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5) People Who Are Even Thinking About Building Glass Houses Shouldn't Throw Stones. In 1981, Giamatti wrote an essay for The New York Times calling to account the insensitive, bumbling men responsible for an ongoing national strike. "There is no general sympathy for either of your sides. Nor will there be," he wrote, after labeling the strike "an example of deny-side economics...the triumph of greed over the spirit of the garden."
The dispute in question was between the owners and players of major league baseball, with commissioner Bowie Kuhn presiding over the forces of darkness and avariciousness.
But if Giamatti didn't occasionally go out of his way to pick a fight, he probably wouldn't have chosen baseball over the classroom.
Besides, the job affords Giamatti, at least in some measure, the chance to do what he loves most. Says Holcombe, "In whatever job Bart has, a lot of what he does is teach." Men like Herzog and Leyland must understand that, in many respects, Giamatti sees them first as pedagogical colleagues; he has always emphasized the point that coaches are just teachers with a different sort of classroom. So, while being commissioner means giving up the rapture of the campus—trading it for things like flying, which Giamatti is not very fond of, or for those glass elevators in hotels, which he dislikes even more than airplanes—what he gains in the bargain is a bully lectern.
Of course, some of his Yale critics bridled at his facility for artful expression. (One alumnus's Renaissance man is another's dilettante.) The same grumbles can already be heard in Jockstrap America, which has had nothing to prepare it for an articulate public figure, let alone an eloquent public figure, let alone an eloquent sports executive. Giamatti speaks of libraries as fondly as most men speak of women or baseball, and that can be terribly disconcerting.
He will offer no predictions for himself beyond his contracted term of five years. "I am a perfect case of how the unexamined life is worth living," he says. "I never did have a big plan. I just wanted to be a professor of English—at Yale, I hoped—and when I accomplished that it was almost immediately taken away from me." He sighs, drawing among the ashes with his cigarette.
"There is something in Bart that doesn't allow him to be happy," May says.
But Giamatti knows where best to search for his joy. In December, when things were quiet, his Manhattan office turned away all inquiries, saying that he was traveling. In fact, Giamatti was holed up only a few blocks away, in the Yale Club, researching and writing about baseball and America for a series of lectures that he would deliver a few weeks later at the University of Michigan. One of the advantages of being commissioner of baseball instead of president of Yale, he has discovered, is that students are now much more inclined to listen to you.
Of course, there are those who learn after the first few times. They grow out of sports. And there were others who were born with the wisdom to know that nothing lasts. These are the truly tough amongst us, the ones who can live without illusion, or without even the hope of illusion. I am not that grown up or that up-to-date. I am a simpler creature, tied to more primitive patterns and cycles. I need to think something lasts forever, and it might as well be that state of being that is a game; it might as well be that, in a green field, in the sun.
People come to games for stable artifice. The initial impulse is to delineate a world whose rules have no meaning anywhere else, but where every act is significant. Look! [His arms sweep over the books upon his desk.] Baseball has the largest library of law and lore and custom and ritual, and therefore, in a nation that fundamentally believes it is a nation under law, well, baseball is America's most privileged version of the level field.