The Kansas City Royals have made the ALCS, and this makes virtually no sense, other than the undeniable fact that it has happened. We all watched how, so we should know, and yet it isn’t really explainable beyond the old clichés of “they got hot at the right time” or “the game is really all about matchups.” Spend some time on Baseball Reference, and you’ll see that the Royals have abandoned commonly accepted plans for success like “on-base percentage.” Statheads will tell you that KC doesn’t belong in the playoffs (they’re the first playoff team ever to rank last in walks and home runs), and they don’t deserve to advance. But they have advanced. And the meritocracy of sports deems that they’ve earned it. Math can tell you other teams are better or that these wins are convenient statistical aberrations. It doesn’t matter, and anyone who says otherwise is only sparking a debate as old as time. It’s science versus faith.
The deluge of data in modern times creates a thirst for explanation. The more we know, the more we believe we can know how. Millennia of scientific advancement, from the wheel to the iPhone, back that theory. But at the end of every scientific advancement is the less recognized failure of not advancing it further. After all, that iPhone wasn’t always number 6. The point is that our methods, however developed, always carry evidence of being underdeveloped. Because we’re always progressing, we’re permanently incomplete. This is the essence of science versus faith. What is the more we can never reach? An atom is built from protons is built from quarks is built from subatomic unicorns the urinate massless photons. We never reach the end of the rainbow, but logic tells us that something has to be there.
The problem with the faith versus science debate is that most parties are ready to vehemently defend their side, even though both sides openly admit their shortcomings. Faith, in any regard, is defined as complete trust in something, whether proof exists or not. And we experience what science doesn’t know with every time we sleep. Why we feel compelled to fight each other about what believe instead of bonding together over the desire to know more is a shame. It probably springs from our need for personal security, but it’s how it is. We don’t know so much, and it should be completely okay. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing. In fact, it’s very healthy to embrace the fact that you don’t know stuff. That unexplained sleep will come much easier.
A fast, defense-oriented baseball team with a lights-out bullpen isn’t some realized referendum on the existence of the great beyond, and yet they exist as a tiny little nod to the fringes of magic that seems to happen in sports all the time. When a moment is so narratively perfect that it feels as if we’ve all collectively willed it to exist. Even though it’s logically absurd, we all feel it. We did give it a very pointed shot this year with USA Soccer. Science’s analytics tells us that the Royals shouldn’t be able to keep up these wins. They shouldn’t be able to pull this off for an entire post-season. But faith tells us that they are completely capable. It can definitely happen. We can all feel it, and nobody can disprove it. Not yet anyway.
A man of faith and science,