Saturday, May 10

Hell is...

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

1. We are now more than a month into the “Jose will not be an every day writer” era, and Jose has to be honest, it’s not going great.

Jose thought it would be terrific. Less work = more free time = greater happiness. By the transitive property of equality, that should mean than less work = greater happiness. And yet, it hasn’t gone that way. Ergo, mathematics is bullsh*t and 1+1 probably does equal 3, and Sir Isaac Newton is a jerk. Instead of enjoying life, sipping wine on the banks of the Seine or possibly the Tiber and the like, Jose has ended up with nothing from the whole exercise save for greater empathy for “The Coral Axe” Alex Cora.

Jose used to have the life of Manny Ramirez. He was in the game pretty much every day except for when he didn’t feel like it. It was a good life. But now, Jose is removed from the game, lonely and distant, participating only when things line up perfectly, like when you are given the field sobriety test but are actually sober.

How does Cora do it? How?

The answer, Jose believes, is that he fills up his free time with other pursuits, studying architecture, epistemology and the classics, doing all of the things that make him, as Tito says, “the smartest player in the game.” But Jose isn’t smart like Alex Cora. He can’t understand spherical trigonometry or read lesser novels of Dostoyevsky in the original Russian. So instead he sulks like Achilles in his tent or A-Rod without shemales, and slowly, slowly goes mad from the boredom of it all.

And then, when at last the call comes, when Jose’s services are once again needed and he must join in the game, Jose remains Cora-like, aloof and disengaged, unable to participate in any meaningful way. It is awful. Even worse it is ungodly.

Which brings us to the nature of hell. Dante will tell you that hell is a horrifying combination of fire and ice and if you are really bad, a three-headed beast gnawing eternally on your head. Dante Bichette will tell you that it is a diet. The Pope claims it is a sense of total separation from God. And old J.P. Sartre? He will smugly refer you to No Exit, and after you have squandered a few hours, you will learn that hell is other people. But they are wrong. They are all wrong.

Jose knows the truth. He does not know what he did to deserve the bitter knowledge, but know it he does.

Hell is being Alex Cora.

But you already knew that didn’t you? Here’s the really weird thing, though. Heaven is being Joey Cora. It’s right there in Paradiso; in the ninth sphere you get to be Joey Cora, but no one knows that because the only part of the Divine Comedy anyone ever reads in Inferno.

2. How manifold are the delights of the Roger Clemens debacle? Really manifold. Really, really manifold. But of all of the delights, there are none more delightful than the news that he once hit on the wife of wrestling legend Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake.

Lot’s of people have gotten in their little jabs at Clemens for this small immorality, but none have had Jose’s unique qualifications to comment on the matter. As a result, the typical analysis is something like “Well, they’d better settle this inside a steel cage.” Pathetic. You call that insight?

What would a steel cage match settle? Nothing. If wrestling has taught Jose anything, it’s that women are basically chattel to be won as the result of fake combat, more or less the same lesson as he learned from the crusades. So clearly, Clemens and Beefcake should have a match with the love of Mrs. Beefcake on the line. Since Clemens claims to be from Texas even though he is actually from Ohio, it would have to be a Texas bull rope match, wherein the two combatants are lashed to each other with a thick, braided rope. The first man to touch all four corners of the ring in succession is victorious.

This is a good deal for Clemens, because inevitably, the guy who is not the husband wins these matches. Then Roger would get Mrs. Beefcake who would hate him for a while, but then eventually come around and start loving him and talking in the ring about how he was a much better lover than Brutus. For a guy whose testicles are probably shriveled from years of steroid abuse, this would be a nice touch. Even better for Roger, Debbie Clemens would have to end up leaving him for Beefcake as a result of the debacle because that’s just how these things go.

So Clemens would get the woman he hit on, and loose the bedazzling Mrs. Clemens. Why wouldn’t he do this? And better still, he would be moving into a sport where his use of steroids is socially acceptable, and even if he killed his wife and K kids, which is about the only thing he could do now to get more unpopular, he would still get a full length special on USA Network.

3. As Jose wrote all of this in a café in a major American League metropolis, a bunch of protestors marched by ending a demand to 60 years of terror. At first Jose thought they were demanding an end to the Yawkey Era, but then Jose remembered that he’s not in Boston and that it’s not 1993. Also, the crowd seemed to really hate Jews, so they’d probably be pro-Tom Yawkey right?

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

Thursday, May 8

Red Sox Nationalism

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

1. Nationalism is a problem.

Yes it can offer benefits, a sense of unity and purpose, a desire, as John McCain has said, to become part of something greater than oneself. But it also leads, almost inevitably, to arrogance, elitism and prejudice. Anyone who has spent as much time in the Balkans as Jose (note: four weeks) knows exactly how destructive nationalism can be and will come to view it with a fearful mix of respect and loathing.

