Friday, October 30, 2009

'Reverse Jinx?' World Series Game One — Sort of

I can't explain how I watched last year's World Series. I managed to pay attention, take notes and write not one but two live-blogs of the thing. I suppose I was distracted enough by the novelty of reacting to things via live-blogging to not collapse in a wet sack of neuroses about the games themselves. No such luck this year.

I'm genuinely sports superstitious. Even as I'm doing superstitious things, I can tell myself, "This is objectively nonsensical. There is no causal relationship between your behavior and team performance," yet I won't for a second stop whatever's occupying my attention. One time I saw my team win a late-inning playoff game while I was seated in a weird way and holding on to a magazine I'd been flipping through. I sat in that position, clutching that magazine, for the rest of the games. They won 'em all!—I developed a peculiar pain! No, seriously. I had trouble walking because I'd sat like a mutant to watch baseball. Somehow this made perfect sense at the time.

In a strangely obverse display, I once walked home from a trip to The Booze Store during the early innings of a playoff game and discovered that while I was out, the Red Sox had scored three runs. A few minutes after sitting down in front of the TV, they gave up two. I immediately left the house and walked around my neighborhood for what I later figured out was eight miles. I periodically called friends to check the score. The Sox wound up winning by nearly ten runs, but when I'd gone home in late innings and after they'd gotten a large lead, the opposing team put runners in scoring position (RISP), and I left the house again.

The ritualized pain of this behavior has been leavened in recent years by the advent of the DVR. At least you can still see the game in identical broadcast quality later if your jinx-related actions pay off. But pain or inconvenience has to be at the heart of the anti-jinx. I once tried the "Uh-oh, honey, the team won yesterday, and we had sex that morning, so we're going to have to have sex every gameday" gambit, and of course the team lost the next game. So much for fucking. The anti-jinx has to be sacrificial, because you can't preemptively reward yourself for the reward of the team winning. That's like bingeing for weight loss.

I wanted to avoid all that this year — as did, presumably, The Wife — so I decided that the best way of eliminating painful behavior was to establish a comfort precedent, something that wasn't necessarily rewarding but at least put me into a position that wasn't likely to be orthopedically punitive. Going into World Series Game One, I would be leaning back, feet up, some sunflower seeds and iced tea* at hand, laptop in front of me.


* — I know what you're saying: "You goddamn fucking candyass, why are you not drinking beer?" Here's why: jinxes. If you are willing to buy into the sympathetic magic of your actions influencing events, you don't want to be powering down a beer when your team starts lighting up the scoreboard, because pretty soon you're basically shotgunning beers every inning to keep the good mojo. It doesn't matter how good it feels when they win if, in the morning, you can't move because you drank 10 beers in about three hours on the basis of hocus pocus.


If something went right, great. I would have to sit comfortably and be able to fuck around online and sip tea and maybe crack at a clump of sunflower seeds for the rest of the games, just to keep the good times going. If things went wrong, I might have to lie down on the couch or something. Rough going, but I figured I could handle it.

It turned out pretty well, but of course my neurotic fretting about the early innings of the games got the better of me. There's no way to write about bad juju. Because I believe in jinxes, I couldn't write, "Player I Support on Team I Like does Thing That Is Good." I mean, if I singled it out, it would never happen again, because I was crowing about it. Right?

If this train of thought seems completely alien to you, you're not really a sports fan. I don't mean to suggest that all sports fans are so susceptible to the nonsense that I allow to control my own actions — rather that anyone who really loves sports knows how much this makes sense to some people. You may not agree with them, but you know them. They're your friends and peers. They do dumb crap like this, and you feel for them anyway, even if they ostensibly are completely stupid.

I hope this degree of thinking evinces some form of method to its madness, because it instantly explains for me why I didn't liveblog the games. I couldn't. For one thing, both Buck and McCarver were far less than their normally egregious selves, leaving little to take apart. For another, praise or criticism of how the games were played could sway events too direly. Better to distract myself, as I did. With chatlogs. Many many chatlogs.

Below are the standard bullet-point thoughts with some chats I was having, mid-game, added in blockquote format:

World Series Game One

Not paying attention to pregame. Not paying attention to pregame. Not paying attention to pregame. Besides, everything anyone could mock about it has been done.

