Thursday, February 10

2/10/05 Jose Canseco's KEYS TO THE GAME

It’s time for Jose Canseco’s KEYS TO THE GAME.

1. Hi there. Jose Canseco here, MVP, World Series champ, and lover of fast cars, fast women and fastballs. Well, not fastballs so much anymore, but you get the point. I’d like to thank my namesake Jose Melendez for giving me the use of his space today as I promote my new book Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big. Apparently, Jose’s gone off on a bit of a bender following his correct pick for the Super Bowl, after all, $100 can buy an awful lot of Chef Boyardee, and he isn’t in writing shape write right now. I told him that some steroids would clear that hangover right up, but he said that under the new collective bargaining agreement, is now testing. So I offered him some human growth hormone, because you really can’t test for that and…well, you get the point.

But let’s get to the part you’ve all been waiting for. What everyone wants is to hear me name names. You’d think that having been born in Castro’s Cuba, a country with a huge state security system, I’d be sensitive to the danger of naming names, and yet I’m not. Go figure.

So, who’s on drugs? Well, you’ve already heard about my allegations that Mark McGuire, Ivan Rodriguez, Roberto Alomar and Rafael Palmiero were juicing from my publicity leaks, but what other names do I have to give up? Well, I’m no longer just a baseball player. No, since I was blackballed, I’m a writer now too. And that means I have the names of some writers to give up, as well. Did you know Hunter S. Thompson uses drugs? Yup, it’s the God’s honest truth, uppers downers, hallucinogens, horse tranquilizers…the works!!! Remember you heard it here first. And you know who else was on drugs? Well, I don’t really know. I’m not much of a reader see…so let’s just say F. Scott Fitzgerald, Martin Luther, Jane Austen and the guy who wrote Clifford the Big Red Dog. Big red dog…you make the case that he’s not on drugs. (Note: This libel represents the views of Jose Canseco, and not the views of Jose Melendez,, or anyone whose brain hasn’t been shrunk to the size of a pecan by years of steroid abuse.)

2. One of the claims in my book that is going to get the most attention is my statement that George W. Bush must have known about the rampant steroid use on the Texas Rangers when he ran the ball club. President Bush, through a spokesman, has denied this, so we end up with a classic he said/he said situation. So what it really comes down to is credibility. On the one hand, you have the President of the United States, the man who assured you that there were WMD in Iraq, that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11 and that he is a moderate. On the other hand you have me, Jose Canseco. I dated Madonna.

So there are the facts. You decide who is more credible.

3. Finally, I know this blog is primarily big with Boston folks, so you’re probably wondering if any of the 1995-1996 Boston Red Sox are going to be implicated for drug use in my book. After all, no Red Sox names have leaked out…yet. Well, I’m proud to give KEYS TO THE GAME readers a sneak peak at Jose’s list of Red Sox on drugs.

Kevin Kennedy: Rogaine – Come on, you never thought he grew that mustache without chemical assistance did you?

Roger Clemens, Mike Greenwell: Stupid Pills

Brian Looney: Lithium – Just look at his name. Not to hard to diagnose him with mental illness.

Lee Tinsley: Speed – He must have been, he certainly wasn’t taking any “hit.”

Mo Vaughn: Dexatrim – Well, no. But he should have been.

Will Cordero: Hmm…increasing mass, violent outbursts…hey he might have been on actual steroids!

Tim Johnson: Sodium pentothal – No wait…that’s the one that makes you tell the truth. Which is the one that makes you tell lies about committing war crimes in Vietnam?

See, so it’s a relatively small list, but it still shows just how rampant drug abuse was.

Well, those are about all the wild accusations I have for the moment. I’d like to thank Jose Melendez for this space, and urge you all to buy my book for more shocking accusations about the game you love.

I’m Jose Canseco, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.

Monday, February 7


It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE SUPER BOWL.

Branch and Bruschi, stars so bright,
In the Super Bowl last night,
All team and no talk of "I"
Let’s bet thy fearful symmetry.

With apologies to William Blake. Jose called it. Symmetry baby, symmetry!!! Pats by 3!!! So Jose not only gets to bask in the gentle glow of the Patriots third world championship, he gets to recline in the comforting gleam of $100 US. Of course, he only has $40 of it right now and will spend the next year chasing down friends in New York, Chicago and Yokohama for his winnings, but at least he doesn’t have to front the money this year. (Note: Jose literally carries the sheet with bets in his wallet at all times so he can ensure that he gets his money.)