And yet, without nationalism, can a nation ever truly be forged? Could Italian city-states have become one kind of resolute and more or less stable nation without nationalism? Could the United States have formed a nation out of a mélange of peoples without creating a nationalism based not on ethnicity, but the idea of Americanness? Could hundreds of German states… wait… okay let’s skip that one.

Since 1967, we Red Sox fans have slowly become a nation. We know this because Leisure Suit Larry Lucchino tells us so. But marketing aside, at this point it is undeniable. However, it is equally undeniable that we could not have become a Red Sox nation without a Red Sox nationalism.

Prussian thinker Johann Gottfried Herder reframed the idea of the nation as a Volknation a “folk-nation” motivated by the Volkgeist, “the spirit of the people.” Does the Red Sox Nation have a Volkgeist? Herder would certainly say so. He looked to language and cultural traditions to form the chalky outlines of the people’s divine form. Language, folklore, music, dance, we have them all. Every time a drunkard yells “A-Rod you wicked suck,” he is feeding into the Volkgeist. Dance? The wave is nothing more than the undulating heave of a nation in motion. Music? From Jess Cain’s Yaz Song, to Red Sox Mabmo #5, to Tessie, to Sweet Caroline, to Dirty Water, Red Sox nation can compete with any of that Bach or Mozart the Germans used to define themselves, provided Bach and Mozart dumbed down their music by 99% and later confessed to some weird feelings about Caroline Kennedy. And folklore? What is the “Curse of the Bambino” if not our version of the Brother’s Grimm, an absurd and terrifying account of things that are almost entirely fictional.

These are all good things, except for the Shaughnessy book, these symbols of our nationalism, but we would do well to remember that nationalism is not all good, to be vigilant against excess. There was an incident in New Hampshire several days ago wherein a fan of the New York Yankees, (note: Jose was going to write the Russia to our Germany but that made him a little sick. Then he was going to write the Germany to our Russia, but that also made him sick, so he settled on the Norway to our Sweden), responded to the “Yankees Suck” chant, the ancient cry of our people, with violence. This Yankees fan used her motor vehicle as a weapon, literally running down a group of Red Sox fans, murdering one. First, allow Jose to say that this is messed up. Really sick, horrible stuff, like worse than Roger Clemens horrible. Second, let’s not let the Red Sox Nationalism take us to those dark places.

We are not like Germany or Russia; we are better than them. We are fueled not my hatred of the other, but by love of our fellow citizens.

Let us not let Red Sox nationalism take us down the twisted path to madness, violence and death. It is all well and good to talk like a nation, think like a nation and act like a nation, but to destroy like a nation? To war like a nation? If that is the price of Red Sox Nationalism, Jose would be just fine being a Red Sox City-State.

2. The Red Sox blew a dramatic come from behind victory last night in part due to the 10th error of the year by embattled shortstop Julio Lugo. Lugo is one of those Red Sox players Jose has never managed to come up with a nickname for, but at last, after a good fielding horribly hitting 2007 and a better hitting but horrible fielding first month of 2008, Jose feels obliged to come up with something. Also, he didn’t see the game last night, so he is better off working on names than commenting on actual performance.

Here’s what Jose has come up with after three, perhaps even four minutes of work: Julio Yugo.

At first it seems obvious, crappy shortstop, crappy car—perfect.

But it is far more nuanced than that. The Yugo was introduced with great fanfare as a useful little thing that would fill a variety of needs, not flashy, but effective. Sound familiar? But it never settled into the U.S. market, and is ultimately regarded as one of the great disasters in automotive history.

The history of the Yugo is the history of Julio Lugo.

That said the comparison is not perfect. The Yugo, for all of its flaws, was at least cheap.

3. KEYS TO THE GAME fanboy Curt Euro took a major step in his rehabilitation from a shoulder injury this week, when he took a turn throwing from 60 feet (note: 20 yards). If he is able to throw at that distance without pain, he will immediately be the leading candidate for quarterback of the New York Jets.

Euro’s apparent recovery comes after he followed a routine of rest and rehabilitation recommended by the Red Sox. Euro and his doctors had insisted that surgery was the correct course of action. While Euro conceded that time has shown that the Red Sox recommendation was correct, his friend, Republican Presidential nominee John McCain, insisted that this proved, more then ever, the need for surgery.

“I don’t care if he needs to have 100 surgeries,” said a defiant McCain. “Our objective is for Curt’s shoulder not to hurt. And we will keep cutting into his shoulder until it does not hurt anymore. Only then, will it be safe for have further surgeries.”

McCain continued “His surgeries, will of course, be covered under my health insurance plan, provided that they are not for an actual injury.”

With his recovery underway, Euro’s next task is to figure out how to meet the weight incentives included in his contract. Euro is unlikely to make weight due to the weight gain that is a well-known side effect of arm injuries.

As an alternative Euro has suggested a buoyancy incentive (note: credit to Dr. Katz Professional Therapist).

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