Whenever medieval mystics and other perverts talked about Hell, they liked to imagine gaudy Guginols of torture and abuse. Look at Bosch’s surreal labyrinths of misery for a particularly beautiful and grotesque example, or read Dante’s more lurid fantasies. Sulfurous monsters gnawing at your niblets, ironic pain and suffering, new frontiers in pitchforkery: It’s all there.
But with due respect to those sandal-wearing holy men, they’re wrong: Hell isn’t over-the-top. Hell is boredom. Hell is stagnation. Hell is, well, where the White Sox are.
Hell is being at .500, over and over, and over and over and over.
(And yes, I am aware that actual hell on earth is Donbas or Hama or Marib. But this is a sports blog, at least sort of, anyway.)
The White Sox are a particular form of misery this year. Never bad enough to write off, but bad enough to consistently inflict sputtering misery. There has never been a team that has such capability of breaking out and the same capability to do self-inflicted damage. And that’s epitomized by being unable to get to .500 for months on end, and then as soon as they do, losing in the most ridiculous manner.
Leury García, who is in a hell of someone else’s making this year (it’s not his fault he has to play every damned day), gets picked off at third after a pitch that would have loaded the bases. This was not exactly a bang-bang play. Elias Díaz did everything but look at Leury, look down at the ball, look back up at Leury again, and rub his eyes like a drunk in an old movie.
Kendall Graveman, a key part of the $340 million bullpen (ed note: or whatever), walked three in a row, which is usually a sign that someone is off, before finally finding the plate and the loss on the same pitch. It was slow and pointless, and dawningly inevitable. Panic set in after the first walk; resigned anger after the second.
It’s tempting to describe this season as Sisyphean. Rolling a boulder up the hill to .500 (it’s admittedly a not-very-impressive hill). Watching it roll back down again. It feels a bit like Sisyphus.
But naw, screw that. Sisyphus was punished because he was smart enough to cheat death a few times, and this made Zeus, that Reinsdorfian prick, angry. The Sox haven’t done anything cool enough to be compared to Sisyphus. Their suffering is not at the hands of some angry ancient god, unless you add a “damn moron” to the end of that.
In an early version of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which was tentatively and more pithily titled Stephen Hero, Joyce has one of the older boys at the strict Catholic school mockingly depict the priestly depiction of Hell as “Stink in the morning, pain of loss in the afternoon.”
In other words, it was boring.
That’s where we are. A hell that is boredom, punctuated by some moments of joy, but more often enlivened only by bold innovations in shooting yourself in the ass. I suppose that, at least, would be recognizable by Bosch.