The heart stopping moment for Jose the bettor was, of course, Rodney Harrison’s interception at the end of the game. Jose had this moment of sheer terror as it looked like Harrison might decide to run the ball back for a meaningless, pick ruining touchdown. (Note: That would have delighted many other bettors by ensuring that the Patriots covered the spread.) Jose has been down this road before. He thinks Don Beebe’s famous strip of a showboating Leon Lett may have cost him a pot one year, though maybe it was something else. Regardless, thank you Patriots. Jose has never been so thankful that you are too classy to run up the score.

II. One of the disadvantages of writing almost 24 hours after the start of the game is that almost everything that can be written has been written. For instance, at about 6:30 last night, Jose thought that he could do some great original material on the kid who flipped, or more accurately, failed to flip the coin to start the game. But Jose returns home from work to learn that pretty much everyone has already written about it in the desperate hunt for anything new to say. So instead of writing about the coin flip itself, Jose will offer a humble suggestion as to who should flip the coin next year – Jose Melendez. As it turns out Jose, is really, really good with a coin.

Jose’s grandfather Fritz Melendez was a magician (Note: Jose’s father says he grew up in a house where IBM was understood to mean International Brotherhood of Magicians), but died when Jose was less than one year old, so Jose never learned much magic. Sadly, Jose’s muggleness continued until Jose’s sophomore year at BU when a friend taught him as simple trick that involved making a quarter pass magically from hand to hand. Jose’s friend promised him that this trick would be useful in impressing women, and so it has been, becoming a staple of Jose’s second date routine. (Note: Jose knows some women think magic is stupid, but if you hate magic, Jose wants nothing to do with you anyway, as you are probably a communist.) This tactic was especially effective on the Melendezette, as it turns out that her paternal grandfather was also a magician. The trick also served as a useful tool for entertaining Romanian orphans when Jose visited his friend Amy who was working with them. With the language barrier preventing Jose from relying on his normal witty repartee, magic proved the answer.

But wait, there’s more. Jose owes his job to the little trick with the quarter. (Note: Resulting in Jose’s declaration that "This trick is effective on both Romanian orphans and non-profit executives.) Jose works for a coalition that includes both business and organized labor, and as such needed to demonstrate comfort with both sides during the interview process. Jose had spent the previous four years doing corporate public relations, so he felt it was essential to demonstrate that he understood to the board member from labor that corporations could not be trusted.

"Look," Jose explained. "The new trend in PR is ‘Corporate Social Responsibility.’ All sorts of big companies are hiring VPs of Corporate Social Responsibility to oversee good works and what not. But let’s not kid ourselves. Corporate Social Responsibility is really about companies trying to create a suit of armor… a record of good works that will protect them from the lances of corporate scandal. This is what corporate social responsibility really is."

Jose fished a quarter from his pocket and placed it between the thumb and forefinger of his right hand. With his left hand he made a great arcing motion and grasped the quarter. Yet when the motion was complete, he opened his left hand to show that the quarter had disappeared, then his right to show that the quarter remained. Magic.

"Jose’s left hand is corporate social responsibility," explained Jose. "The left hand is adopting good causes, and giving money to charity and so on. Yet at the end of the day, that is not where the quarter ends up is it? No, the quarter, the profit, stays in the right hand, because the right hand is business, and for corporations, doing business is always the goal. The left hand is merely a distraction to draw attention away from the fact that the right is doing the same things it always did, polluting the environment, using sweatshop labor and so on. It’s misdirection, plain and simple. But that doesn’t mean we, as a socially minded non-profit can’t turn this to our advantage. As long as we can remember that the interest of business is business and everything it does is with profit making in mind, we can exploit corporate social responsibility quite nicely."

What is amazing is that Jose actually go the job. C’mon. He did a frickin’ magic trick in his interview. That’s nuts.

Months later Jose asked his boss if the trick had helped or hurt. She gave the worst reply of all. "What trick?" Well, as Jose said, not everyone is impressed by magic.

So here is the point: If Jose is given the job of flipping the coin for Super Bowl XL, he can just make the coin disappear, thereby ensuring that the game must begin with an XFL style scramble for the ball, which is really more fun anyway.

