Monday, February 8, 2016

Peter Bollington writes


(an excerpt)

[A few days before New Year's 2116 they suddenly came into my cell dressed in suits and bow ties, and with a big legal paper, to tell me I was due for Early Extermination (EE).... EE was sometimes used for criminals and dissidents, but mostly for the "heroic sacrifice" (decided by lottery) to the mother country President Citizenfarm, and it applied to all ordinary citizens, including infants. The winner's family was compensated and celebrated in all the tabloids, with the hero then processed into medicine, food, experimental tissue, etc. Since citizens were required into this process by age 50 anyway (called RE or Regular Extermination) this early exit was spoken of as a special honor. In contrast, the Oligarchy was not eligible for either EE or RE, and lived until they happened to expire (called NE or Natural Extermination)....
 On the surface, we were establishing an official history of what had happened in the old country known as The United States of America, or the USA, as it became the new nation President Citizenfarm, or PCF. This account explained how the rise of the Oligarchy was necessary and patriotic in defense of world events. These developments included the resource wars of the early 21st century, World War 3, the second US Civil War (right to bear arms cancelled), and the new rules for baseball....]

Many long years previous, prior to 2023 and World War 3, the stadiums had been changing. The old open air stadiums without covering just had to be replaced with retractable domes, and there were plenty of contractors eyeing billion point two new stadiums to do the work. Rain and weather had become too discouraging—including one incredible June day in Colorado with six feet of snow on the field—and the increase in rain-outs and double-headers decidedly not good for business. Still, despite improvements with domes, baseball had one essential problem. Advertising needed to increase, game time to decrease, to make the sport sufficiently profitable. So the answer lay in new rules for the length of each inning.

The Presidential Cabinet was prevailed upon for these new rules, and despite some inner turmoil within the cabinet, they were approved. The Presidential Cabinet had become the ruling body of the nation. These persons ruled for life, although they could resign or were sometimes dismissed, with new Oligarchs invited as replacements. It was customary that appointments come from the Oligarchy only, but if this restraint was mentioned in the tabloids it was always accompanied by a reminder that this bias was the only difference between The Wealthy and The Ordinary.

That is, the Wealthy were required to have the identifying tattoo number inside the right forearm just as were everybody else. No one, apart from the “outlaws” of Domenicon Region could escape this Security Requirement. Nevertheless, according to official doctrine, anyone could become Wealthy. All it took was brains and hard work—or some good luck with inheritance or various gambling schemes. The Presidential Cabinet held between five and eight members, and, yes, great wealth, not poverty, was customary when invited to join this august body. Seldom were these individuals known to the public, and most considered anonymity safer.

With the new proposed baseball rules, some cabinet members who loved the old game resisted (although not publicly), but were eventually subdued and outvoted. The new rules required the top or the bottom of an inning to end in eight minutes. Period. This meant a one hundred forty four minute game, nine innings maxed at sixteen minutes per. Of course some innings were over in a couple of minutes, and the remaining time would be filled with extra advertising. On the other hand, if an inning dragged on, as with one out and men on first and third, precisely at the eight minute mark the umpire terminated proceedings by holding up his hand: “Over!”

At first this new rigid length for a sport traditionally open to whatever time necessary to complete was accepted by the public with dark looks, but no significant objections. A few critics from academia and old conservatives linked to an organization once called “The Democratic Party” argued that baseball was the heart and spirit of what used to be “The American Way.” They said baseball was not a timed sport except in very minor considerations, and its free and lively range of possibilities and opportunities showed the beauty of what that old disappeared country used to be. Take the possibility of an endless game! The longest game ever had been thirty three innings back in the ancient time of 1981. This malleability, this stretching skin of the thing, was the very essence of what the old country had once been! But these people were spirited away as “terrorists” and disappeared into EE or long prison terms.

Then a large ominous muttering was noticed throughout both leagues—a sound likened to a deep nasty animal murmuring—much of it replacing chanting, singing, cheering. Attempts to describe this muttering sound by Oligarchy Press compared it to the growling of jungle beasts. Announcements were made that anyone making this sound was being surveiled and offenders registered, plus subject to further regulation such as penitentiary time or worse.

If an individual was found to have an unusually large range of muttering sound, or was in a position of leadership within particular sections of a stadium, sentencing was usually worse. Still, especially during playoff season with these new time strictures, muttering became outright rebellion. Throughout the nation fans were hurling things, including themselves, onto playing fields. Several leading players of the time also protested, especially if an inning ended during a rally with promise for a team to score and tie or win a game. The Presidential Cabinet was then obliged to consider what should be done with these disruptive players, who had immediately gained influence over a large number of fans.

Public execution was decided in the name of security and an honored leader of what once was known as “The Republican Party,” or “GOP,” when this leader, whose name was Richard Cheney, had famously uttered, “It’s time to take the gloves off.” Offenders were brought on to their home field, blindfolded, and their crimes of terrorism for protesting against the government enumerated over the announcement system. Then they were lined up against the wall in center field. At this point men in camo with wine-colored berets and black boots joined the field in single file, saluted the flag, and dispatched the offenders quickly by firearm. Within moments the corpses were removed and “Take me out to the ball game” sounded over the PA system, plus popcorn and hotdog vendors shouting for sales in the stands.

However, with this background the next season with the new baseball rules caused more unease and anger. Additional marshalls were hired to rove the stands looking for mutterers. When discovered—it was said even a look in the eye could signal the onset of this muttering problem—offenders were hauled away to prison to await trial. But almost immediately in the new young season came a systematic rebellion in which entire sections in the stands stood up against these guards, seized them, and threw them onto the playing field. With this inspiration entire stadiums erupted to express long-felt frustration over the ruining of America’s favorite game, and the sport was suspended.

Baseball was then outlawed as “terrorist activity,” which led to ending the game. Stadiums nationwide fell into disuse and became museums. The roars of the big crowd animal with the vendors and the kids and the PA system, the players trotting on the field, the crack of the bat, none of this had come to these old blackening structures in decades. Visitors now had reasons of a different sort, whether to brood or sleep in a corner or under a row of seats.

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