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One City


It can sometimes be hard to discern changes in one’s habits and motivations as a result of dharma practice. One area, however, in which I feel like I’ve observed a clear shift in myself is with regard to schadenfreude, enjoyment taken from the misfortune of others. I believe I can honestly say I indulge in schadenfreude less often than I once did.
That said, there is one area in which I’ve reserved for myself full sanction to relish other people’s misery: baseball.

I’m not much of a sports fan in general, but I do like baseball quite a bit. My father lives and breathes baseball, so I had little choice in the matter. He grew up rooting for the Yankees in the 1950s, when the Giants were still in Manhattan and the Dodgers in Brooklyn, and Queens (where he lived) was thus neutral territory. Of course, by the time I was a boy in Queens, in the 1980s, the Mets were the local team and they were in their heyday, winning the World Series in 1986 with a remarkably charismatic team (Gooden, Strawberry, Dykstra, Carter, etc), and coming close again in 1988. The Yankees, meanwhile, had teams built around Henderson, Randolph, Mattingly, and Winfield, which would have been very good but for lousy pitching, and they never quite contended in the AL East.
Loyal to Pop, I steadfastly rooted for the Yankees anyway, and in this I was pretty much the only one at P.S. 99-Q. The schoolyard was an ocean of orange and royal blue; we were shown Mets propaganda films in school. I was taunted mercilessly. It was in this way that my hatred for the Mets was born. In the twenty years since then I’ve remained a Yankee fan, and while there has been much Yankee success to celebrate, I think I enjoy the Mets losing more than anything else.
From my perspective, baseball reached perfection with the 2000 World Series, in which Yankee success was the direct cause of Met woe. Luis Polonia holding up the balloon reading “Mets in 3000″ in the 9th inning as the Yankees went up 2-0 in the series. Jeter’s first-inning homer in Game 4 to break the momentum of the Mets’ only win the night before. Baseball should have ended that year; there was nowhere to go but down.
The last couple of years have been a treat though. First last year’s epic collapse. Then last night’s little reprise. My heart is aglow with evil joy.

May all sentient beings (except Met fans) be happy and free of suffering.

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Stillman Brown

posted September 29, 2008 at 2:03 pm

It’s an interesting thing, though – what do you do with that feeling of evil joy when it’s so damn natural and free-flowing? I get similar palpitations in my blackened heart when McCain takes a hit in the polling data (especially internals where he continues to lose ground with independents). It’s like something that once oppressed me is getting it’s just desserts. Can that really be so wrong?

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Greg Zwahlen

posted September 29, 2008 at 2:14 pm

I don’t think that is wrong because you’re rooting for what you feel is best for the country and the world. Sure there is a bit of schadenfreude in wanting to stick it to McCain but I think that is incidental.

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posted September 29, 2008 at 3:29 pm

That’s interesting — I found the same thing, that taking pleasure in others’ pain was the first thing to go (or at least to noticeably diminish) when I started meditating. I wonder why that feeling would be less tenacious than others.
(Stillman Brown, it’s not natural and free-flowing. It only feels that way because you’ve been indulging it so freely for so long. You can poke it full of holes just as easily as any concept you’re in love with.)

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Ellen Scordato

posted October 2, 2008 at 5:21 pm

i too am a Yankees fan. my youngest bro is a Yankees fan. my middle bro is a Red Sox fan.
We attribute this aberration to the orientation of our house in Conn; his bedroom was on the north side, marginally closer to Boston. Yet I do not rejoice in the Red Sux downfalls. I do find their wins insufferable, however. It’s embarrassing to see them slobber all over themselves when they finally won the Series. Enough already! We won 26 of them. WE certainly don’t behave like that!
My husband is a diehard Mets fan, the descendent of Brooklyn Dodgers fans who migrated to the Queens side when O’Malley decamped with their true hearts to LA. He HATES the Yankees with a cold passion. Or a hot passion. He just hates ’em.
So, for 15 years, it’s been a bit interesting in the household. During the 2000 World Series we had a line down the middle of the couch. We had to leave for a neutral bar to watch the final game.
But cuz of HIS hatred for the Yankees. I don’t hate the Mets. I have no schadenfreude for the Mets. Never. I view them quite neutrally. Fine when they do something good; too bad when they lose. Best when they don’t bother us head to head, but we’ll defeat them.
Perhaps I prefer condescension to schadenfreude? It’s more infuriating to the other side. 😉
Seriously, i just don’t care that much about the other teams. I just like mine.

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posted October 4, 2008 at 9:21 am

It’s a bit tough to kick your feet back and really enjoy a train wreck when you start thinking that we’re all on the same train.
That said, I’ll admit that I was looking forward to the debate having some serious bloodletting.

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