Dreadlock Rock Star, Part 1

In August, I went to Citizens Bank Park here in beautiful Philadelphia to see my Dodgers take on the Phillies.  This was the only time both teams would play each other in Philadelphia and also the first time Manny Ramirez had visited Philly via Interleague play since his days with the Red Sox, who would routinely cut bacon off the backs of the Phillies.  Those game were completely one-sided and cruel, and Manny did his thing to Phillies pitching.  However, none of those games ultimately mattered; they never met in the playoffs, it didn’t affect the playoff standings, and Manny wasn’t a former Met or Yankee we could dutifully hate.

And yet…

Everytime Manny stepped in the box on that day in Philadelphia, he was greeted with booes.  These weren’t normally Philly booes like when a Dallas Cowboy gets partially paralyzed–these were Special Reserve Booes.  These were Vintage Wine Booes, Hellfire Booes, The Last Scene of “Soprano’s” Booes,  the kind that would put a chill up the spine of Dick Cheney.  They were atypical because they had no history, no lingering beef behind them, no storm clouds just lightning.  It got me to wondering…

A few weeks later, I read this Neitzche-like blog post from Joe Posnanski on the nature of super athletes fans hate:  A-Rod, Barry Bonds, Kent Hrbek, you know the usual suspects.  If you read FireJoeMorgan.com or have been unfortunate enough to hear Rick Sutcliffe broadcast a game, you should be aware of writers and journalists who overglorify the short, “scrappy,” hard nosed white guys who mostly suck at the game of baseball but always “get their uniform dirty” and “leave it all out on the field” and “play the game the right way.”  Newsflash: Babe Ruth’s pinstripes were cleaner than Howard Hughes’ asshole.  Hank Aaron was too busy smacking homeruns and inspiring Stanley Kirk Burrell to take out the second baseman on a double play.  Mike Schmidt was getting leftover John Oates ’70s poon–he wasn’t diving for a rocket down the third base line. 

Curly but deadly…

Because naturally superior athletes can walk onto a field/court/rink and dominate while looking rather sheepish, we the chubby, Dodge Neon driving public cannot relate to them.  The money they make, the sponsorships they acquire, the models they convert into jump-offs–it is their destiny.  And we are haters.  Neitzsche would claim that this feeling of predetermined inferiority, which goes back thousands of years, has been a constant in humankind.  The biggest, the smartest, the best looking, the most resourceful would have all the chips and the rest of us would abide by their rule.  Until one us got wise and created…religion.  If there is an all-seeing, all-powerful invisible man in the sky who keeps track of all your mishaps, who can rain locusts and frogs from the sky, who can flood the earth for 40 days and 40 nights, well…the fact a guy can throw a rock 934 meters isn’t so impressive.

Today, even the super athlete is religous.  He has been defeated.  But he can still perform marvelous feats.  In the eyes of the universe, A-Rod is a Green Giant frozen pea.  In the world of sports, he’s one of the greatest people breathing.  And we hate that because superior athletes can still roam free and garner fame and fortune in their field.  That is why Craig Counsell, David Eckstein, Mike Gallego, Dickie Thon, Trot Nixon, aka “The Gamers” exist–to give us a chance, to show supreme baseball beings that you can make it if you work hard, if you take the extra base, if you play in the minors for 10 years and catch a break when a 22 year old phenom gets testicle cancer.

he makes it look so ugly.

The common trait among the “Gamers” is that they are all white.  For some reason, Blacks and Hispanic baseball players are not described as “scrappy/old/school/gutsy.”  They are “flashy/fast/athletic.”  Ryan Howard, the premiere power hitter in baseball, didn’t break into the majors until he was 25.  He is black.  He is not “scrappy.”  He is gifted.  In his first four years, he won Rookie of the Year, the Home Run Hitting Contest, the NL MVP, and might even win it this year.  He is in his prime right now.  And he is looked at as “greedy” because the Phillies, the stingiest big market team in the history of sports, want to nickel and dime a guy they brought up 4 years late.  Ryan Howard is elite and should be paid as such.  It’s the nature of the business; a guy who wacks 45-50 home runs a year in baseball is a valued commidity and will be overpaid by SOMEBODY.

