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Existential Stuff, Opinion, Sports

The Tyranny of Nostalgia, and How it Could Kill MLB

September 22, 2014

First of all, let me state that I love that Derek Jeter Gatorade Commercial.

I am perfectly happy to disregard the fact that it’s selling something, because it reminds me that what is really important about Derek Jeter is what he means to the fans, what he means to the people of New York, what he means to the everyday Yankee fan of every age, class, and race. The artful black and white images of the honest joy of the fans and seemingly honest humility of The Captain make us forget that the commercial is made by billionaires, starring a millionaire, to sell us quadrillions of something we probably don’t need. I can overlook the omniscient shadow of Cloud Mammon because the damn thing is so well made and so on point; I can easily discount these corrupt motives because it is a pitch-perfect representation of what a superstar means to his fans, and an extraordinary model, no matter how unrealistic, of how a superstar should interact with his fans. Seriously, the damn thing could be selling Mark Chapman Brand Tampons and it wouldn’t make a difference. The commercial is so good that I can regard the, uh, benefactor – that is Gatorade – as merely the modern versions of the Medici Family, making great art possible.

However, it still does not quite make me forget the following:

Let’s say some gamblers offer the manager of a Major League team, oh, a hundred thousand dollars to put an inferior player in the line-up in the hope that it will affect the outcome of that day’s game. Even better, what if these same gamblers get to the manager before the season begins and say to him “Hey…we will give you, oh, FIVE MILLION if you play this guy all season…yeah, I know you’re gonna want to bench him some days, and shit, he may even have rather stunning O-fer streaks that make you want to send him down to Triple A, but no matter what, keep this guy in the line-up.” In fact, my fictional mobsters might even go so far to say “We have already cut a deal with your boss, and if you even think of benching this guy, you will lose your job.”

Now…HOW is THAT any different from a team making MILLIONS UPON MILLIONS UPON MILLIONS of dollars in marketing, merch sales, ticket sales, TV deals, media deals, etcetera, by making sure that an inferior player plays every day, even if it has the real potential to affect the on-field quality of that team and possibly alter the teams’ chances of making the post-season, QUESTION MARK.

Jeff Buckley probably could have contributed more to the Yankees’ line-up in the second half of the 2014 season than Derek Jeter. But the option of benching Jeter was considered unthinkable. This means two things: 1) Someone (and there are a lot of “someones” here, from the Yankees to MLB to Jeter’s sponsors to the clubs in other MLB cities whose TV and live-gate numbers would have been significantly impaired by a Jeter non-appearance) made a lot of money by keeping Jeter in the line-up, so much money that the idea of benching him for the sake of fielding a better performing ball-club was unthinkable; and 2) The Warm’n’Fuzzy side of baseball has more meaning, at this point, than the actual nuts’n’bolts of the games (and I sincerely hope I will never use two ‘n’ contractions in a single sentence again).

Both of the above options are probably true, and when push comes to shove, I find the latter more offensive. See, money is money and money always talks, but in the long run, honesty does stand a chance against money.

Marc Bolan, one of the many dead people who probably could have made more of a positive on-field contribution to the Yankees season than Derek Jeter did.

But competitive honesty does not stand a chance against nostalgia, no matter how well-intended that emotion is. We are all guilty. We all wanted to cheer the brave and kind captain, and our desire to engage in this kind of sepia-colored bonhomie, framed against the same low and wide Bronx sky that saw Brave Lou say his farewell, considerably outweighed our desire to see competitive baseball; we all decided to look the other way when the Yankees decided that sentiment was more important than a pennant.

And the Yankee brass knew this (and most definitely the MLB brass, too), knew of our desire, hell, OUR NEED, to bask in the glow of pinstripe-branded sweet melancholia, when they decided that they would sacrifice competitive baseball in exchange for the BILLIONS they would make by whoring out Jeter and the Yankee legacy. In a sense, this is as bad as any game-throwing scandal in the history of baseball – I mean, a whole season was compromised — except we were willing and happy participants who all agreed to look the other way, who all agreed that nostalgia and a season spent happily basking in the land of warm’n’fuzzy was more important that legitimate competition.

And any sport that favors nostalgia over competition is already halfway dead.

Though I do like that goddamn commercial.

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Brooklyn Bugle, Existential Stuff, News, Opinion, Sports

Jeter Will Rise Again! The Truth Behind His So-Called “Retirement.”

September 5, 2014

A true rumor defies the post-space age hum of the Internet. A true rumor is like a summer rain: it may come on suddenly or it may not come at all, it may be sensed as a lithium lightness in the air when it is an eighth of a mile or a way or it may not even be believed after it has already occurred.

The gravest keepers of baseball’s most somber secrets, those who hover around (and above) the game at a Templar-like level of secrecy and power, are beginning to talk in tones hushed but firm that September 28, 2014 may not be Derek Jeter’s last game as a player.

