Yes, we've seen it all before. And yes, those who do not study history are condemned to repeat it. But no, the sky is not falling - baseball is such a great game that neither the owners nor the players can kill it. After some necessary carnage, market forces will prevail.
The caliber of play suffered and attendance declined year by year. Interest in college football was exploding, and there was this new game called basketball.
My egotistical concern was less that I would fail to relate to my classmates than that they would know nothing of my uniquely tortured life's course and, thus, me.
As the game enters its glorious final weeks, the chill of fall signals the reality of defeat for all but one team. The fields of play will turn brown and harden, the snow will fall, but in the heart of the fan sprouts a sprig of green.
In response to the challenge of strangers, sport arose as a sublimated representation of a community's armed might as well as its pride of place and clan.
I think that much of this was running in background as I contemplated whether or not to attend the PS 99 reunion, although I certainly anticipated that I would not; it smelled like death, not youth.
And then came the nineties, when management, suddenly frightened that they had ceded control to the players, sought to restore baseball's profitability by 'running the game like a business.'
But the citizens of Cincinnati loved their Reds because they won, no matter what their addresses had been the year before. They rooted for the Old-English 'C' on the players' shirts.
More fundamentally, it is a dream that does not die with the onset of manhood: the dream is to play endlessly, past the time when you are called home for dinner, past the time of doing chores, past the time when your body betrays you past time itself.
We are fans because the game also appeals to our local pride, our pleasure in thinking of ourselves as, yes, Americans but nonetheless different from residents of other towns, other states, other regions.
Pursuing employment or climatic relief, we live in voluntary exile from our extended families and our longer past, but in an involuntary exile from ourselves and our own past.
For many in baseball September is a month of stark contrast with April, when everyone had dared to hope. If baseball is a lot like life, as pundits declare, it is because life is more about losing than winning.
Planning to play: that's what saving for retirement is today - and it is antithetical to the nature of play, fully within the definition of work, and blissfully ignorant of the reality of death.
But baseball bounced back in the next decade to reclaim its place as the national pastime: new heroes, spirited competition, and booming prosperity gave birth to dreams of expansion, both within the major leagues and around the world.
Better than anything else in our culture, it enables fathers and sons to speak on a level playing field while building up from within a personal history of shared experience - a group history - that may be tapped into at will in years to come.
We know these men are professionals whose services are up for bid and whose bags are packed, and yet we call them our own and take personal, even civic pride in their accomplishments.
One of the first lessons he or she learns is that in baseball anything, absolutely anything, can happen. Just two days ago as I write this, something happened that had never happened in baseball before.
Award trophies, as opposed to letting the players define and claim their own. Ultimately, pay them to play so that their activity not only resembles work but is work.
Do we settle on a regional team because we can go to its ballpark and see its games on television? Or do we choose a team as our favorite because it has an especially appealing player, a Barry Bonds or an Ichiro?
Why we play as children is not because it is our work or because it is how we learn, though both statements are true; we play because we are wired for joy, it is imperative as human beings.