OK, I've put my philosophical reputation on the line with the title of this blog post.
So I'll buy some time for my mind to come up with the promised deep thoughts by bringing readers of this post up to speed on the thoroughly mind-boggling play that cost the Arkansas baseball team the College World Series championship.
I live in Oregon, not far from Corvallis, the home of the Oregon State University (OSU) Beavers baseball team. So last Wednesday I was rooting for the Beavers to win the second game in the best out of three championship series with the Arkansas Razorbacks.
OSU had lost the first game in the series on Tuesday. So another loss would have given Arkansas the World Series championship.
In the ninth inning the Beavers had a man on third with two outs. Cadyn Grenier was batting. I'll let a New York Post story tell the tale, which you can see in all its historic glory in the video above. The score at the time of the pop-up was Oregon State 2 and Arkansas 3.
Oregon State hadn’t been able to catch a break in the College World Series finals. And then the ninth inning happened Wednesday night.
Three Arkansas fielders watched a foul ball drop between them with two outs. If one of them catches the ball, the Razorbacks would have locked up the national championship.
No one did.
Cadyn Grenier singled in the tying run, and Trevor Larnach followed with a two-run homer into the right-field bullpen to give the Beavers the lead in a 5-3 win that forced a third and deciding third game on Thursday night.
“As soon as you see the ball drop, you know you have another life,” Grenier said. “I needed to refocus and make the most of that extra life we got. That’s a gift.”
Now, things went from bad to worse for the Arkansas baseball team the next night, since OSU beat them 5-0 and walked away as 2018 NCAA Division 1 champions.
So because none of the three Arkansas players apparently called for the ball, and second baseman Carson Shaddy overran the pop-up, this single mistake -- which would be understandable in a junior high game, but not the College World Series -- had huge consequences.
The screenshot above is from the You Tube video. It shows the ball after it bounced off the ground in the middle of the triangle formed by the three players.
Who I have a lot of empathy for, notwithstanding the joy I felt after the botched pop-up led to OSU winning the game, then going on to win the College World Series.
I suspect that these three guys are going to have "If only I'd..." thoughts running through their minds for a long time. "If only I'd called for the ball... If only I hadn't overrun it... If only I'd stepped forward and made the catch."
Yet I hope that I'm wrong, and these three highly competent baseball players are able to stop beating themselves up over this play fairly soon. Because this won't be the last time they'll face a major If Only moment. Life is full of them. It isn't at all unusual to recognize, in retrospect, how a simple failure to do this or that leads to complex consequences.
And those consequences, as in this case, can be far greater than the seemingly slight mistake. Conceptually, this is due to chaos being the way the world often works. Not in the sense of things being totally screwed up and unstable, but in the scientific sense of small causes having large unpredictable effects.
These causes and effects occur in a deterministic fashion, according to chaos theory. Of course, many, if not most, people believe that we humans are somehow exempt from the determinism that rules the rest of the natural world. Meaning, we have free will.
But free will is just a belief.
There's good reason to accept that people are just as much a part of the deterministic world as everything else is. I've read many books that argue just that. For example, in his book "Free Will," Sam Harris argues that if someone does something, and it were possible to rewind the universe so that every atom was in the same state as when the something was done, that someone would do exactly the same thing again.
Which makes perfect sense.
If the three Arkansas baseball players who failed to catch the pop-up were in precisely the same positions, with the same frame of mind, with the same location of the ball, in short, with everything happening exactly as it did before, what else could occur but what did occur in the ninth inning of the second game of the 2018 College World Series?
So "If only..." really doesn't apply in a deterministic world, which appears to be the world we live in, the only things that can happen are the things that do happen, and if the conditions that make those things happen remain the same, the same things are going to happen.
OK. I promised some deep thoughts, and I've delivered.