13 October 2003

Spineless Coward

Not long ago, an athlete with a world of talent at his beck and call, though perhaps a bit past his prime, found himself on centerstage in his sport, the place he most liked to be, against a formidable adversary. Finding that despite his best efforts, he could not beat this adversary at their game, this athlete became distraught and, perhaps not knowing how to deal with these feelings or perhaps not caring to try, he lowered himself to the basest level of human existence: Recognizing the victory he so desired slipping from his usually capable grasp, and lacking the wherewithal to stop it, he lashed out at his opponent, choosing instead to injure him physically, if he could not best him at sport.

The opponent, in justified (if not entirely righteous) anger, yelled obscenities back at our Anti-Hero, as the crowd cheered and jeered, according to their own dispositions toward both the Anti-Hero and his opponent. As the dust settled and the benefit of time and hindsight allowed fans, writers and other athletes to review the situation in all its grotesque angles, almost all agreed that the Anti-Hero was little more than a gutless, impetuous, selfish and childish punk.

But enough about the Tyson-Holyfield fight.

There was baseball played this weekend!

Sadly, last week my home computer decided that the ability to connect to the internet was not nearly as high a priority for itself as it was for me, and therefore left me without any realistic ability to comment on these happenings until now. Bronchitis hasn't exactly been helpful either.

Because I was working on the computer most of the day, I only got to listen to most of the game on the radio, rather than watch it.

Baseball is a game that lends itself to spoken description in ways that basketball, hockey and football simply do not. For example:

...The unique dimensions and character of individual ballparks, like Boston's Green Monster or Montreal's crickets (criquets?), allow the radio announcer to tell you exactly where the action is at any given moment. The uniformity and continual two-way movement along an ice rink, a basketball court or a gridiron simply cannot hope to be as interesting.

...The generally one-dimensional direction of play (mostly outward from home plate or back towards the infield), makes it easier for the listener to focus his mind's eye on whomever has the ball, where the ball is headed and what it's doing or has just done.

...Te ease with which the men who participate in the game can be seen, due to the relative lack of equipment on their persons (Barry Bonds' and Gary Sheffield's front elbows notwithstanding), allows the radio announcer to paint a much more descriptive portrait of the players's appearances than you can in say, football. Compare:

"McGuire steps in, a Hercules of a man at 6'5", 230 pounds of sheer muscle, rippling beneath the polyester double-knit uniform. He holds the bat with the ease of a flyswatter, weilding it as an ordinary man would a Wifle ball bat, as he prepares to swing. And here comes the pitcher's delivery...it's a fastball inside and McGuire's tied up, he grounds weakly to second and the inning is over. That's right folks, this Mr. Olympia of baseball was brought to his knees by the local office manager from H&R Block. Oh, wait. Sorry, folks, that was Greg Maddux."


"And Steve Young is down, he appears to have a concussion, again. He was sacked by...number 68, a 360-pound lineman from Fresno State who looks like, well, a big fat guy in tight pants."

...The variation of physical stature in the players themselves makes us all feel as though it could almost be us out there. Players as varied in size and shape as Jeff Nelson (6'8" 240 lbs.), Nellie Fox (5'9" 150), Rich Garces (6'0" 250), and Darryl Strawberry (6'6" 200) have all enjoyed at least a reasonable degree of success in Major League Baseball. You don't have to be a physical freak to succeed in baseball, like you do in basketball or football. We can all relate to it better.

With that said, the Yankees announcers did a less than admirable job in understanding and describing some of the events of the melee on Saturday afternoon. When Pedro Martinez (henceforth to be known as "Punk-Ass") threw at karim Garcia's head, John Sterling and Charlie Steiner spent more time trying to discern whether the ball hit Garcia's bat than informing the rest of us that Punk-Ass was taunting the Yankee bench and threatening to bean Jorge Posada, who would have been a much greater loss to the Yankee cause than Garcia, frankly. Eventually they told us that the guys on the bench were screaming at Pedro, but I'm not sure they ever mentioned the taunting from Punk-Ass.

"If I weren't such a gutless coward, 

you'd really be in trouble!"

Later on, when Manny Ramirez ("Dumb-Ass") ducked to get away from a Roger Clemens pitch that wouldn't have hit him if he were standing a foot closer to it, and all hell broke loose, Steiner told us at first that David Wells had been knocked to the ground by Punk-Ass, when, in fact, it turned out that Don Zimmer actually did the stop, flop and roll. Wells (6'4", 250+), as we alls wells knows, knows how to handle himself in a fight, and would not likely have toppled so readily to a man (and I use the term loosley) who stands 5 inches shorter and weighs 180 pounds dripping wet and carrying a bag of Quikrete. Steiner corrected himself quickly, but still...

The Yankees were, as you may recall, pretty bummed when the Red Sox traded Carl Pavano, Tony Armas Jr. and another young pitcher (anyone remember whom?) to Montreal and then signed Pedro to that ~$15 million/year contract, but for my money (and some of it is...) I'll take a boring, composed, college boy like Mussina over a punk-ass like Punk Ass anyday. Didn't see the Moose letting loose at Trot Nixon's head when it looked like he was about to take his third defeat of the postseason, did you?

"...And now Mussina holds the ball, And now he lets it go,
And now Trot's skull is shattered! The blood from his head doth flow!"

Not exactly the classic picture of good, old-fashioned American sport Ernest Thayer imagined, is it?

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