Claims about baseball and Palau

by on December 20, 2017 at 12:31 am in Current Affairs, History, Political Science, Sports, Uncategorized | Permalink

Baseball has dominated the cultural and sporting life of Palau for almost 100 years, which is about four times longer than Palau’s been an independent nation. Over the years, Palauans have shaped the game to fit their island lives. Kids learn to play with bamboo bats and coconut-leaf balls. Pitchers chew betel nut instead of dip. Monsoons rain out not just games and series, but entire seasons of league play. Local traditions of witchcraft have crossed over into the country’s sporting life; even today, it’s not uncommon for accusations of black magic to fly after particularly contentious games. (I’ve been reporting on and off from Palau for seven years, so I’m used to it. THIS pitcher’s dad was a known wizard; THAT team’s manager caught women from an opposing village burning leaves over home base.) Baseball as it’s played in Palau is a decidedly Palauan thing.

But baseball has also shaped Palau. It’s more than a national pastime here. It’s an organizing principle—or, more accurately, a re-organizing principle. Before the 20th century, Palau was a matriarchy. Women controlled most aspects of society, and men were limited to fishing, fighting, and handling village-to-village diplomacy. Then colonial rule brought centralized government—and baseball—to the archipelago. Ever since, these two male-dominated worlds have fed on each other, with Palau’s baseball leagues serving as a kind of farm system for government service. Scores of congressmen, senators, diplomats, and heads of state have passed through Palau’s dugouts on their way to political power.

Here is much more, from David Walker, and here is Wikipedia on Palau.  For the pointer I thank Stephen Jonoes.

1 Dog Likes Walk December 20, 2017 at 2:03 am

Hello, thanks for comments. I am interested in this part of the article: [Before the 20th century, Palau was a matriarchy. Women controlled most aspects of society, and men were limited to fishing, fighting, and handling village-to-village diplomacy.] This seems like a clear contradiction of Marvin Harris’s claim (Cows, Pigs, Wars & Witches) that there are no historical matriarchal societies. What do you think of this? Thanks.

2 Miguel Madeira December 20, 2017 at 6:49 am

I suspect that the point is different definitions of “matriarchy” – for many, if men are in charge of “fighting, and handling village-to-village diplomacy”, there is not a matriarchy.

3 Tom T. December 20, 2017 at 2:06 am

Parliament meetings there last three hours. Every ten minutes, someone utters a sentence.

4 NPW December 20, 2017 at 8:00 am

slow clap

5 rayward December 20, 2017 at 7:19 am

Another post on sports. I would make a distinction between organized team sports such as baseball and football and individual exercise such as running, biking, or walking. Organized team sports is partly if not mostly about conformity, while individual exercise is the opposite. This being football season, has one ever seen such conformity as a crowd at a football game: individuals “lost” in a crowd. Would fans exhibit such boorish behavior on the their own? To their credit baseball fans are less boorish (if that’s a compliment). Then there are the participants. Football is a black man’s game watched by white men. Baseball, on the other hand, is a white working class game watched by suburbanites. Get this: a college football team is allowed 85 full scholarships, while a college baseball team is allowed 11.7 full scholarships. Yet, when my Godson was playing competitive youth baseball (so-called “travel” ball), the parents, almost entirely white working class, often expressed that baseball would be their child’s ticket to a free college education. The look on their faces when I explained that a college team was allowed only 11.7 full scholarships on a 30-player roster was much like the look on their faces when they hear “fake news”. The limitation on scholarships is my explanation why Vanderbilt and UVA can win the college world series. Then why so many black players in the major leagues? They aren’t from here, they are from the islands and central America. So how do team sports affect politics here, as baseball affects politics in Palau? Where do youth learn to accept authoritarianism? Not in the library. “At a time when America’s faith in democracy is flagging, the Republicans elected to treat the United States Senate, and the citizens it represents, with all the respect college guys accord public restrooms.” Bernie Sanders? No, Will Wilkinson.

6 Ray Lopez December 20, 2017 at 11:10 am

Why is “Godson” capitalized in your prolix missive?

Bonus trivia: “Pitchers chew betel nut instead of dip” – dat be nasty red stuff that Thai grandmas chew. Gives hallucinations.

7 Careless December 21, 2017 at 9:41 am

So does rayward have whatever Trump has that makes him just babble random bullshit?

8 Pshrnk December 20, 2017 at 9:47 am
9 Ray Lopez December 20, 2017 at 11:13 am

Reading Roger Angell’s “Game Time”, short sports story compilation. Surprisingly good and I don’t follow baseball.

Bonus trivia: Lenny Dykstra was a cut above all other center fielders in hitting average. Steroids apparently. Amazing what a little science can do.

10 Anonymous December 20, 2017 at 10:22 am

“Before the 20th century, Palau was a matriarchy. Women controlled most aspects of society, and men were limited to fishing, fighting, and handling village-to-village diplomacy.”

I admit I know very little about Palau, so maybe I’m wrong, but I know many examples of “this society was a matriarchy” which turned out to be b.s. The “handling village-to-village diplomacy” thing sets off my bs meter. What society entrusts diplomacy to people who otherwise don’t have influence over government policy?

11 msgkings December 20, 2017 at 11:02 am

A society with less than 25,000 people does. ‘Village to village diplomacy’ is basically walking over to the next group of 100 people in huts and asking if anyone knows how to repair a boat engine. ‘Government policy’ is deciding who gets to fish where.

12 Mc December 20, 2017 at 11:26 am

fascinating snippet of coevolutionary means and ends and whatnot

13 Mc December 20, 2017 at 12:07 pm

Mc E Mantle forearms.
Nice peaceful night in Cooperstown

14 Mc December 20, 2017 at 12:08 pm

watch me hit caroms off the black seats for fun . . .

15 Mc December 20, 2017 at 12:09 pm

and coast in , with my gimpy knee, for doubles . . .

16 Mc December 20, 2017 at 12:13 pm

a big is here, 4your imagination, yankee stadium — hammond organ

17 Mc December 20, 2017 at 12:13 pm

bump, bump, bump

18 Mc December 20, 2017 at 12:17 pm
19 Mc December 20, 2017 at 12:21 pm
20 John Mansfield December 20, 2017 at 1:44 pm

“The Pritchetts. The Bluths. The Whites. The Sopranos.”

I’ve only heard of one of those four, and I never watched that show either. Is watching a lot of TV a characteristic of cognitive elites these days?

21 msgkings December 20, 2017 at 2:22 pm

Probably. So is understanding how to post comments on a blog.

22 John Cunningham December 20, 2017 at 8:23 pm

I have always wondered why baseball did not put down any roots in the Philippines, given the major American presence of a half century. Baseball caught on in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan with much less American contact.

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