Torii Hunter as Icarus in a 450-year-old painting

Al Bello

Art imitates life in Game 2 of the ALCS.

Regardless of your rooting interest, Game 2 of the American League Championship series had to be one of the most exciting postseason games in recent memory. A Red Sox offense that had been so dominated by Tigers pitching that it could do little but pile up strikeout on top of strikeout woke up, erasing a 5-1 deficit on an eighth-inning David Ortiz grand slam that nearly killed right fielder Torii Hunter.

The resulting image -- the one on the top of this stream -- of Hunter's legs where his head should be as he flipped over the low wall surrounding the Red Sox' bullpen in right field, seemed symbolic of the Tigers' crushing reversal of fortune. And of classic myth as well.


Most of you probably know the Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus. The father and son pair attempt to escape from imprisonment on Crete by means of wings made out of feathers and wax. The wings work, but Icarus is so taken with the freedom of flight that he ignores his father's warnings and flies too close to the sun. The wax melts and Icarus plummets to his doom. The lesson is obvious: If you ever get wings made of wax and feathers, only use them on cloudy days. This cautionary tale undoubtedly saved many an unwary Greek child from taking his or her wax wings out on days with minimal cloud cover and suffering serious injury.

Flash forward to the 1550s. Flemish master painter Peter Bruegel came up with a clever take on the myth in his Landscape with the Fall of Icarus. Rather than make Icarus's fall the tragic-heroic center of the painting, he stuck it off to the side, where the boy's plunge into the water is scarcely noticed by the various other denizens of the countryside. The story of the boy who flew is ended, but the living must go on with the mundane tasks that allow for survival. Note his legs visible above the water, like Hunter's above the fence.

Icarus_medium(Wikimedia Commons)

With the ALCS now tied at one, we can't know whether Torii Hunter is truly the Icarus of this series, standing in for his teammates, or if the Tigers will rebound, Justin Verlander reasserting the primacy of their pitching in Game 3. Still, it's pretty unusual when a baseball game and a renaissance painting share the same iconography. It's just a coincidence, life imitating art -- but perhaps a telling one nonetheless.

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