It's 4:30 am, I can't go to sleep, and I have just finished watching the movie Field of Dreams. It's not the first time that I've seen it, but it is the first time it has ever hit home. I won't bother summarizing the movie because if you haven't seen it, than you can't truly understand and feel what is to follow. A major theme that runs through out the film is how baseball reaches past just being a game, but is a universal juxtaposition of our lives. In the film their is a climatic scene where Terence Mann's character (James Earl Jones) says to Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner):
"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again."
Baseball, Football and all sports are a testament to that: They have been a fore runner for both racial and gender equality, the first media source in America to report on John Lennon's murder was the familiar and comforting voice of Monday Night Football's Howard Cosell, and when USA beat Hitler's "master race" in the late 1930s and the USA hockey team beat Russia near the end of the cold war, both were momentous political statements. And through each of these events their have been men and women reporting on them, going past the superficial and digging into the truth. Unfortunately a good chunk of those writers will be gone soon.
Time Magazine early yesterday released a list of ten major newspapers that by the end of the year will most likely be closed for good. On that list was the San Francisco Chronicle. When I heard this it didn't phase me at first but it slowly ate at me. I realized that those newspaper clippings that I had collected over the years like Bonds breaking the home run record, The 49ers 5 super bowl wins (my father first started collecting those), The Battle of The Bay World Series, and of course the infamous September 11th front page, would no longer be continued. Sports just didn't have a historical context, it was also personal.
I remember fondly going into the Sunday editions reading about the upcoming 49ers game and talking to my dad about the 49ers chances. Through sports I connected to my father and grandfather. My grandfather was in the minor leagues when he was a young man and used to play catcher for the SF Seals. My father was a practice team body for AC Milan when he used to live in Italy. Both showed me pictures of team photos and newspaper clippings of their exploits. They showed me their highs and their lows.
Now for the next generation, what will I have to show them? A printed web page with comments posted by a guy named ToadLicker69? With this dying medium we are not only losing these talented writers, editors and don't forget photographers and illustrators, we are losing the next generation. Matt Maiocco and Matt Barrows, who I see multiple people reference, will soon be gone as well as thousands of potentially talented writers who instead of being journalists will focus on more "profitable" occupations. I myself was a second year collegiate journalist until my Journalism professor recommended I switch professions as she said, "It is a dead occupation."
Newspapers qualify and sort through the useless rubble that so many unqualified people spill out, and presents a cohesive literature that isn't just for today, but for the past and the future. Field of Dreams illustrated the importance of sports in life, and newspapers chronicled sports through our lives. It will be a sad day when I go to get the paper on Sunday morning and only see the cold concrete with the faint shadow impression of where decades of papers had been placed.