My wife surprised me a few weeks ago when she announced that she thought we should follow Giants’ baseball this year. “It will,” she said, “be fun.”
I should note that we like to watch the World Series when we can, but to call us regular baseball fans is more than a stretch. We’ve gone to a few games over the years, eaten soggy French fries, and been sunburned; I even took my mitt to one game. In any event, we’re tracking the season and rootin’ for the home team.
Of course, my mind being what it is, following baseball has led to the contemplation of bats and balls and the symbolic meaning embedded in such sports. Before you roll your eyes, hear me out, because everything we humans do happens in a subconscious symbolic realm, no matter how thoughtful we think we are being. The symbolic does not require thought; it stimulates thought but resists rationalization. Symbols exist in a wordless realm of direct perception, and it is for this reason that symbols are so powerful.
Eighteen men spend several hours throwing, hitting and chasing balls, using bats and mitts. When it comes to baseball, the symbolic is almost too obvious; at one level it’s all about the egg and phallus, masculine and feminine. The symbol of the egg is the most ancient symbol of the feminine, appearing in myriad cultures across the globe. The mystery of birth and death are embedded in the symbolic motherly “world egg,” the form from which we emerge and the form to which we return. Emergence is the masculine – temporary autonomy and independent movement – the striking out and piercing energy of action. The symbol of the phallus, also ancient and universal, is the complement to the egg.
Thus in baseball, the symbolic egg and phallus are the whole game. It’s about males controlling female principle. It’s no coincidence that teenagers talk of “getting to first base” while bragging of their sexual exploits. Golf is about hitting and controlling balls with clubs: egg and phallus – and hockey too, played with phallus stick and flattened egg. These have been predominantly male sports, and the reason seems obvious. Though complementary, the forces of masculine and feminine are also opposing opposites, the egg as ball is both desired and abused.
Now tennis is a different matter as is basketball, both sports increasingly popular with women. These sports share nets, the net of baskets and the net of rackets. The symbolism of the hooped net is obvious: the uterine container through which the egg passes. And the tennis racket does not capture the ball, but contains it for an instant and returns it to another net. The phallus is absent from these two sports, which may explain why women are attracted to it.
This leaves us with football, a sport where like mothers, men hug and cradle the egg, pass it from hand to hand, guard it, possess it, control it, and attempt to have it reach the safety of a goal. Soccer is its cousin, where it’s taboo for hands to touch the sacred egg.
You may dismiss all this as silliness and just enjoy your games, but under all the rooting and stats, an ancient, subconscious, wordless story plays out. Some things, it seems, never change.
Notably, our grandson Warren’s very first word, as best as we remember, was “ball.”