I am completely fucking psyched that there's going to be a movie about South Africa starring Morgan Freeman and a dude frahhhm faaaacking Maaaaaasachussets. I'm even more psyched for the inevitable and not-at-all-racist right-wing commentary about the movie and how the crime rate in South Africa is currently horrible. Of course, this couldn't be because of anything white people did. It will be because of socialism or something else that makes for a wonderful code-phrase that actually means, "Thee blicks." I wish I could lay my bet in Kruggerands, but in this economy, I'd be lucky to get out of the red and Bick in Blick.

I know I should probably spend time thinking about how this game is already frontloaded with militaristic pomposity and the unsubtle marriage of a sport and a celebration of jingoistic aggression, but fuck that. Let's ignore that this dude has a hook for a hand. Let's instead notice that the American military's anti-gay policy (which is already so farcical that anyone could drop 2,000 words on it without hesitation) routinely doesn't account for well-coiffed young men who sing with a voice made for New York theater. This guy is making the national anthem fabulous. Guess it's for the best he has a hook for a hand so he doesn't get the chance to jerk off two men at once anymore!

So far Cliff Lee has been amazing. I get an email telling me to fire up my chat program. Okay. This happens:
RIG: Are you watching this "basey-ball" thing? It is quite humorous!
ME: Beisbol has been berry berry good to me.
RIG: I was watching "The 12 Sexiest Las Vegas Jobs" but I decided to give this base-ball a chance
ME: Cliff Lee struck out four of the first five batters. He's been really nice to watch.
RIG: I am not here to compliment people.
This really should have been a warning of things to come.

New York and Philadelphia are not that far apart, a rare fact that seems to have delighted some staffers at FOX and led them to try to brand this as "The Amtrak Series" as a way of making it seem as fundamentally interlinked and marketable as the 2000 Mets/Yankees "Subway Series" or the 1989 A's/Giants "Battle of the Bay." To illustrate this, they toss up a moving graphic of the distance, which apparently is just Google Maps retouched a little bit to not immediately seem like Google Maps. But it's not working.
RIG: Are they really doing a Google Maps thing on the series?
ME: hahaha yes
RIG: "Amtrak Series," brought to you by Amtrak! Amtrak: No derailments in 50 Days.
ME: That's because it's government run, though. If we only privatized it, old tracks and under-inspected railcars would go away.
RIG: The government is bad. I have learned this through my extensive watching of TV and listening of radio. Also, some black guy is president??? NOT IN MY AMERICA!!!
That's right: the state of American discourse on 24-hour news is such that you can't even bullshit about a baseball game without immediately thinking, "Arrrghhh! Black guy!" and "SOCIALESM!!!!" The worst thing is that it immediately works. You can apply ahistorical mindless hatred to any topic and sound like you're a cash-cow pundit on the worst channel in the English-speaking world.

Chase Utley hits a home run after a 9-pitch battle with CC Sabathia. It's amazing. I really like Chase Utley and wish I hadn't overdone it in my last Phillies-related blog and run through all the 1980s/1990s banking/investment slogans I could remember.

Joe Buck goes to a great deal of effort to let everyone know that this is the first home run hit by an opponent at the new Yankee Stadium in the postseason this year. The last part is stupidly redundant: this is the first year the stadium has existed, so the "this year" modifier is totally unnecessary. Remember too that there have only been three postseason games played at this stadium before today, and the great significance melts away into probability, a rudimentary understanding based on chance... really, any sort of horse sense that says, "Joe Buck has a stat sheet in front of him and will cite anything from it that seems important because it gives him relief from the tremendous onus of observation put on his horrible brain."

It's a FOX broadcast, so pretty much every aspect of it has been sponsored by somebody. We're only a few years away from the "FOX Ballshot Cam" and the "FOX Spit Chin-Drip of the Game." For now, though, we're stuck with shitty promotional bumper music from instantly disposable bands. Amazingly, did you know that one of the artists in the FOX pregame show would wind up being featured in phone ads regularly shown during commercial breaks?
ME: Yes, Switchfoot, on the Blackberry Storm! Switchfoooooooooot!
RIG: Also, Switchfoot is a gay Christian band.
ME: Yeah, but FOX has some promo deal with them this postseason.
RIG: Figures they'd get in bed with Fox. Fuck Switchfoot, man. Seriously.
ME: This one wasn't as bad. The one they were playing in the ALCS was their song where the lead singer was just singing the melody from "War Pigs" over and over.
RIG: Well that's probably better than the singer singing a Switchfoot melody over and over.
ME: Wow, it's like you'd prefer the shoe to be on the other foot now. To switchfoot, if you will...

