Dear Everyone,

Hello. I am an earth ball or cage ball who lives in a junior-high locker room in suburban Baltimore. The winter has been harsh lately, and that is wonderful news, because the kids have to stay inside and play with me. That makes me feel wanted, as if I am part of something larger. It is almost enough to overlook the annoyances in my life, which I will get to in a moment. First, though, I should explain more about my feeling of belonging.

I remember the first time I felt this way, because it was the first time that I met Julio José Galván Sanz. Julio José Galván Sanz should not be confused with either Julio José Iglesias, the singer, or Julio José Iglesias Rouget, the goalkeeper, though he has aspects of both. He is like Julio José Iglesias, also known as Julio Iglesias Jr., in that he has immense personal charisma and a beautiful voice. He is like Julio José Iglesias Rouget, also known as Rouget, in that he cares deeply about all balls. In fact, Julio José Galván Sanz is a ball. He is quite a bit older than I am, and he is made from synthetics, whereas I am made from organics. Once upon a time, years ago, that would have mattered. The synthetics and the organics were considered different kinds of balls, entirely so, with the organics accorded a superior status and the synthetics relegated to a kind of servant class. Julio José Galván Sanz, who was created in a ball factory in Spain in the middle of the 20th century, grew up under that tyrannical system. Organic balls shouted “Synthy” at him, which is what they used to call balls made of artificial materials. When he had been on the planet for some time, Julio José Galván Sanz began to feel the injustice of this treatment acutely, and to speak to other balls about it. He had a gift for oratory and a powerful moral sense. He rolled around the world speaking to balls about the need for unity, which he called “all-roundness.” He made great strides in bringing together synthetics and organics. And then, around the dawn of the current century, after speaking at a track meet in Mexico City, he was tragically deflated by a criminally insane organic ball who had conspired with a javelin. We mourned Julio José Galván Sanz with tears that were as round and as clear as he was.

I bring him up, the great Julio José Galván Sanz, because he is the closest thing that we in the ball world have to the human world’s Martin Luther King Jr., a man of immense personal charisma who cared deeply about all balls, and who also had a profound practical spirituality that gave him confidence that he could (and should) change the ball world. I do not know much about your history, only what I have gathered from watching television through the window of Coach Parker’s office, but I do know that Martin Luther King Jr., much like Julio José Galván Sanz, lived beautifully and powerfully and died tragically. It seems to me that he devoted much of his existence to fighting for the equality and the dignity of black Americans, who were sort of in the position that synthetic balls were. (There are many differences, of course—synthetic balls were never enslaved, though there are some radical synthetics that beg to differ, pointing out that they were manufactured solely to serve humans for amusement and sport, and that manufacture of that type does constitute a type of enslavement. That seems like a stretch to me.) I also know that there is a holiday intended to honor the memory of Martin Luther King Jr., and that seems like a wise idea. We have a ball holiday to honor Julio José Galván Sanz. On it, we all rotate to face Cádiz, where Julio José Galván Sanz was made, and then we rotate to face away, in shame for what was done to him. Spectrum-5, a synthetic ball who lives here in the locker room with me, helped me honor Julio José Galván Sanz this year. He (Spectrum-5) is much more studious when it comes to matters of history. I work mainly by instinct. But we both knew that Julio José Galván Sanz Day was important, and so we both turned in respect and then turned away in shame.

I’m sorry. I don’t mean to preach, either about my world or yours. I just wanted to wish you a happy human holiday of justice and equality. Oh, and I also wanted to mention something that is annoying me. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is the same thing as always: it is the conservative radio and television commentator Sean Hannity, whom I have become unfortunately familiar with over the years as a result of Coach Parker’s interest in him, which has sometimes seemed ironic and sometimes seemed genuine. I understand that American humans are in the thick of an election season that will eventually select a new American human president. A little more than a week ago, two of the Democratic candidates, a woman named Hillary Clinton and a man named Barack Obama, had a difference of opinion over something that the Clinton camp said. In fact, it concerned the man I mentioned before, Martin Luther King Jr. Evidently, Hillary Clinton took exception to a remark made by Barack Obama in which he compared himself to Martin Luther King Jr., and she also expressed an opinion that Martin Luther King Jr., while a great leader, could not have made the strides he did in changing the policies and attitudes of the United States without help from lawmakers. I am clearly not qualified to comment upon this. All I can say is that Sean Hannity discussed it ceaselessly for days. His main point seemed to be that Hillary Clinton, who is peach-skinned, was trying to impugn the integrity of Barack Obama, who is brown-skinned. He then started talking about how Democrats have long tried to win elections by manipulating public ideas about race. “The race card is played by Democrats against Republicans in every campaign,” he said.

This sounded wrong to me. I called Spectrum-5 over and told him what Sean Hannity had said, and he became so surprised that he spun around fully twice, and even then could not settle down. “You know what that is?” he said. “That’s wood chips.” Except he didn’t say “wood chips.” He used a terrible profanity. Spectrum-5 is like that.

“What do you mean?” I said.

“I just can’t believe that this foraging candy seeker is blaming Democrats for introducing race into elections,” he said, except that he didn’t say “foraging candy seeker.” He spun around again. “I mean, what about Jesse Helms? What about Willie Horton? What about the smears against McCain in the 2000 South Carolina primary? I’m not saying that every Democrat has a clean record on race. How could they? They lived in America. But it sounds like he’s saying that Republicans do have a clean record, which is worse than dishonest.”

I didn’t know what Spectrum-5 was talking about, but I invited him to listen to Sean Hannity with me. “I think I can only stomach about five more minutes of that ant heap,” he said. He stayed for the part where Sean Hannity said that “Willie Horton had nothing to do with race.” He stayed for the part where Sean Hannity attempted to prove that the entire Democratic Party was racist by playing an ad from the 1998 Missouri Democratic primary. He stayed for the part where Sean Hannity criticized Hillary Clinton’s record on race by arguing that her husband’s political mentor, J. William Fulbright, was a segregationist, and that her husband’s brother, Roger Clinton, used racial slurs during an undercover police taping operation. “What does that have to do with Hillary Clinton?” Spectrum-5 said. “I mean, farce him. Farce his muddle-futzing lies and distortions. Farce him and farce him again. I’m leaving.” But he didn’t leave. He stayed right there beside me, a synthetic next to an organic, and we listened to the rest of the show together, banded together against that muddle-futzing ant heap.

Happy Julio José Galván Sanz Day.

Earth Ball