ballpark known for its vegetarian (and never overpriced) snack options, and even has corn-based, biodegradable “plastic” cups, we can watch those Fightins lose without destroying the environment. But you know what I really think? Environmentalism is the opiate of the masses. It takes idealistic, revolutionary college-educated 22-year-olds and tells them to stop thinking about class and race and begin thinking about the California Condor. And those elitists are the ones making fun of me for watching baseball. At least I have an issue with the fact that baseball players are increasingly less black. The real injustice here is the lack of places to play baseball in the city. My student’s curveball is never going to get nastier if he’s just throwing paperballs at me in class. And Lord knows, his education ain’t getting him anywheres either.

So as the Phillies remember the revolution and begin to fight it, in archetypal fashion, we play the most evil of all teams. The one that exposes what is wrong with all the world. The one who might make you vomit in your own mouth. The real New York team. Not the one that’s so easy to beat all the time, but the one who bought its players without a second thought and without variety of honor. The one that beat the Phillies last year. The Yankees.

Say what you will about the Phillies, but if you’ve even read “Das Kapital” you know who to root for. This is clear cut: good versus evil. Right versus wrong. The Phillies are the protagonists here and this is Empire Strikes Back. We lose. We lose big. I shave my head because of it. And any hope of that revolution is crushed.

Baseball, the opiate of the masses? Maybe. But I’m surprisingly idle and satisfied, even after losing to the Yankees. Second ain’t bad. Who needs a revolution anyway? You know what we really need? A salary cap.

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