III. In this, the final KEY of Jose’s Super Bowl running diary, he would like to simply lament the fact that when he needed it most, he could not remember the theme to the nighttime soap opera Dynasty. He wanted desperately to hum it in celebration of the new Patriots dynasty last night, but he could not. This is probably because Jose has never seen that show in his entire life, but still, knowing the theme song would be useful. Jose could hum the Dallas theme song all day, it’s catchy, but thankfully he’s not a Cowboys fan, so it’s of no use to him.

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

Sunday, February 6


It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE SUPER BOWL.

I. It’s now a little more than one hour from game time and after weeks of training Jose must now begin the painstaking promise of getting into fight mentality. Why fight mentality? Because every year offers the possibility of a throwdown, an invitation to violence, a battle to end all battles. But Jose will not throw haymakers on the streets of Allston or the working class bars of East Cambridge. No, he saves his fighting shoes for a humble living room in a Boston suburb.

Some years ago, Jose and his brother Sam came to blows during the Melendez family Super Bowl party. Well, maybe not blows, but a series of front face locks and chicken wings anyway. As you know, Jose is not one to resort to violence, but some things are worth fighting for. In this case, it was who would get to recline on the floor against a certain pillow. Jose knows it sounds trivial, even barbaric, but you weren’t there. You don’t know what it was like and don’t you ever, ever dare to judge Jose unless you do.

The people were packed, there wasn’t a chair, spot on the sofa, ottoman or stool to be found. All that remained were spots on the floor, and even those were scarce. A pillow could mean the difference between comfort and modest backache the next day. There was one pillow left and Jose’s brother tried to steal it from him. Or was it the other way around? It doesn’t matter…in situations like that there is no law of man, only the law of the jungle.

Every year since then, Jose’s friends have taunted him, reminded him of the barbarism, of the madness. They have begged for a rematch and Jose has hinted at consenting. Yes, he has used their bloodlust as an enticement to come to the party; and they have come as surely as people flock to the cockfights or pit bull fights or games between the Pacers and Pistons. Jose has never again yielded to the madness, never again allowed the breakdown of the entire social order to rob him of his civility. But perhaps that time will come again, perhaps it will be today. All Jose knows is he must prepare. He must be ready for the day Sam tries to take his pillow again.

II. The Eagle sounds like a pretty tough mascot doesn’t it? After all, Eagles are huge, fierce birds. But is that really what the Eagles’ founders meant when they christened their franchise?

Pennsylvania has always had one of the greatest concentrations of German-Americans in the entire country, the famed "Pennsylvania Dutch," so might one not reasonably assume that when the Eagles were founded, the owners looked to reach out to their Germanic audience with a name that might resonate with them? The German word "Igel" is pronounced exactly the same as "Eagle," but it has a very different meaning. "Igel" is the German word for "hedgehog." (Note: And Seeigel, is a sea urchin.) So is it not possible, just possible that the real mascot of Philadelphia’s men in green is the hedgehog? Probably not, but Jose would like to think so, as he is almost out of material. So let’s assume they really are the hedgehogs and rejoice in the fact that those hedgehogs don’t scare anybody.

On the other hand, Jose must concede that there is a good chance that the mascot really is an Eagle. After all, the German word for "Eagle" is "Adler," and Jose fully expects most members of the Eagles to look addled after the first few downs.

III. Finally Jose offers his pick for the game. Prepare for the point spread to move. Jose has now collected bets from everyone in his pool and can publicly declare his pick without worrying that the information will aid other bettors.

Jose’s pick is Patriots 27 Eagles 24. When Jose looks at the matchups and looks at the records, he feels almost certain that the margin will be much larger. After all, the Eagles had only one more win against a winning team this year than Little Cesar Crespo had RBIs— not many. But Jose, as usual, gets lost in the symmetry. He is seduced by the easy logic that just because something has happened twice before, it will probably happen again. This is why Jose avoids investing in the stock market. He knows that he can’t trust himself to remember that past performance does not indicate future results. Jose would be too tempted to invest in Enron based on their success in the 1990s, or Ford based on their ingenuity in producing the Model T. And yet, Jose picks the Patriots by three. Yes, the symmetry is indeed seductive. Of course, the upside of this is that every time the Yankees get up 3-0 in a series for the rest of history, Jose will be completely confident of a choke.

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