Moe Berg, who is honored by the ultra-mysterious baseball super-cult called Nos Custodire Moe Berg Sepulcrum

First, a tiny dollop of back-story to explain how I have gained access to these secrets, and to underline my credibility: Many years ago when I was working in Los Angeles at a major record label, I made the acquaintance of a fellow from a group called Corporis Fraternitatis Giamatti. In exchange for access to master tapes of unreleased material by some very major rock bands, this person would give me remarkable inside information on MLB injuries, potential trades, home-team favorable groundskeepers, even stadium PA system operators who would feed tones through the system that could disturb an opposing pitcher or batter (but were undetectable to the human ear). There was more to this transaction, by the way: The CFG, in league with a sometimes allied, sometimes rival organization called Nos Custodire Moe Berg Sepulcrum, would sell bootleg CDs gleaned from these musical rarities (this was before the ubiquity of free downloads and streaming). With the profits, they would finance some of their more shadowy operations, including deeply entrenched groups that sought to overturn Interleague Play and the DH Rule; one of the more extreme splinter cells, Земля за Sabermetrics, was determined to use every means possible, including violence, to end night baseball (it was rumored that Земля за Sabermetrics were involved in the 1996 on-field death of umpire John McSherry). This was all very interesting and very, very hush-hush.

But back to Jeter. I have gleaned the following from my various sources at the above-named organizations, with some of the more specific details drawn from an Irish-American super-fan sect called An Cumann na Veeck mar atá i Wreck. By the way, I do not fear reprisal from these organizations whose secrets I disclose, since I have held on to some Bon Scott Back In Black demos that they very badly want.

The following plan is to go into effect after Jeter’s “final” game (presumably in Boston on September 28, though this arrangement is flexible, depending on whether the Yankees choose not to play Jeter following their September 25 home finale):

After he leaves the field and the post-game press conferences, Jeter will be discretely placed in the custody of a long-time Yankee fanatic named Jose D’Arimathea. Jeter will discard any clothing in which he could be recognized, and slip into a shroud-like hoodie that D’Arimathea has designed and prepared just for this occasion.

D’Arimathea and the disguised Jeter will than withdraw to a small basement apartment on Moshulou Parkway in the Bronx that D’Aramithea has outfitted specifically for this purpose. They will be assisted in this clandestine operation by a local bar owner named Nick O’Demus, who is the member of a secretive fantasy baseball operation called the Sandlot Hedrin.

After his final out, Yankee super-fan Jose D’Arimathea carries an exhausted Jeter to D’Arimathea’s basement apartment on Moshulou Parkway (artists’ rendering)

Once installed safely in the cave-like apartment, Jeter will rest, deeply and very quietly, for a short period of time.

After three days, a female fan of Jeter (who will be present at the initial stage of Jeter’s furtive transportation from the Stadium to D’Arimathea’s apartment) will arrive at “the cave,” only to find that the door is open and Jeter is no longer inside. Since great care will be taken to lock the apartment door from all sides to insure Jeter’s privacy, the open door and the absence of Jeter will come as a great surprise to the visitor. The female follower will tell D’Arimathea, O’Demus, and other disciples of Jeter that he has risen from his slumber, in defiance of the pre-ordained plan and natural law (the door to D’Arimathea’s apartment had been considered impenetrable, both from inside and out).

Soon, many people, Yankees fans and non-fans alike, will report sightings of Jeter playing ball in the Caribbean Winter Leagues. Although these reports will seem barely credible at first, soon the whole Baseball world will be buzzing with multiple accounts from plausible sources of sightings of Jeter on ball fields from Mazatlan to Mexicali, Culiacan to Hermosillo. Jeter’s play will be strong and consistent, and he will perform at a level of skill and athleticism he has not performed at for years.

These sightings will be so far apart in terms of distance (yet in such close proximity, time-wise) as to be hardly believable; but the witnesses will insist – indeed swear on their life – that they have seen Jeter walk again on the diamond.

The Three Wise Alou Brothers, who will trek to the Domican Republic bearing gifts for the reborn Jeter

These sightings will last exactly 40 days. During that time, there will be occasional glimpses of Jeter off the diamond; in fact, he will appear to a small group of fishermen in the small village of El Cuyo, Yucatan, and help the locals land a particularly large haul of Mosquitofish. He will also encounter a cynical, Jeter-hating blogger named Sol Tarsus, who will be so overwhelmed by seeing Jeter back on the playing field that he will abandon his Jeter-mocking ways, re-name himself after legendary Yankee Paul O’Neill, and spend the rest of his life preaching Jeter’s greatness.

After 40 days, Jeter’s mysterious and almost miraculous “resurrection” tour will end as abruptly as it started. Those fortunate enough to have seen Jeter, post-retirement, in uniform on the baseball fields of the Caribbean, will have their lives changed forever, and they will have a renewed faith in the power and glory of Derek Jeter, a faith that will warm them and inspire them for the rest of their lives.

And Peter of Gammons will proclaim: “He has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in the Bronx: ‘The Son of Sanderson must be delivered over to the hands of statisticians, be criticized and on the third day be raised again.’ ”  And Jim of Rome will say “Then Jeter came to them and said, ‘All authority in Cooperstown and in Bristol has been given to me.  Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you, with the possible exception of an endorsement I made for Florshiem. I mean, really, can you imagine me wearing anything from Florshiem? And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ ”



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