In Kurt Vonnegut’s novel “Cat’s Cradle,” we are introduced to the wonderful religion of Bokononism. The basis of the religion is people telling each other harmless little lies in such a way as to make the world a little brighter. The religion’s followers know they’re lies, of course, but realize that if they just go with it they’ll be happier so why not go with it? The lies of Bokoninism — foma — are self-affirming. Foma may not be the truth, but they’re better than all of the other lies out there which would be told anyway, right?
One of the other beliefs of Bokoninism is that people are linked with others in a cosmically significant manner, even if it’s not obvious. A group is called a “karass,” and we all have one. Or several. It could be you, your husband, the clerk at the DMV and some pop singer you’ve never met, but the cosmos are demanding that you and your karass are somehow doing the universe’s will in some way. You’re all in it together, even if you don’t know what “it” is. Sometimes the members and purpose of your karass are revealed to you — why does that guy I met at that party that one time keep intersecting with my life anyway? — sometimes they are not. Life is just weird that way.
There are, however, false karasses. Groups of people who think they’re all connected somehow, but really aren’t. People who go to the same school, people of the same political party, people who root for the same sports teams and stuff like that. These false karasses are called “granfalloons,” and they’re comprised of people who share some sort of identity that really serves no purpose, even if they think it does. The funny thing about karasses and granfalloons are that people rarely think too hard about the former and they put WAY too much emphasis on the latter.
All of which brings us to David Price and David Ortiz. In 2013 Price got mad at Ortiz for, in his view, taking too much time to admire a home run during a playoff game. The next season the two were involved in a huge dustup when the Rays and Red Sox played again, with Price hitting Ortiz with a pitch, which eventually led to a benches-clearing incident and lots of ejections. After the game, Ortiz said this about Price:
“You can’t be acting like a little girl out there. You’re not going to win every time. When you give it up, that’s an experience for the next time. If you’re going act like a little [expletive] when you give it up, bounce back and put your teammates in jeopardy, that’s going to cost you . . . He knew he screwed up. He did that on his own. No manager sent him. No player was comfortable with the situation. He did that on his own. Which is [expletive]. He can get somebody else hurt. You can’t be doing that [stuff]. It’s on. Next time [Price] better bring the gloves. I have no respect for him no more.”
Strong words. Which are now forgotten, it seems. Ortiz reported to Red Sox camp this morning and met with his new teammate, David Price:
I think sports teams are granfalloons, both for players and fans. People think they have greater meaning and purpose than they do but, in reality, they are foma of the sort which does not really do the universe’s bidding. I know a lot of jerks who root for the team I root for and you do too. A lot of players on the same team really don’t like each other but they put that aside in order to do their job and fulfill what they believe to be their karass’ mission. Even if there is no real mission.
I feel like Ortiz and Price are part of a real karass, though. That their multi-year disdain for one another and subsequent, immediate friendship is really the universe’s way of revealing to people that either sports beefs are sports alliances are kind of silly when you think about them too much. Which, in turn, reveals that sports themselves are foma, designed to make our world a little brighter even if there are some dumb or negative aspects to them.
Sing a calypso and root for your baseball team. It’s way better than thinking too hard about all of those destructive lies out there.