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Art and baseball

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 30, 2011 - The Beacon recently kicked off the first Barroom Conversation of the fall. The small group of people, roughly 15-20 people, met at Six Row Brewery to discuss art and its effect on class.

The conversation was an engaging one. The talk about the untimely death of St. Louis artist Bob Cassilly led to a general discussion about whether our community could foster an environment that would yield another such artist.

This happened Monday night, the same evening that the Atlanta Braves were playing the Philadelphia Phillies, while the St. Louis Cardinals were struggling against the Houston Astros.

With the game playing in the background, one woman motioned to a television, in effect asking: How do we as artists and art enthusiasts compete against something with such drawing power? Some answered that the statistical nature of sports was to sports' advantage. There's never been a scoreboard for art: In an upset, Monet 27, Picasso 14!

Others blamed education systems, parents, and any number of other reasons art wasn't holding a candle to sports when it should be outshining it.

These occurred just as Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies homered to even the score, 2-2, in Philadelphia.

Art vs. sports almost seemed to be a subplot in the art and class discussion. I don't think it was a necessary one. The two don't have to be pitted against each other, with sport fans and art enthusiasts sneering across the pitch at one another. In fact, I'd wager that the two are quite compatible.

I don't mind telling you that I have a physique befitting an offensive lineman in football. Tailors have been calling me barrel-chested -- which is a fantastic backhanded compliment if you're searching for one -- for years. But it was that same stature that made for a perfect bumbling, tenor-wailing Luther in "South Pacific" (complete in a coconut bra and grass skirt costume). My brother, the best visual artist I've ever met in real life, was a two-year letterman as a scrawny but scrappy defensive back.

On the back of my college's graduation program was a quotation from the Greek philosopher, Seneca. "Why do we teach the liberal arts?" he asks. "Not because they can bestow virtue, but because they prepare the soul for the reception of virtue."

If art is supposed to reflect life, it would be a poor reflection if it didn't include the impact sports has had on life. And the sports world could likely do with an injection of measured expression that is one of the pillars of art. But instead of shoving one virtue on to the other across the field, why not have them meet in the middle?

Intrepid arts reporter Nancy Fowler politely smiled as I interrupted our conversation about the arts to cheer as the Cardinals  erased an early 5-0 deficit. She didn't really get why I was clapping quite so loudly, but she didn't seem to mind it, either.

The Cardinals ended up losing that night, but winning the next two, while the Phillies came back Monday night and eventually swept the Braves. Overcoming a 10.5 game deficit, the Cardinals won the Wild Card and will play against (of all teams) Philadelphia on Saturday evening.

Even the staunchest of art supporters must admit: It was a thing of beauty.

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