Of course it wouldn't be Yankee Stadium in the postseason without a bunch of celebrities sitting in comped seats to give you the impression that they're there every gameday. Currently shown: Alec Baldwin, someone you never see at any other time of the season. Some other celebrity whose name I didn't write down, much like the rest of the celebrity press for several years.

Ahahahaha, and of course, there's Rudy. "America's Fuckstain." He's wearing a cap that has the traditional Yankees' NY in the middle, but he has the PD (Police Department) and FD (Fire Department) stitched on either side.
RIG: Giuliani didn't mention 9/11 in his appearance, how refreshing. [Rudy was on camera but nowhere near a mic.]
ME: ahahaha fucking Giuliani still wearing a PD FD hat
RIG: Baby steps,
RIG: I want to point out that I completed that joke like a champ
ME: I wonder if he has one of those hats for each member of the FDNY killed by his stocking WTC7 with unshielded fuel or by his vetoing funding for a better portable radio system for all firefighters that might have saved lives during 9/11... if that funding hadn't gone to his totally useless WTC7 Emergency Command Center.
RIG: Way to go political. Baseball should be pure.
ME: Now please rise for the 4th Inning Stretch of My Country T'is of Thee—
RIG: —led by Adolph Giuliani. Whoops, I meant Rudolph,
RIG: "MY COUNTRY TIS 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11 9/11"
Reminder that the FDNY's principal union did not endorse Giuliani and was sharply critical of him, but there's Rudy anyway, whoring out the memory of death because, hey, he was there when people died, so he must be awesome or something.

I mean, I recognize that America bailed on Rudy in the primaries in 2008, but how is it not a basic talking point in any situation that Rudolph Giuliani is human fucking garbage? He ran for mayor on a platform of "BLACK PEOPLE HAVE SQUEEGEES AND INCONVENIENCE WHITE PEOPLE IN THEIR CARS." He's race-baiting scum worse than any far-right avatar of whatever they think Al Sharpton is. He advocated and enforced censorship of the arts. He piggybacked on a crime reduction that began two years before he took office, then branded the crime reduction as (partially) his own under the appellation CompStat, then exported his partner-in-riding-a-wave-of-crime-reduction, the clown Bernie Kerik, to Iraq as an avatar of peacekeeping. Kerik failed tremendously and is also a corrupt asshole.

Giuliani is a bandwagoning dicklord on things he couldn't achieve himself. There isn't a single thing he's remembered for that he actually had any control over or accomplished. Levi Johnston probably has more qualifications to run for the American presidency based on the fact that he actually did the things we claim he did. That's only Bristol Palin, but that's a fuckload better than "save NY from black people and terrorism and also I wear hats."

I'm trying really hard not to focus on the game. So much so that this happens:
RIG: That much alcohol will do that after a few generations
RIG: Look at the Kennedys.
ME: No!
RIG: JFK Jr was the best of the lot and he died because his small paws couldn't work the control stick.
ME: Just pitched into the ocean with both hands in his mouth, typewriter-gnawing like he was eating a mini corncob.
RIG: Nose twitching back and forth... He was so cute when he saluted his father's casket and then jumped up to start nibbling on his digits
ME: hahaha remember when he stole the casket and tried to dam up a nearby creek with it...
RIG: hahaha And then Uncle Teddy drove his car into it! What a card.
I can't and don't understand it either.

Chase Utley hits his second home run of the game. I really love Chase Utley right now and start thinking of 1990s BASF ads again:
RIG: hahahahahahaha
RIG: "At Chase Utley, we make sure that the ball we hit is the ball that matters: yours."
As soon as Utley crosses home plate, McCarver launches into an embarrassing monologue about how Chase Utley is a "gamer." He would never have made this monologue without Utley's hitting two home runs, so the emptiness of his sudden praise is all the more evident. This is spontaneity; it's baseball ad-lib, free as it always is from definition or quantifiable meaning. Chase Utley is a gamer because he plays the game. He also plays the game right. He might be gutty about it, getting into his gut to hit a home run. Or he might be gritty, willing to dive for a ground ball and make a play. Make it right. He's all these things right now, in the McCarververse: gutty, gritty and gamery. Why? Because he hit two home runs.

If Chase Utley had hit two line drives that scored nobody, he wouldn't even register within the baseball commentariat or within McCarver's tiny frame of what baseball means. It takes literally one serendipitous stroke of the bat and 90 seconds of McCarver-brain-on-walkabout to instantly delegitimize anything anyone would say about the worth of "baseball wisdom" or baseball color commentary. It's reductive. It's stupid. It's reactively vapid bloviating. It is exactly what is wrong with American sport and observation of anything.

