Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Wasting Some Towelheads

I watched the Super Bowl pretty casually, but wasn’t emotionally invested in either team’s success. My impression is that Richard Sherman’s thoughtful and intelligent, and that Tom Brady’s unusually dim — if not dim enough to be a lapdog of Republican ex-presidents — so I’d have been more inclined to root for the Seahawks if running back Marshawn Lynch didn’t seem to have so much in common — intense surliness — with Don Baylor. [Twenty-four hours after I wrote this, I learned that Brady had given the Chevy truck he was given for being the game's Most Valuable Player to his young teammate Malcolm Butler, who made the interception that ensured the Patriots' victory. I like that about him.] 

Many, many years ago, the publisher of New York magazine decided to publish a West Coast counterpart, to be called New West, from which I got an assignment to write about the California Angels baseball team. My idea was to write an article of a sort baseball fans had rarely glimpsed — one based on the players’ answers to deliberately provocative personal questions, rather than questions about their sport. I asked them what they read, and what they listened to, for instance, and what they thought of the idea — then hotly contested by that era’s Michele Bachman, Anita Bryant — of openly gay persons being allowed to teach in the public schools.  Twenty-four of the 25 players on the roster, including the superstar pitcher Nolan Ryan, responded to my questions. Many were sanctimonious idiots who professed to read the Bible for pleasure and to regard Burger King as top-notch dining.

Some made no secret of their distaste for my long hair (it was a long time ago!) and Edwardian velvet blazer, but even the most benighted of those 24 played ball, if you will. Not the slugger Don Baylor, who had biceps as big around as my waist, and who made clear that I would be putting myself in physical jeopardy if I asked a second time, however politely, for a few minutes with him.

Not, of course, that I condemn any athlete for shying away from any journalist other than myself. My observation during my time with the Angels was that sportswriters are generally a lower form of life. They ask you stupid, often fawning questions — “Is it thrilling to have been named the World Series’ Most Valuable Player?” but don’t really want an answer. What they really want — what any journalist wants — is to get his subject to relax enough to reveal something horrible about himself.  Every sportswriter, that is, wants to be Jeff Pearlman, getting the Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker to admit in 1999 to being xenophobic, homophobic, and one of the great American assholes, the sort of guy who, in 2015, would see American Sniper and want to go out and, uh, waste some towelheads.

But back to Baylor. Until I saw this, I had never heard of anyone being injured either catching or throwing a baseball game’s ceremonial first pitch. At moments like this, I’m tempted to believe that what goes around really does come around. In the end, though, I don’t think it’s possible to embrace the idea of karma while dismissing as nonsense astrology and divine intervention into human affairs. But my not believing in karma doesn’t mean I don't know there’s such a thing as shadenfreude, and am enjoying some right now!

Though not enough not to mention that whenever I watch an NFL game, I’m struck by how much Anheuser-Busch seems to spend on advertising. Persons from other countries taste their beer-flavored soda pop and snicker contemptuously. And yet they’ve somehow managed to convince a huge percentage of American men that it’s somehow quintessentially manly and even patriotic to drink Bud Lite, for instance.  (What a concept! As though the non-Lite version is really robust and flavorful.) 

Whassup, bro? Oh, I’m just chillin’ with a Bud Lite, bro.

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