The Amazing Forethought of Water-Cooler Misogynists
So the big-mouthed lout from accounting is a sporting visionary -- who knew?
By Joe Eskenazi
Ever since the days when the office was the north forty of Ye Olde Feudal Lord's estate and the water cooler was likely an ox, men have regaled one another with tales of their sexual conquests, tales that invariably begin "So there I was...".
Water-cooler banter was greatly augmented by two inventions: The water cooler (1906) and baseball. Rather than be forced to go into details about intimacy -- good God, man! That might involve divulging one's feelings! -- baseball provided a convenient cloak and code language. Even men who couldn't break a pane of glass with their best fastball were happy to talk about getting to second base with Lorraine at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance.
The reduction of women to a mere playing field in which men circle the bases -- and, potentially, "score" -- could be considered the height of misogyny. And yet, it seems, these louts were on to something. Inadvertently, they stumbled upon a revolutionary way ... to play baseball.
When Michael Lewis penned "Moneyball" about Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane in 2003, it made about as many waves as a book about baseball esoterica can create. And while its premise -- that hitters who get on base By Any Means Necessary are more desirable than prototypical, free-swinging sluggers -- set off salvoes of recriminations between nostalgic "spirit of the game"-types and modern number-crunchers, it shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone who's heard -- or told -- a water-cooler story. And here's why:
Rarely, if ever, does a man say "I got a double" or "I hit a triple." It's not important what you did. What matters is where you ended up -- hence, "I got to second base." Beane professes that working pitch counts and getting a walk is as good as a hit -- and it's true. If a guy gets to "first base," who's to complain about how he got there? Beane's style of baseball may not be all that much fun to watch -- and, indeed, a guy who begs and wheedles his way into second isn't either. But, again, this is an approach that's results-oriented -- and only results-oriented.
So give a tip o' the cap to your water-cooler lout. In reducing the act of courtship to a structure that eschews aesthetics and embraces only the outcome, he prefigured the system since adopted by many athletic organizations -- and, soon enough, businesses or even governments. Those of you who dislike the lout, however, can spread rumors that he's a switch-hitter.