It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME.
Are we better off having the Yankees hanging around?
Are we happier? Do our cows give more milk? Are our sexual experiences more powerful? Can we bench press a little more? Bruce Weber thinks we can.
In a New York Times piece on Sunday, Weber, an author and Yankees fan, submits, for our consideration, the proposition that we are all better off having the Yankees around. Weber maintains, in the haughty tones one expects from followers of the team from the Bronx, that we are glad to have the Yankees around, that a season without them in contention is like Othello without Iago.
Jose suspects that his readership might not be much of a Shakespeare crowd (note: okay, you are a Shakespeare crowd, but Jose’s never seen Othello, nor even the film “O” so he’s got nothing here), so let’s look at it a different way. What would Star Wars be without Darth Vader? That’s really Weber’s argument isn’t it? Would the Star Wars epic be nearly as exciting, as interesting, as mysterious if Darth Vader died half way through Empire, or better yet, gave up evil and went to farm on Tatooine?
One’s first inclination is, of course, to say “Absolutely not; it would suck.” But then think about it a little more deeply. Sure, when we saw the first Star Wars trilogy having Darth Vader stick around until the end seemed like a good thing. But what about after the second trilogy was released? Did it still seem like a good idea? When we all learned that the man behind the mask was just a whiny punk, didn’t it sort of make you wish he’d just died earlier so Luke could have gone toe-to-toe with the Emperor or they could have made the last movie about Admiral Akbar or something? Okay, it didn’t, but still, you have to concede that Jose has a point.
Of course, having a villain is important to any dramatic arc, but when it is revealed that the villain, rather than being deeply malevolent or even complex, is just whiny and self-obsessed, much of the drama disappears. Sure, Jose hates these Yankees, but as much hate as he feels, he feels even more disgust. The Yankees of the 70s with Thurman Munson and friends, those were teams you could hate and fear, same too for the Yankees of the mid-90s. Who was more loathsome than Paul “I’ve never taken a called strike in my life” O’Neil? They were Darth Vader without the back story. Dark, sinister and terrifying. But today’s Yankees? They are like looking at Darth Vader knowing that, at core, they are whiny Anakin Skywalker, petty, greedy and more than a little pathetic.
Can’t you picture A-Rod slaughtering a bunch of sand people and then acting like it was a big deal? “I’m A-Rod, the greatest, most ruthless Jedi of all time, because I killed a bunch of sand people,” he might say. “Never mind that whenever we get to a big time throw down, Count Dooku or Obi Wan is going to kick my *ss.” It’s pathetic actually.
The big, bad Yankees have become more an object of disgust than fear, far less Iago and far, far more Paris Hilton.
2. Time to be serious. Jose had a little fun yesterday with Jon Lester’s comeback, making cancer jokes and what not, but you all know that in his heart Jose was genuinely happy to see the lefty back in the majors after his ordeal. And the fact that he pitched well, makes it all the better. We need him, and perhaps he needs us.
But what Jose wants to add was how genuinely nice it was to see Lester’s parents in the stands rooting him on. So often in sports, we are force fed images of the family of players or coaches in the stand in big games, as if we are foie gras ducks being driven to illness. And so often, Jose doesn’t want to see it. Jose doesn’t care about Donovan McNabb’s mother whether she’s pushing soup or not. He sure doesn’t need to see the blonde, big boobed wives of any college hoops coaches during tense moments in March. (Note: Well, he doesn’t need to see head shots of them anyway.) And he certainly doesn’t need the constant cutaways at every pause in the action. Hell, he doesn’t even want to see David Beckham’s wife, unless she is singing “If You Wanna be My Lover.”
But last night was different. Seeing Jon Lester’s folks there at the Jake, not looking self-involved or self-aggrandizing, not only rooting for their son, but reveling in his health, made Jose happy. Some people take a cruise to celebrate a victory over cancer, some buy a car, the Lesters took a trip to Cleveland. And Jose would wager that no one, ever, has been so elated to be on the banks of the Cuyahoga River.
3. Jose was relieved this morning when he opened KEYS and saw the little Israeli flag emerge on the list of visiting nations on the lower right hand side of his screen. Unwittingly, Jose had gotten drawn into Holy Land politics with the announcement by one fan that despite the fact that he lived well inside the green line in Jerusalem, his nation’s flag was not showing up on Jose’s display.
As a non-practicing, culture-only Jew, Jose was mortified to be inadvertently coming down on the “Israel does not have the right to exist” side of the debate. With the appearance of the little blue and white flag, Jose can confirm that he does believe in Israel’s right to exist, even though he does question the right of Israel Alcantara to exist.
Now that that’s straightened out, Jose does have some bad news for his fellow members of the tribe and… well… Jose isn’t sure how to say this, but…umm… Jose is pretty sure that we’re not the Chosen People.
Jose knows, Jose knows, it says we are in the Torah and in Charlton Heston movies and what not, but, as you know Jose is an empiricist and he follows the evidence. And, well, the evidence does not point in our direction. It’s not that we’re not “a” chosen people. God probably choo-choo-chooses us for lots of stuff. He gave us the bagel; he gave us the Catskills and according to an urologist Jose knows, gave our elderly men the largest, organs, shall we say, in all humanity.
But while we may be “a” chosen people. We are not “The Chosen People.” We can’t be. How can we compete with the Dominicans? Look who they’ve got. Pedro, Papi, Manny, Vlad, Marichal, and the list goes on. What do we have Hank Greenberg and Albert Einstein? Sure Greenberg could mash, but Old Albert looks like a .220 hitter to Jose. And how fast can Ruth Bader Ginsburg throw? Not fast enough.
I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.