Tim McCarver takes less than two minutes to indict critical thinking in this country, and I despair that maybe only 10% of the audience noticed. But, hey, dingers.

September 11th is home-team utility: the New York Yankees popularized the singing of "God Bless America" during the 7th Inning Stretch, using the traditional longer break between the top half and bottom half of the innings and the singing of "Take Me out to the Ballgame" to tack on the endlessly boring melismatic vocal stretches of warp-headed Ronan Tynan. Plenty of baseball fans who loathe the Yankees have suggested that Tynan's interminable quasi-operatic melisma helped to keep a "hot" opposing pitcher in the dugout and feeling the muscles in his arm start to crank, complain and contract.

I don't really think this was a programmatical decision, but at the same time I can't dismiss the chance that it was intentional. The Yankees are run by crazed people. Last year, it was illegal to leave your seat during Tynan's aria. The paths from the seats up to the bathrooms were literally CORDONED OFF. You had to sit and APPRECIATE Ronan Tynan and AMERICA. I wish I were making this up. People were only allowed to go to the bathroom after the Steinbrenners were sued for preventing people from going to PEE when some ugly fuck yelped an unnecessary song about YEAH—AMERICA—GOD LOVES US MORE.

Stop and think about this for a moment: an ownership group had to be sued to allow people to pee and to refrain from corralling them such as to oblige them to pay obeisance to a random guy singing about how a supernatural being had made America really awesome instead of all those other sucky countries. That actually fucking happened.

Speaking of the Yankees' idea of the 7th Inning Stretch, there's an announcement that a woman from the (surprise!) American military named Mary Kay Messenger will be singing "God Bless America." I decide to do some dishes and come back later, and this exchange happens:
ME: OK, I'm walking away from the TV before I hear another Sloth-headed Jew-hater like Tynan sing "God Bless America" for 17 minutes
RIG: Fuck God Bless America
RIG: It's a shitty fucking song
RIG: Also; kinda want to fuck Mary Kay Messenger.
RIG: Gonna slow down on the drinking
ME: I fuck the Messenger
ME: And I ride and I ride
ME: Plow through the labia wide
ME: I leave her hot and quiver-thighed
ME: Fucked'r till her cervix died
RIG: Nice song
ME: I labored over it
Pretty much all my IM comments are designed to riff off Iggy Pop, and Rig is a fucking jerkoff. I was also feeding my dog when I thought of that. But do other people care that my dog starves? No, they don't. Only I have the courage and commitment to make sure dogs like my dog and the American taxpayer stay alive but also have healthcare up until it's more convenient that they be put to sleep so they shut the fuck up after they start howling or crying with pain when I could be watching SportsCenter. I'm sorry. I seem to have wandered into John Boehner's fever dream.

Chase Utley gets called out on a bullshit pitch off the plate.
ME: Chase Utley's gentle eyes well with burning tears of resentment at his treatment.
RIG: "At Chase Utley, we know how it feels to be mistreated, and we'll make sure that you aren't."
ME: Joe Girardi has to make his way to the mound because the Damaso Marte doesn't have self-checkout.
RIG: Should have signed Chad Kroeger.
ME: lmao
RIG: God I hope hes a pitcher...
ME: Apparently he's the lead guitarist of Nickleback
ME: Somehow this makes it better
RIG: ahahaahahahhahahaa oh yeah that guy, his hair is magnificent
ME: That picture's asking you: you wanna kick The hack? Or fling The Bee? 'cause he can go either way.
RIG: It's asking: "Do you like Canadian Cock Rock?"
This is really the end of the evening's making any sense.

I'm starting to lose control of any idea. The game is too close. I'm talking to a drunk, a Phillies fan and also a Yankees fan. I don't want to be in this bind. Everyone is angry about everything, except for the drunks. I wish I were drunk.

My first inclination is that Yankees relief pitcher David Robertson looks so diminutive and spooked on the mound that he reminds me of a small general who failed at something during the 19th century. Only later does it occur to me that he's basically a cowardly and bonsai version of Harry Truman. Stunt him, stunt Truman somehow. And castrate him. There you go. That's Robertson.

Cliff Lee owns. He nonchalantly basket-caught a pop-up, suavely tagged out Jorge Posada on his booty, and snatched a ball hit behind him, then flipped it to first. Cliff Lee should challenge male Phillies fans' sexuality. This was a tight, good game.

Game over.

I'm staying happily laid out on my couch. This is the way to manage superstition: recumbently.