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Tennis: US OPEN
This is sports at its best. The White Sox are not.
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Lassitude; or, Why the Sox aren’t Serena

On good sports, bad sports, and the torpor of failure

Today is the first day of the US Open — well, yesterday, by the time you read this, but I’m living in the present. That’s a little difficult to do right now, reflecting on the incredible career of Serena Williams, who might be playing her last match even as I write. But she looks good going into the second set. She is playing with, if not perfection, certainly a pleasingly atavistic fury.

So’s her opponent. Danka Kovinić might be another legacy of the way Serena Williams molded the game in her ferocious image. This unranked, middle-of-the-pack player hits with power, runs like a deer, and has the kind of angles unheard of in the women’s game before Serena. Serena elevated the sport.

That’s sort of the point of sports. There is stasis and status quo, and then something comes along to shake it up, and everyone has to catch up. Whether it is Serena Williams daring her opponents to step up or Billy Beane making everyone root for the front office, sports at their finest are about momentum.

And then there’s the White Sox. The definitional opposite of momentum.

I’m sorry there are two Tony pictures in this article.

It’s actually staggering, but this graphic is a little off. The Sox have lost two games since this, to the ridiculously pointless Arizona Diamondbacks, which Jacki channeled Tony to sum up as “loser crap.” This is part of a week-plus trend which saw the excitement of back-to-back late-inning wins against the hated Astros dissipate into pointlessness, as surely as the summer confronts its deliquesce every fall.

See? This is fucking deliquescence.

There’s a feeling in this most disappointing year, and that to me is one of lassitude. It’s sort of a weird word, with a couple of different ways to define it. The primary definition is “a state of physical or mental weariness; lack of energy.”

MLB: Game One-Cleveland Guardians at Chicago White Sox
Remind you of anyone?
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

TLR this year is, of course, the definition of lack of energy. This would be bad enough, but he compounds that plodding lassitude with terrible decision-making and overwhelming arrogance. He has refused to change, and that saps energy.

That refusal to change is organization-wide, whether that’s Jerry hiring old friends, the entire team refusing to invest in analytics, or the Frank Menechino “hit ’em where they ain’t unless where they ain’t is far away, just hit it close, OK” school of hitting. Things don’t change. There are bursts of fun, but the torpor, the lassitude, reasserts itself.

You can see it in the players, who in 2020 and even 2021 were fun and cool, a bolt of energy through some dark times. But injuries and indifference have turned them into guys who seem like they are playing out the string. I personally think it can come back with wholesale changes — and god knows José Abreu deserves that — but that’s not happening this year. It might not ever happen.

And that to me has created a different kind of lassitude in the fan base. We’ve given up, we’re furious, and the D-Backs series ended the effort of caring. And that’s not exactly been a relief, but it is sort of freeing.

In The Trial, Kafka’s primary character busies himself getting ready for a visit from a tiring uncle. But K, the man facing a bizarre and unspeakably confusing trial, in which nothing makes sense — much like walking someone on a 1-2 count — relaxes in an almost existential sense.

K. said nothing, he knew what was coming, but, suddenly relieved from the effort of the work he had been doing, he gave way to a pleasant lassitude, and looked out the window at the other side of the street.

He felt, briefly, free. Free from his concerns, free from having to think so damn much about the trials and tribulations that had become his uneasy fate. And that’s where I am as a Sox fan. I love them so much and care so damn much, but their own pathetic lassitude has freed a pleasant one in my mind.

Serena just won, showing the power and joy of sports. The Sox aren’t sports at their worst, but they might be at its most ploddingly pointless. And we deserve more. There’s a chance this can change, but they’ll have to actually have the desire to move forward. And that means they’ll have to overcome something dull and cynical at the heart of the organization.

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