Tuesday, January 4


It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING.

1. Wait…don’t go. Please. Don’t just see that the theme for today’s KEYS is wrestling and just give up on them. Jose knows that professional wrestling is low-brow entertainment with limited appeal, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have anything important to say about American society. In fact, it offers important information on how we feel about "candy asses," zombies and scantily clad women. Actually, today’s KEYS isn’t really about wrestling at all. (Note: This KEYS is about wrestling). It’s really about social justice.

2. Wrestling has a rich history of ethnic and racial stereotyping. Until the end of the cold war, Russian wrestlers were all brutal Stalinists. Long after World War II had ended, Japanese wrestlers were still sneaky. And Iranian Olympic Bronze medalist the Iron Sheik, emerged shortly after the hostage crisis and became perhaps the most evil man in all of wrestling. Hell, there were even evil New Zealanders named the Sheepherders who hated Americans for taking their family farms. (Note: Later known as the lovable Bushwhackers.) But all of these wrestling characters had something in common. They hated the U.S. and wanted bad things to happen to us. Yes it was low brow, and stoked jingoism and perhaps even bigotry, but at least it was this odd sort of morality play where we hated them because they wanted to destroy our country. (Note: Or pretended to anyway.) Today, it is different.

Following September 11, a lot of wrestling fans hoped that the WWF (Note: Jose will never call it the WWE. Screw the World Wildlife Fund.) would not cynically use a national tragedy to advance story lines. After all, during the Gulf War, GI Joe hero Sgt. Slaughter became an Iraqi sympathizer (along with the Iron Sheik, who somehow went from being Iranian to Iraqi.) Eventually, Sarge was allowed to be an American again rather than face treason charges. Go figure.

Jose tends to expect the worst from wrestling, but was pleasantly surprised when the WWF did not work 9-11 or war angles. An episode of Smackdown (Note: Jose thinks) was one of the first public events after 9-11 and featured wrestlers breaking character and talking about their feelings and U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist leading the pledge of allegiance. It probably shouldn’t have been canceled, but it wasn’t offensive or exploitative and it was honest.

Needless to say, this exercise it good taste couldn’t continue forever. Recently, the WWF has introduced an Arab-American wrestler named Muhammed Hassan and an Arab manager, Daivari. In an earlier time Hassan’s gimmick would have been that he was an evil Arab who is sympathetic to Al-Qaeda and wants to destroy the U.S. That would have been very, very bad…it would have been horrible. This is worse.

Hassan doesn’t want to destroy America, he’s not from Saudi Arabia or Iraq, he’s from Michigan, and his complaint is that he is stereotyped and persecuted for being an Arab-American. So rather than being hated, because he wants to destroy us. He is hated because he wants to be one of us. He is hated because he has the gall to suggest that Arab-Americans are as American as anyone else, and should not have their civil rights constrained.
Hell, he even brings data to the table. In what Jose is sure is a first for pro-wrestling, Hassan urged fans to go to http://news.cornell.edu to look at a survey saying that 44 percent of Americans believe the U.S. government should curtail some civil liberties for Muslims. Can you imagine Hulk Hogan urging fans to look at a Princeton study indicating that 25 percent of the population suffered from Hulkamania while only 15 percent was afflicted by Macho Madness?

This is really bad. This is as bad as it would have been if the famed Midsouth wrestling association where Jerry Lawler and Andy Kaufman feuded had developed an African-American character in the 60s who was hated because he demanded the write to vote or desegregation. (Note: Of course the WWF, has a nation of Islam knockoff complete with a bow tied manager called the "Nation of Domination," not much better."
All of this is especially terrible in light of the fact that the WWF does morale tours for the troops in Iraq. Can you imagine the reaction if the Iraqi Wrestling Federation had an American character who went out and talked about how great torturing Arabs at Abu Gharib was. Fox News and Drudge would be all over it.

