The Cosmic Baseball Association's 2018 Jack Kerouac Memorial Game
The Cosmic Baseball Association was one of my more esoteric online haunts when I was a teenager. I spent a good chunk of time in the late 1990s and early 2000s acting as the Coover-esque commissioner of dozens of fantasy sports leagues of my own creation. Not fantasy sports in the common sense, with drafts and real players and silly team names. But leagues cut from whole cloth, seasons simulated with the roll of a die, or the throw of a dart (shout out to long-departed Emergency League!, a similarly cosmic baseball darts league whose players were, among other, cartoons and creatures of myth).
The CBA (whose web site is still gloriously Web 1.0) is the heady, literary version of the ledger-and-graph paper operations I ran in my youth. It's the brainchild of Andrew Lampert, who created the league during the 1981 MLB players' strike because of his “rising dissatisfaction with reality baseball.”
Major League Baseball was corrupt and ubiquitous greed had soured the sport; but not its myths. These myths buried in a myriad of traditions became the inspiration for the creation of “cosmic baseball.” [x]
Professional sport has deep lore, and baseball's, America's game, is especially potent. When you divorce the mechanics of the sport from reality, what you're left with is a new medium through which stories are told. When you plug in the detritus of culture through this unique storytelling device, poetry emerges. Sure, it might just be a goof that The Twilight Zone beat Black Mirror 5-4 in a exhibition game this past February. But it's fun to think of in a, erm, cosmic sense: maybe we've already been here before, our hang-ups and obsessions and fears the same as they were last time we were under the thumb of Armageddon. It's for this same reason I'm incredibly fond of Jon Bois' work: statistics become poetry. Advanced metrics, box scores and spreadsheets invite new ways to think about the world beyond the stadium.
Last week, the CBA played its annual Jack Kerouac Memorial Game, this time pitting key figures in the writer's life against some of his characters. In addition to the roster and boxscore, the game's page is sprinkled with links to articles and interview, both fondly remembering the man and decrying his work as misogynistic piddle. In true CBA style, the components are laid bare. The story is ours to weave. Per the game's intro:
Kerouac's work does not often gel with feminist philosophy. But Kerouac might claim that he wrote in the service of women...that he was a woeful womanizer in service to a Dulcinea whom he saw in every Tristessa, Esperanza, Laura, Joan, Judie, Edie, Ruth, Helen, et. al.
Or maybe Jack, once known as Ti Jean, was just a guilty boy in need of motherly love? This game was supposed to reveal what happened to Kerouac after he went on the road looking for the bed the Buddha slept on. When he returned...& got off the road...he slept tight with the Virgin Mary.
Woeful womanizer or degenerate misogynist? This memorial game doesn't say. [x]
For what it's worth, Kerouac and his peers beat the characters 8-5. Make of that what you will.
(Source: Cosmic Baseball Association)