The playoffs for Major League Baseball are in full swing (Go Brewers! Go Tigers!). As baseball’s second season hits high gear, that must mean that some teams and their fans are wallowing in disappointment. Prime examples for the 2011 season are the Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves for their near-epic collapses.
However, the prize for the most disheartened of baseball fans must go to those supporters of the Chicago Cubs as the team from the north side of the Windy City went 71-91 and finished twenty-five games out of first place in the Central Division of the National League. This means that the Cubs would not be in the World Series for the 66th year in a row and, in addition, it means that the Cubs would not win baseball’s championship for a 103rd straight season.
Part of this futility is laid at the feet of what is known as “The Curse of the Billy Goat“.
Say what you will about curses, but something was in the air eight years ago this week. On this October night, during Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series between the Cubs and the Florida Marlins, with Chicago up 3 games to 2, and with Chicago leading that game 3-0, something happened.
You can read the whole story here in what became known in baseball legend as the Steve Bartman Incident. One man does a seemingly innocent act to reach out and catch a foul ball and instantly does something that sears itself into the memory of every Cub fan who had their hopes crushed once again.
But what if one could erase memories?
That was a question I pondered when my process for creating random subjects to write about (also known in some circles as the Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Random-Chance process) lead me to this ceditra entry from September 2 and is once again a quote from the book Oxymoronica, by Dr. Mardy Grothe. From page 36 comes this quote from the French essayist, Montaigne…
Nothing fixes a thing so intensely in the memory as the wish to forget it.
I heard a podcast of WNYC’s Radiolab dealing with memory where one segment had the proposition that each time we remember something, we are recalling it anew as if creating the memory each time it is remembered. That created the oxymoronic notion that they only really pure memory we have is that memory we can never recall. This is because each time we recall a memory, it’s like making a copy of a copy so with each reproduction, flaws can be introduced changing the memory.
So every time I recall the memories that haunt me, am I constantly changing in my head what really happened? Those memories are strong in my head because I am recalling them over and over and so those neural pathways become stronger and stronger. So it appears to be counter-intuitive that the more I want to forget something, I have to recall it, but by recalling it, I only make the memory stronger. However, by making the memory stronger, I also move farther and farther away from the true memory.
This leads to an intriguing possibility. Could I change my haunting memories by remembering them differently. If I were to constantly call up those memories I want to forget and then alter their substance, could I truly delude myself into believing that my past is different from what it actually is? The only issue would arise if I encountered any of the other participants who inhabit those memories, but what are the odds of that? One is in northern California and the other is in Atlanta…and I’m in France.
Could one really drive away or erase bad memories by simply mis-remembering them?
Back to October and this still remains an interesting proposition. However, in the case of Mr. Bartman, it would be up to millions of Cubs fans to misremember what happened and believe that instead of interfering with a ball that hurt the home team, he had instead stuck his hand out to mess with a ball that hurt the visitors (a la Jeffrey Maier).