3. What Jose would like to see is an increase in the number of instances where professional wrestling supports social justice. One of the few good examples is Col. DeBeers. DeBeers was one of the most hated wrestlers in the old American Wrestling Association because his gimmick was that he was a bigoted, pro-apartheid South African wrestler. Sometimes he would even refuse to wrestle black opponents. Jose remembers him going on vicious, bigoted rants about blacks and AIDS as fans poured garbage down on him. It was refreshing to see stereotypes being put to good use.

But what Jose especially liked about this loathsome character was that he used took the name of South Africa’s despicable DeBeers diamond cartel. Jose really, really hates the cartel. Not only has it supported apartheid, fueled diamond wars around the world and driven up the price of a relatively plentiful commodity, it invented the idea that an engagement ring should cost two months salary out of thin air. That’s right. They made it up.

"How else can two months salary last forever?" Hellooooo….international star registry.

But their marketing is so good, that they have actually convinced people that this is some long standing tradition. In fact, they almost convinced Jose that if he ever wanted to get engaged, he should quit his job and find something for minimum wage for a couple of months just to bring the cost down. Okay, so maybe the Col. DeBeers gimmick didn’t bring down apartheid or break up the cartel, but at least it made a few more people aware that there was something bad going on in the world. Jose wants to see more of this. In fact, next week on WWF RAW, Jose demands to see a new character named "The Million Dollar Man" George Steinbrenner.

I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING.

Sunday, January 2


It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE RESOLUTIONS.

1. Jose’s original plan was for today’s KEYS to focus entirely on making some New Year’s resolutions, but as Al Gore once said, "The situation has changed." After reading Bob Hohler’s excellent piece on Terry Eurona’s management of clubhouse strife in 2004, it would be irresponsible of Jose not to comment. For Jose to refrain from commenting on this piece would be like Leisure Suit Larry Lucchino refraining from kicking a player on his way out the door. Improbable, but most likely a good idea.

Yes, Jose will still bring you two, count ‘em two KEYS full of resolutions, but breaking news comes first. And besides, Jose can’t possibly watch today’s miserable Patriots match up without doing something else.

The gist of the story is that Terry Eurona received all manner of resistance and disrespect from his players in 2004. Yet he managed to win them over and keep the club together by aggressively managing players inside the clubhouse while publicly taking personal responsibility for their misdeeds. The story looks at three specific instances: Pedro’s early departure on opening day, Manny’s anger at being put on waivers, and Nomar’s decision to sit out against the Yankees.

This approach of "keeping it in the clubhouse" worked so well, that the Red Sox, apparently, had no choice but to go to Bob Hohler after the season and expose every issue that was handled in clubhouse. Makes sense to Jose. How does Jose know that Red Sox management was the source for the story? Well, who else would it be? John W. Henry, Leisure Suit Larry and Terry Eurona are the only people quoted in the piece and they are the only ones, presumably with anything to gain.

So here is where we stand now. Pedro is gone and said some awfully mean things on his way out, so exposing his petulance is fair game, if not a bit childish. Nomar is gone too, so not too much harm done, though parting shots seem petty. But Manny? Manny, when last Jose checked, is still on this team, and Manny was, with the exception of one borderline injury, a model citizen. So you tell the whole world that he was furious at the team at the beginning of the season for attempting to deal him. And this is after spending several weeks trying to trade him to the Mets. Now Manny knows that the team would still like to be rid of his contract and that either way management is going to let the press know about a fight nine months ago. Needless to say, he must be delighted with his situation for next year.

Jose’s point is that if the key to success was keeping these disputes in the clubhouse, then why not continue to keep them in the clubhouse? Of course, if Jose had been manager all three situations would have been handled differently.

