Just a Game of Thrones #703: The Eyes of an Honest Man
Welcome to Just a Game of Thrones, the column singing backup vocals on the Song of Ice and Fire.
The Eyes of An Honest Man
It was October 1st, at Wrigley Field in Chicago, in the fifth inning of Game 3 of the 1932 World Series, and Babe Ruth was at the plate; with two strikes.
Reports from the day say tensions and tempers had reached a bewildering fever, the Cubs bench jockeys doing all they could to rile the Great Bambino, while their Windy City crowd whipped lemons and handfuls of decomposing cucumber onto the field. “My ears had been blistered so much before in my baseball career that I thought they had lost all feeling,” Ruth recounted in his 1948 autobiography. “But the blast that was turned on me by Cub players and some of the fans penetrated and cut deep. Some of the fans started throwing vegetables and fruit at me.”
The roughly 50,000 Cubs supporters in attendance, packed in the stadium and swarmed across the temporary bleachers constructed on Waveland and Sheffield Avenues, were desperate to prove that this man, George Herman Ruth Jr., was no god, no legend. This Sultan of Swat, this Caliph of Clout, was just a man, flesh and bone, the first of eight children of George Herman Ruth Sr., a poor saloon owner from a tough area of Baltimore, who callously shipped his namesake off to St. Mary’s School for Boys before the child’s ninth birthday and who died unceremoniously after hitting his head during a bar fight involving his second wife’s family.
But, alas, we all know what happened next…
Babe Ruth, the Behemoth of Bust, with only one strike remaining, pointed to the center-field bleachers and proceeded to hit the next pitch 440 feet to the deepest part of center field, near Wrigley’s iconic flag pole:
One swing of the bat, and the unwanted son of an unlucky barkeep proved his immortality.
Children, it seems, are not their fathers…
Despite generations of priming, Daenerys Targaryen can indeed break with her lineage’s time-honored tradition of killing every Stark man who travels south; and Sansa can reveal herself to be a smarter Warden(ess) of the North than both her father and brothers, now that ‘the real cold’ is upon us.
Jaime Lannister, eldest son of Tywin Lannister, can shake off his progenitor’s deep-rooted obsession with the family home and tell Lady Olenna, with a straight face, “The truth is, Casterly Rock isn’t worth much anymore.”
We are not, necessarily, beholden to our ancestor’s vows.
Nevertheless, sometimes there is more to
foreign invaders and Northern fools parricidal achievements and heroic mythology than meets the eye…
If you look closely at that video of The Babe pointing at the center-field bleachers, you might notice that it doesn’t actually look like he’s pointing at the center-field bleachers. If anything, it looks like he’s pointing in a straight line, at someone; not at a distant fence, over yonder. In fact, Ruth initially claimed he was pointing towards the Cubs dugout, to let it be known he still had one more strike.
Later, in an interview with Chicago sports writer John Carmichael, Ruth affirmed that he didn’t point to any particular spot at all:
No I didn’t point to any spot, but as long as I’d called the first two strikes on myself, I hadda go through with it. It was damned foolishness, but I just felt like doing it.
…How that mob howled. Me? I just laughed…laughed to myself going around the bases and thinking: ‘You lucky bum…lucky, lucky…’
Williams’ recap in the late edition of that day’s New York World-Telegram was the only account of the game to suggest Ruth pointed to center field (the headline: “RUTH CALLS SHOT AS HE PUTS HOME RUN NO. 2 IN SIDE POCKET”), yet thanks to the wide circulation of the Scripps-Howard newspapers, his singular recollection of Ruth “point[ing] to center and punch[ing] a screaming liner to a spot where no ball had been hit before” became nationwide gospel within days:
Before long, Ruth himself was voicing over newsreels with the revamped version of events:
I looked out at center field and I pointed, and I said, ‘I’m gonna hit the next pitched ball right past the flagpole!’
Well, the good Lord must have been with me.
The rest, as they say, is history; passed down as canon through the ages, bastardized along the way…
Associate Justice John Paul Stevens of the United States Supreme Court happened to be in attendance at the 1932 World Series, “sitting behind third base, not too far back,” and even he now swears that Ruth “did point to the center-field scoreboard. And he did hit the ball out of the park after he pointed with his bat. So it really happened” — despite the fact that in 1942, during the making of The Pride of the Yankees, Ruth apparently admitted to that very same Cubs pitcher he hadn’t actually pointed to center field.
“But it made a hell of a story, didn’t it?” reportedly quipped the King of Crash.
Similarly, this third episode of this seventh season of Game of Thrones, we were berated with the overarching promise that “destiny has brought Daenerys Targaryen back to our shores, it has also made Jon Snow King in the North,” patronized with the fatalistic notion that “sometimes tragedies are necessary to restore order and rational leadership,” and left to believe that one of only two things will happen: “either the dead will defeat the living, in which case all our troubles come to an end, or life will win out.”
