Most of the Net is still a consensual hallucination—there's a there there, but only if we agree to visit it; if you don't log in, it doesn't exist. There are, I am told, billions of people who have never experienced the Net and thus do not give a damn about it. I can imagine this state of being, at least dimly. You see, my mom isn't a baseball fan.
Those of you who purse your lips distractedly at this news—hey, isn't this supposed to be a column about technology?—are excused until next week, when things will get appropriately solemn again; I'm going to the Computers Freedom & Privacy conference, and heaven knows there's enough in that realm to get morose about. And did I mention, by the way, that Maryland became the second state to approve that nasty UCITA? (I thought you should know; I'm always writing about these things and wifting on to the next big topic, and I didn't want you to think that these issues just disappear when you recycle last week's copy of the paper.) OK, you're newsed up for the week; go thou forth and sin no more.
Anyway, I was pondering my mom's lamentable heathenism last week while I watched the season opener. I would have stayed awake for it even if Mark McGwire hadn't been bitching about playing in Japan (after five months of no baseball I would've stayed awake for it during open-heart surgery), but his Rockeresque remarks got me watching the fans and thinking about how once you've introduced a sport or an idea or a technology somewhere there's no going back.
Mom's a football fan (since she's in Nebraska that's like saying she's alive, but I wanted you to know), and baseball moves too slowly for her. She'd have flipped if she'd watched the opener and seen all those folks in suits. Suits! In America, a day at the park seems to entail face paint and look-at-me signage; in Japan, folks appeared to be more interested in the spectacle on the field than being the spectacle off it. Refreshing. (Speaking as a person whose day gets just a little bit brighter when she sees a man under 40 wearing a hat that is neither knit nor emblazoned with a logo, I think this suit-wearing business has potential. I digress, but do consider investing in a nice porkpie or fedora. After all I've done for you!)
McGwire's kvetching stuck with me; I wondered why anyone would complain about baseball becoming a joyful pastime for other citizens of the planet. If you have an interest that's worthy of your attention, and there are other folk willing to respect that interest as much as you do, isn't that a good thing? It's still baseball. We all still adore it. Lighten up already.
It's like the rumors I was chasing down last week about Harry Potter sites getting shut down by Warner Brothers. Nasty rumors, and I never did see any proof, but the idea that the movie company would lean on a bunch of kids building innocuous (if slightly obsessive and definitely garish) Web pages in honor of everyone's favorite wizard—that bothered me. As if the fans haven't bought all three books (and aren't ravening for number four); as if there won't be lines 'round the block for the movies when those come along. All the fan sites I saw were done with love and respect.
It's important to remember that, because in my travels I was reminded that not everyone is a fan. One of the sites I stumbled across, www.mugglesforharrypotter.org, detailed the disgusting but sadly not surprising efforts by various religious fanatics to take these charming books out of the hands of kids. They don't understand the books, and they don't see why having kids eager to read them or any other book is a good thing. I was reminded of the conflict over hacktivism described in this week's feature—a conflict not over the importance of doing a thing, but an inside-the-beltway conflict over how best to accomplish a shared goal. (That conflict is by the way a remarkably civil and openhearted one, but you know how rare that is online, most unfortunately.)
It's important for fans (of the Net, baseball, free speech, anything important) to remember that they have more to gain by standing together than by stupid spats. Americans and Japanese can enjoy one sport. Harry Potter fans and the studio in charge of making them a movie can make a better case for reading JK Rowling's books than would-be censors can for banning them.
And one of these days I'll convince Mom that baseball is worth staying up for.