THE SITUATAION: Pedro leaves Camden Yards before the game was over during the opening day loss.
EURONA’s RESPONSE: Challenge Pedro privately while publicly stating that the reason Pedro left was that the rules had not been explained to him.
JOSE’S ALTERNATIVE: Jose is a little more passive aggressive, so he wouldn’t have confronted Pedro directly. Instead, he would have taught him an object lesson. The next time Pedro started, Jose would have left the game himself after six innings, thus leaving Pedro in to pitch the rest of the game regardless of his fatigue level. That would teach Pedro that there are consequences when someone leaves the team early. What? Grady Little already tried that?

THE SITUATION: After asking not to play against the Yankees, Nomar asks in late in the 13 inning classic.
EURONA’S RESPONSE: He refused to let Nomar in, but publicly said it was due to his injury.
JOSE’S ALTERNATIVE: Ummm…Jose would have let Nomar hit. As he recalls, Little Cesar Crespo got an At Bat in extra innings. That should never ever happen. Never. Not even if Eurona had to give the At Bat to Craig Grebek himself.

THE SITUATION: Manny lashes out at Eurona at the start of spring training.
EURONA’s RESPONSE: He let Manny vent and kept it in the clubhouse.
JOSE’S ALTERNATIVE: No dessert for Manny at the next post-game buffet, while making a big point of eating several desserts in front of Manny.
Clearly, Eurona’s approach worked, that’s why he’s the manager and Jose is just a guy who knows how to do everything better despite not having so much as a day of little league experience.

3. As promised, Jose has a few New Year’s resolutions to make:

A. Jose resolves to be meaner to the media. This worked so well for Jose last year. He started a feud with Eric Kneel and got a chirpy, stupid little response from Chris Rattey at boston.com. Good publicity, good times. Still, Jose has yet to successfully bait Tony Castrati into a feud. He must redouble his efforts.

Jose resolves to come up with nicknames for David Wells, Manny Ramirez and Alan Embree. (Note: Boomer is a stupid nickname for Wells. Jose will NOT use it.) Jose was going to add Wade Miller to the list, but he got a head start on the year, and already got one for him. Since Bill Mueller is already known as "Umlaut," for the u with two dots that the ue in his name represents, Wade Miller will be "Ohne Umlaut" or "Ohne" for short, since he has the true American version of Miller, which requires no strange foreign marks.

Jose resolves to expand KEYS merchandise sales in to higher end items like commemorative plates, decorative spoons and velvet paintings. (Note: With apologies to Sideshow Bob’s marketing plan.)

Will Jose actually do these things? Well, no. Of course not. They’re New Year’s resolutions for pete’s sake.

3. Finally, Jose will offer a few resolutions he would like to see some Red Sox, ex-Red Sox and a few hated enemies make. Jose knows it’s a tired device, but material is material.

David Wells— Eat less and exercise more.
Keith Foulke – Step in and settle the hockey lockout. He’s got to be missing his favorite sport.
Curt Euro – Even though everyone loves hearing what he has to say, learn that every once in a while, not often, just occasionally, it is a good idea to keep one’s mouth shut.
Pedro Martinez – To pitch absolutely brilliantly…when the Mets face the Yankees.
Dave Roberts – To get as many free beers as possible from Red Sox fans…you earned it.
Mosey Nixon – To buy a plane ticket to spring training. No injury inducing car rides for you.
Manny Ramirez – To keep proving the Red Sox every time they try to get rid of you.
David Ortiz – To start watching Lost or Arrested Development regularly. (Note: No Friends reruns.)
Jason Varitek – To punch A-Rod in the face again when you have the chance.
Larry Lucchino – To occasionally let an opportunity to screw someone slide.
Alex Rodriguez – To have a doctor look at those blue lips. That seems like a sign of frostbite to Jose, and you'd look moderately stranger with no lips.
Jason Giambi – To decline a buyout from the Yankees. You thought being a Yankee meant doing anything it takes, you did, they should pay.
George Steinbrenner – To reacquire Mel Hall and Jessie Barfield to round out the outfield.

I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE RESOLUTIONS.