Yet as much as we might like to believe those comfortable familiar monsters, a wise man once said that you should never believe a thing simply because you want to believe it.
Perhaps, instead, we should be re-examining what we think we know about how this Song of Ice and Fire will end; especially before galavanting at penultimate speed to the supposedly telegraphed endings that have been prophesied to us for decades.
Dany and Jon will, most likely, have to gloriously unite forces at some point, of course, but there are still plenty of ways for our presaged certainties to be abruptly flanked by an undetected fleet or shamefully outwitted by the oldest trick in the book: chaotic verisimilitude, a problem so large our mind isn’t meant to grasp it.
Even when everything that’s happening around us is something we’ve seen before…
Years from now, should humanity survive, children of the realm will be regaled with the long and bloody tales of “How a Night’s Watch Recruit Became King of the North” and “How a Lannister Became Hand to Daenerys Targaryen,” each story built upon punctiliously crafted narratives and adorned with ribbon-tied metaphors, featuring so many interwoven characters they won’t remember all the names.
What their young minds won’t realize, however, is just how drunk everyone was at the time — on wine, on revenge, on lust, on greed. Honestly, when one takes the time to articulate the specific who’s and why’s of how those assorted narratives fell into a coherent place, it almost sounds like nonsense.
And it was nonsense.
Everybody knew that.
But you saw it happen, too.
And I trust the eyes of an honest man more than I trust what everybody knows…
Break The Wheel of Hot Takes
The opening scene of “The Queen’s Justice” delivers on a decades-old promise to book readers: the assembling of Team Jon and Team Dany. However now that we’ve “brought ice and fire together,” apparently a smathering of viewers find themselves conflicted with the thought of ‘shipping’ the most powerful aunt-nephew combo in the Known World.
To which, I wag my finger.
Not only has this series established multiple times over that Targaryens (not to mention a few other royal families) habitually dabbled in the incestuous arts, but I’d go so far as to conjecture these straw viewers aren’t even sure what they’re balky over.
Most people, when asked why incest is wrong, immediately cite the fact that the products of incest exhibit much higher rates of mental and physical disabilities.
But that wasn’t question…
Jonathan Haidt called the phenomenon ‘moral dumbfounding’; when people have strong moral reactions yet fail to establish any kind of rational principle to explain their reaction. A believer in social intuitionism, he argues that “however much we like to tell ourselves otherwise, our moral responses are basically instinctual, despite attempts to gussy them up with ex-post rationalizations.”
Which is why, at this moment, you yourself are having a hard time coming up with why an incestuous relationship that doesn’t result in conception isn’t worth shipping.
So go on, celebrate wholeheartedly this inevitable union between two very attractive people:
It’s not like Jon (Ice) and Dany (Fire) are going to conceive a child together sometime in the remaining few hours we have left with them, thus creating their own literal song of Ice and Fire.
Dot, Dot, Dot…
“But I’m not a Stark…”
“Just like you…”
“He took a knife in the heart…”
Iron Bank Bets
I don’t make bets. I invest, emotionally, in narrative endeavors I deem likely to transpire.
If I did, though, I’d start keeping an eye on…
- the still-unsolved mystery of the catspaw’s dagger, used in the assassination attempt on Bran (possibly because Littlefinger KNEW ALL ALONG THAT BRAN WAS THE NIGHT’S KING?!?!?)
- what Melisandre is getting up to in Volantis (possibly because it might entail A CERTAIN LIGHTBRINGING SWORD?!?!?)
- Jorah’s so-called joke about “the climate” having something to do with his miraculous cure (possibly because SALT AND/OR SULFUR MIGHT ACTUALLY BE AN INTRINSIC PART IN CURING GREYSCALE?!?!?!)
The HoF of GoT GIFs
* Feel free to peruse (and pilfer from) the Hall of Fame of Game of Thrones GIFs
The Last Targaryen:
Look at Them, Cheering for Greyjoy:
You Look A Lot Better Brooding:
The Long Farewell:
Kiss From A Rose:
Sword to my Throat, I’d Bet _____ Wins the Game of Thrones
The whole story of Game of Thrones (/A Song of Ice and Fire) has been, like Lost, a “zooming out”; for lack of a better term. Does it really make sense that this thing would end with some giant, end-all battle between Good Human and Bad White Walker? Or doesn’t it seem like the Others are going to eventually become a Those Guys We Misunderstood This Whole Time, meaning we’re then talking about how to make peace, not war?
Jon Snow is (at least a contributing factor of) the Song of Ice and Fire; he is (at least part of) the Prince (and/or Princess) who was Promised. In the end, he will somehow (at least help) bring, and keep, that ultimate peace.
Not bad for a dead guy…
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