Sunday, January 14, 2007

That Cruel Mistress Hope

E.B. White is one of my heroes. Though he may be known best for penning Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web, a complex and touching children's story told with sublime economy of prose, his greatest contribution may be as the driving force behind Strunk & White's Elements of Style, the definitive guide to writing. It's a relic now, torn asunder by the emoticons and LOLs and shortcut misspellings of the 21st century, but I still turn to his luminescent essay at the end of the brief tome every time I wonder why it is that I chose this keyboard and a life of uncertainty over a suit and health insurance. I look to him the way a going-nowhere minstrel-troubadour listens to Dylan.

Of hope, White once wrote:

As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society -- things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time, waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man's curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.

For all his talent and his Pulitzer Prize and his Presidential Medal of Freedom, E.B. White didn't know dick about the NFL. It's closing in on four in the morning the night before the Seahawks' game against the Bears, and I'm doing all I can to brace this levy against the flood of hope I have in my heart.

It's nights like these -- the restless ones alone with your thoughts, the streets slicked with rain -- that the heart is stronger than the mind, that passion exceeds intellect. Twenty years of cheering for the Seahawks has taught me one thing only: the playoffs are the grandest stage, and my totemic team excels in the role of tragic hero. All successes (last year's NFC championship game, last week's miraculous victory) are merely rising action for a Shakespearean script already written.

And so it is again this week. The Bears need no offense to win the game. Rex Grossman was plenty capable in the Bears' 37-6 Week 4 victory over the 'Hawks, and that was when the secondary was at full strength. Home teams win in the divisional round three-quarters of the time. The Seahawks have been grotesquely inconsistent since Week 1.

And yet, and yet... Tommie Harris and Mike Brown are out. Shaun Alexander is back. Seattle's offensive line and wide receiving corps -- both patchy and uncertain in Week 4 -- have now gelled. Grossman is a powder keg of uncertainty. And surely, given last week's unlikely victory in the Emerald City, God tipped his hand that He felt somewhat guilty about the goings-on of Super Bowl XL.


Well, I doubt it. But a man can hope. Wind the clock, Seattle. Tomorrow is another day.


gone said...

I'm with ya CC - I can't sleep either.

I'm fucking confident, nervous, excited, hopeful, and worried all at the same time.

Ah well, 7 more hours before I walk downhill to the bar to watch the game at 1:00 am. Josh Brown will win it for us.

gone said...

that should read 10:00 am.

Rob I said...

All new commenters at Deadspin will be issued a copy of Elements. They will then try to eat it. Savages.

genius said...

I had a professor assign us the Strunk and White book last year. Grammar books suck balls, and that was no exception.

MoonshineMike said...

LOL cap't caveman, LOL.

except I am a grammar-centric individual. I have the shortened lingo of the techo age as much as I had bad boob jobs.

mike said...

I'm expecting an ugly, ugly game, but there's hope. a wee bit of it.

I just finished the languagelog book ("far from the madding gerund") and boy do they rip strunk & white a new one. for example, white didn't follow most of his own style guidelines, and his writing came out damn good.

Claude Balls said...

Wow, that was exceptionally well-written. A great post. It was almost enough to make me root for the Seahawks.


But, I cannot root for a Seattle victory. A Seattle victory means that New Orleans gets to host the NFC Championship game, and I am sick to the point of vomiting with all of the the-Saints-are-bringing-New-Orleans-back-from-the-ravages-of-Katrina bullshit.