Updated: Saturday, 22 Sep 2012, 10:30 AM EDT
Published : Saturday, 22 Sep 2012, 10:30 AM EDT
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — The first thing you need to know is that Chelsea Harry is a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan. And she's also a newly hired assistant professor of philosophy, just beginning at Southern Connecticut State University.
The third important fact about her is that she doesn't mind ruffling some feathers — especially if it means making philosophy more approachable and fun, and showing students how it's relevant to their lives.
Take the difference between Eastern and Western philosophy, for example.
With a mixture of factual information and an admitted bias, Harry, who grew up in Mashpee, Mass., argues that her beloved Red Sox can be linked with an Eastern philosophical approach that values "we" more than "I," and that it is a team that shows "oneness" and has devotion to the whole over individual stardom. She points out that their fans are devoted to them through all their ups and downs, never losing faith — long before they resumed winning World Series last decade.
She's written this all up, not in a philosophy journal, but in a chapter of a book called "The Red Sox and Philosophy: Green Monster Meditations," published in 2010 by Open Court Press, a company that tries to bring philosophy to mainstream audiences.
"We are like no other fans," she says. "We feel like part of the team. It's more than 'I just hope you win.' We feel we're up there with them, and that win or lose, we're part of this thing. The Red Sox value intangibles and team commitment and not just winning."
The New York Yankees, she says, are just the opposite: They're all about individual achievement over team success. They subscribe to the more Western, Cartesian concept of the self as an individual, not as part of a larger group to which one belongs.
(The Yankees are enjoying much more success than the Red Sox this year. As the teams begin a three-game series tonight in Boston, the Yanks are in first place in their division, while the Sox are in last.)
"In the U.S., we have an egocentric concept of the self,'" she says. "We say, 'I have to do what's best for me,' 'I have to look out for myself and my needs,' and 'no one understands me.' It all came from Rene Descartes who famously said in the 17th century, 'I think, therefore I am.' He was proving his own existence because he thinks.
"But the Confucian notion is that the self is constituted by relationships. You are part of a community, family, friends, the contributions you make. There are themes of interconnectedness, mutuality and unity. That's more like the Red Sox."
Now, now. Stop yelling. Harry says she has evidence.
The Red Sox players historically hold the team above their own interests, she says. There was World Series MVP Mike Lowell in 2007, who chose to stay with the team, even though he was offered more money elsewhere. And Carl Yastrzemski, who in 1978, was supposed to be hospitalized and sit out the season, but who fled the hospital just so he could swing a shovel around to get ready to swing a bat again.
Oh, and then there was Game Six of the American League Championship Series in 2004, she points out, when Curt Schilling pitched tirelessly against the Yankees despite a severe ankle injury. By the time the Sox won, Schilling's sock was soaked with blood.
"The Red Sox players are selfless," concludes Harry. "And when they're not — when there's somebody who is egocentric, they ship that player off. Look at Manny Ramirez. He had great stats, but because of a bad attitude, because it seemed he was playing for himself and wasn't being a team-oriented player, they shipped him off to the Dodgers."
When it comes to describing the Yankees, there's no sugarcoating going on. Harry says she thinks the players are more invested in their own careers than that of the team. "They care more about their endorsements, the way they look on TV, how many stories are written about them in the tabloids, and about winning," she says.
In one statement in her chapter, she writes, "Our feud with the Yankees has everything to do with the way they play the game — as a bunch of self-loving pseudo celebrities."
They have more of an "it's all about me" philosophy, she says, and she points to the ego battles of the Yankees in the 1970s and '80s, as well as the celebrity status of certain players, like Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter as evidence. "They believe they can and must win the World Series each year. Anything less is viewed as a failure in their eyes," she says.
"This isn't to suggest that the Red Sox don't care about an individual player's stats. Of course they do," she writes. "But they care about something else too, and it's this 'something else' that makes the comparison between the Sox and Eastern philosophy so natural."
Harry says Red Sox fans are quick to recognize each other and feel a kinship, even when they're far from Boston. They even call themselves Red Sox Nation, much to the hilarity of their critics. She went to school at the University of Hawaii, where she was automatically accepted by the Red Sox fans there.
She's quick to add that she doesn't want to say that Western philosophy is bad, while everything Eastern is good. After all, she was raised in the U.S., as were most of Red Sox Nation. And she admits that the fans' sense of "oneness" with the team may possibly be attributable to decades of shared disappointment. After all, until 2004, the Red Sox had gone 86 years without winning the World Series.
"I suppose we should leave open the possibility that Yankee fans might be more of a community if they were to suffer for a long time with losing teams. In fact," she says with a smile, "I would like to be able to test that theory."
Information from: New Haven Register, http://www.nhregister.com