Thursday, July 07, 2005

Chutes and Ladders 

My daughter has recently taken up "Chutes and Ladders." Despite our best attempts to de-emphasize winning (we have "first winners," or we play other games in which the playing, not the winning, is the key), our daughter has shown a competitive streak that would make Lou Piniella blush. (Luckily, she's not old enough yet for an allowance, otherwise she'd be complaining that it wasn't sizeable enough.) Yesterday morning we played and she cried when I won two games in a row.

Now, I'm sensitive to this and while I think that it's important that Margaret Anne lose occasionally, I'm also not averse to throwing a match once in a while.

The problem with "Chutes and Ladders" is that you can't throw anything -- it's purely random. Spin the spinner, move the desired number of spaces and, if applicable, climb up the ladders or slide down the slides. There's no pattern -- sometimes you cycle through the same set of ladders and chutes, sometimes you hit it lucky and zoom right up to the top.

(Sometimes, if you're really bored, you note that there are 10 chutes that lose a collective 243 spaces while there are just 9 spaces that gain a collective 210 spaces. And then you understand why baseball holds such an allure for you.)

So it is this year with the Diamondbacks. Their even keel -- never reeling off too many wins or losses -- is exceeded by just four teams: Atlanta, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Toronto. Those four teams are the only ones whose longest winning or losing streak is just five games. Arizona's is six (a winning streak, incidentally). It makes it hard to see any pattern, to get excited (one way or the other) about the team and its prospects.


You turn on the radio in the morning and you hear some strange press conference with men in British accents. It takes you awhile to figure out what's happened, and when you do, your day immediately dims. Hey, that's really sad for those families. I've been at those Tube stops. What an incredibly up-and-down 24 hours for London... I think these events hit people harder because unlike natural disasters or disease or traffic accidents somebody planned for this to happen. That idea seems to upset the natural order of things (or at least my natural order).

So I'll simply applaud the beauty of last night's suicide squeeze (an unfortunate phrase to use in this light) play by the Eckstein and Taguchi and of a well-pitched effort by both sides in a 2-1 Diamondbacks loss to the Cardinals.

Patterns can be fun, but sometimes it's better to enjoy the trees than to look for the forest. Baseball is a game of joy. Of hard work and disappointment, too, to be sure, but of joy.

And so is Chutes and Ladders.

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