If fan favorite Chase Utley asked for similar big money for similar stats and didn’t get it, the Phillies would be crucified by the fans.  Chase Utley is just as dominant a player as Howard, just as naturally skilled and athletic, just as powerful and deliberately awesome.  But he gets his uniform dirty.  He takes out second baseman on a double play.  He LOOKS like he’s playing his ass off.  Really, he’s a master magician.  He can potentially make the Hall of Fame without ever needing Tide Color Guard on his uniform pants.  But because he slides and dives and digs in at the plate, he is bulletproof from the fans and the media.  He appears to be giving it his all and that appeals to our inferiority complex.  Make no mistake–Chase Utley as a 7th grader was a better hitter than I was at 18 years old, an organized baseball vet of 13 years.

Little league safety precaution or Rollerball for the suburbs?  Either way, he’s asking for it.

This bring us back to Manny Ramirez.  Yesterday I read the shockingly thorough and comprehensive piece Bill Simmons wrote at ESPN.com about his seven year history with Manny and why his recent shift in attitude, and more importantly the attitude shift by fans and the media, was so troublesome.  The Boston Red Sox laid down a very Republican scheme to get Manny, a first ballot HOFer and one of the consistently productive hitters to ever pick up a bat, out of Beantown.  I clearly can’t defend some of his actions with led to his trade to the Dodgers, but the feeling I got from Red Sox fans via Bill Simmons is that Manny was loved because he wasn’t a “Gamer.”  He was a Super Man, a clutch monster, a lovable doofus who could go down as the best pure hitter of this generation.  You don’t give a guy $100 million dollars to bunt over the go ahead run and fly down the first base line.  Manny Ramirez is not and never will be Chase Utley, the anamoly, the big money stud who plays like he’s a September call-up.

So why is Manny Ramirez being booed every time he sets foot in National League ball parks as he was earlier this week in Wrigly Field?  Stay tuned for Part 2 next week…

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6 thoughts on “Dreadlock Rock Star, Part 1

  1. i can’t wait for part two! this was absolutely the best piece of sports criticism that i’ve read in YEARS. i’ve always thought about the way the press treats the “hard-working” white players versus the black and hispanic ones (and yeah, some of the white ones, too) who are effortless stat-sheet monsters. i think it’s a subtle treatment of people needing one of “their own” to get behind.

    i don’t want to seem like i’m hating, though: seeing someone pop a 6-3-4 is just as exciting– and sometimes, even moreso– than watching someone slug a three-run homer.

    it’s just that players with “heart” are easier to rally behind than naturally gifted athletes, which is still pretty unfair.

  2. Lovely story. Seriously tho, I like the way you worded it and put things together. Especially the part about the rare philly fan boos. That was classic. However, the beginning of this left me pondering the following thought: You went to see “your” team take on the Phils in your own city….I MUST KNOW, were you decked out in Dodgers gear? I’m gonna have to go ahead and say “I doubt it”. I’m dying to know.

  3. Ummm…….Mike Schmidt was the best defensive third basemen ever……bar none……his uniform was routinely dirty from making stab after stab on the hot corner; in fact, for years, him and Carlton were the only reasons to endure an evening at the Vet….I dig your post, but I had to add that.

  4. rowdee:

    I was too young to watch Schmidt play but from what I’ve heard, he rarely got dirty playing the field because his range was so good he didnt need to dive. Much respect for the correction though.

    Money Bags:

    I went to the game in my Dodgers hat along with my dad in his Dodgers hat. We happened to sit in the row across from Manny Ramirez’s dad and cousins. Dodgers got smoked that day and we took shit from Phillies fans when we left as expected

  5. What up, Zilla? I just concluded my blog series entitled “The Official Handbook To The Bloggerverse” where I did a counterpart/equivalent blog comparing blogs themselves or bloggers to characters in the Marvel Universe. In the end I included almost 90 blogs including some of your favorites (and yours!) in 4 parts. Check it out here:

    http://poisonousparagraphs.blogspot.com/2008/09/dart-adams-presents-livications.html
    http://poisonousparagraphs.blogspot.com/2008/09/dart-adams-presents-official-marvel.html
    http://poisonousparagraphs.blogspot.com/2008/10/dart-adams-presents-official-marvel.html
    http://poisonousparagraphs.blogspot.com/2008/10/dart-adams-presents-official-marvel_02.html

    One.

  6. first of all, love that you give props to Eck. He’s a work horse and totally deserves it.

    Secondly, you’re absolutely right. Look at how great the NFL got this year after losing Tom Brady. Everyone thought he was the be all and end all, and instead discovered that there are 20 other teams in the league besides the cheating Pats.

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