A Recollection of Victory

The generation of kids who are now college-aged came up in the middle of a losing streak. America lost to Osama bin Laden on September 11, 2001, and continued to lose as it bowed under the pressures of war and fear. The losing streak was what they knew, and it has formed their world view. They don’t have the relative comfort that even I do, at age 30, that comes with the ability to draw from the long memory of a pre-terror United States. The generation’s default stance is, therefore, one of defensiveness and fear, symbolically calcified in opposition to an evasive mastermind who posed an indeterminate danger.

In the same way that a World Series win for an historic loser represents, with a single swipe, the quick end to long suffering, this generation of kids places a significance on the capture or killing of bin Laden that trumps the nuance of foreign affairs, or the cynicism of older folks who have seen enemies and crises come and go. That much became clear with the news footage of their celebrations, even if it has been overlooked by someone like me.

And it was with some cynicism that I tried to detect traces of irony among the kids celebrating in front of the White House after President Obama announced the successful secret ops mission in Pakistan. There was one guy dressed up as Hulk Hogan who threatened the sincerity of the crowd, but after watching for some time, I decided that the ebullience of those who had gathered was authentic. It was a young sort of excitement, from people who haven’t known anything different. They know little outside of this world that we live in now, and their celebration reflects their reality.

Part of their world now is the absence of certainty. American wars are questionable and indeterminate, leaders are fallible, morality is clouded. President Obama’s announcement, in light of the last decade’s fog, offered certainty. I have never heard anyone say, “You know, we may be treating bin Laden a bit harshly.” He is the unquestioned villain of our age, and his death is a benefit to mankind. Victory is unquestioned, and these kids are not sitting around to question it, but taking to the streets to celebrate a victory in a way that they’ve rarely been afforded.

What light can sport shed on such crucial international developments? In sport, and in baseball, winning washes away failure. Eight innings of shit gives way to one inning of excellence. Communities need such short memories to survive and prosper, the way a closer’s work requires that his memory extend no further back than his breakfast. Our brains can only hold so much poison before they perish, and it needs tricks to staunch the flow. While the world boils, we allow ourselves the luxury of a short memory, and we call it baseball.

11 Responses to “A Recollection of Victory”

  • uh……this post is amazing

  • Ditto. The age of irony as a big losing streak. Earnestness would be such a welcome change.

  • Great post Ted, but, I hate to be the cynical youth of this but the only victory here is symbolic. Osama bin Laden was winning for the last ten years and he will continue to haunt us from beyond the grave.

  • @Ben, thanks, pal.

    @ds, With the sheer volume of communication going on these days, it’s tough to call the end of something or the beginning of something, but I think we can agree that this was a truly earnest moment following years of the sort of irony that grows out of uncertainty.

    @Alex, well put, I agree completely. That doesn’t, however, mean that people didn’t celebrate this particular moment in a particular way. It’s the moment that took precedence in the celebrations, rather than the underlying slog through history.

  • Found this post via a retweet from Navin. I’m glad I did. Fantastic writing and a take not thought of before. I followed you on twitter because if this is the kind of writing that goes on here, I want in on it.

  • Sorry, but I disagree, at least as a generalization. The generation we’re talking about knew the losing streak, sure, but they also knew of a general winning trend. Knew that they were Yankees. **** Yankees, even. Because dynasties are great and all, but you get there by beating others–not on an even field of play but by oppressing and subjugating and slaughtering everyone else.

    Small wonder that some of them turn away. Decide to play for the name on the back of the jersey, not the one on the front. And when someone else leaves another game with an injury…? They haven’t felt scared in years, not that way, so there’s nothing really to celebrate.

  • One of my favorite things that I’ve read about Bin Laden’s death.

    I was surprised to read in a couple of articles yesterday that kids graduating college today were just in middle school when 9/11 happened. I think you’re right; this may be the first big win this generation has seen (even if it is mostly symbolic). Hopefully it’s the start of a rally…

  • Thanks, Dave, and I second your opinion. I often wonder how knowledge of 9/11 seeps into the awareness of young children as they grow older….

  • I second what Ted says. The only other person in the world who might have done more to shape this generation than Osama may have been Miley Cirus.

  • James Schleicher

    Great post. It’s definitely a point I hadn’t seen made yet, especially about that generation.

    I’m kind of surprised the celebrations haven’t been more wide spread. The crowds seem miniscule compared to the amount of people that celebrate a World Series win, and also compared to an inauguration crowd.
    I feel like Obama could have milked a little more worth out of this. Where’s the victory parade? But the reality is, there are still plenty of hurdles, in a “War on terror” that may last the rest of our lives and the future of this countries economy is uncertain.

    Maybe someday we can have a massive celebration when all of our troops come home.

  • If our all of our troops actually come home, that is something I would be out in the streets for.

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