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Small Victories 

Keeping your pride in an imperfect world

Pride is one of those ambiguous sins. A little bit is good -- maybe even necessary -- if you want to get through life without getting squashed like a bug.Pride is what gets us up in the morning. Pride is why we brush and floss our teeth, use deodorant and refrain from picking our noses in public.

It is only when we suffer from too much pride that we start getting into trouble and annoying others.

Example: It's good to take pride in your work. But not good when you're so obsessed with perfection that you fiddle and procrastinate until a whole string of people who are depending on your timeliness have to drum their fingers waiting for your precious work -- and then don't have enough time to be perfect themselves.

That's selfish pride, workplace variety. (Should I admit that the usual culprit is me?)

Here are some other examples.

Foolish pride: A guy straps a mattress to the roof of his car and pulls into heavy traffic on Independence Boulevard or I-77. For safety's sake, he reaches out the open window and rests his bare hand on the mattress -- as if he could hold everything down when a heavy wind loosens the straps and turns the bed into a fat, deadly missile. Apologies to Jerry Seinfeld.

Heedless pride: The human race mostly believes that our technological inventiveness will always outpace our degradation and depletion of the world's resources. Fossil fuels in short supply? No problem. We'll figure out cold-water fusion eventually. (Meantime, there's always the option of war.) Holes in the ozone layer? We can always make a better sunscreen.

Boastful pride: In Canto XI of Dante's Purgatorio, our pilgrim encounters Oderisi, an illuminator of manuscripts who is just now learning how to deflect a compliment. When he was alive, Oderisi explains, he would have advanced his own reputation by making catty remarks about everyone else's. Now he sees the folly of those ways: "Oh empty glory of human power. How soon the green fades from the topmost bough, unless succeeding seasons show no growth. Once Cimabue thought to hold the field as painter; Giotto now is all the rage, dimming the lustre of the former's fame."

Dante wrote this in the 14th century. It seems the art world is always the same.

So where best to indulge your appetite for pride this summer? I say, go to a baseball game. No other sport achieves such a sublime balance between humility and pride. (Baseball, of course, is all about balance. The difference between success and failure is a razor's edge, and a knowledgeable fan can feast on the tension that is resolved one way or the other each time the ball is thrown. Baseball has many layers, but pay attention and you'll never miss a thing.)

In any other sport, a player who completes a successful play under pressure would be compelled to call attention to himself. (Think Keyshawn Johnson or Warren Sapp.) But that isn't baseball. A good baseball player is the exemplification of humility, in the understated spirit of a game in which anything can go wrong and often does. It is pride that enables him to behave this way. The studied nonchalance of, for example, a pitcher says to the opposing team: "Of course I got those batters out. That's my job. That's what I'm good at. And that's what I'm going to do."

Even in a loss, a good ball player's near-perfect work during the heart of it is an achievement for a fan to savor. Not as satisfying as a win, of course, but a bright spot in the imperfect world we all have to live in.

MAY28WEDNESDAY
It wouldn't be summer in Charlotte without Charlotte Knights baseball, and their season is currently in full swing. You can catch a game tonight (they play the Durham Bulls at 7:15pm at Knight Castle), you can catch 'em on the 4th of July (when they'll be facing off against the Buffalo Bisons at 7:15pm), or you can even catch them after summer's officially over, during the first day in September (when they'll close the season against Durham in a three-day home stand that runs August 30-September 1). Tickets range from $6-$9. For more info, call 704-36-HOMER or go online to www.charlotteknights.com.

MAY28WEDNESDAY
The Knights aren't the only ones polishing the diamond this summer: The Kannapolis Intimidators, the class "A" affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, began their season in April and will continue play through the end of August. All home games are played at Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium; currently, the team is engaged in a series with the Lexington Legends at 7:05pm tonight and tomorrow night. For more information, call 704-932-FANS or go online to www.intimidatorsbaseball.com.

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