Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Grudging Admissions of Inferiority


Last night in bed, I was already thinking of what I'd write in this blog. That happens from time to time, as you might guess. Otherwise, there would be mornings where I woke up and stared at the computer screen, begging the glowing screen or the pine tree out the window or the hum of the refrigerator for inspiration.

I couldn't sleep for a little while. Earlier, with my girlfriend asleep on the couch behind me, I felt the anger building up. It's the kind of feeling that needs an outlet, otherwise it gets pent up and sours you from the inside. But I couldn't scream or do anything noisy, because I'd wake her up. So I took her scorebook (she made it through about the fifth inning) and threw it against the wall. Writing this now, I have no idea why I thought that wouldn't be very loud. But I did. And I was wrong. "What happened?" she asked, sitting up straight. "Nothing."

My plan was to complain. I've always had a strong instinct for complaining, and after 27 years I'm really, really good at it. Barring injury or an unexpected outburst of positivity (and really, how likely is that? I already have a good life, and I'm still a whiner), I have a long and illustrious career of complaining ahead of me.

But the problem with all my complaints last night is that they emanated from an inner philosophy that the Yankees should win. As in: we lost, but if this, this, and this were different, we wouldn't have. If certain players were better. If we'd been luckier. If the manager had made this move. If things had gone as they were supposed to go. That's being a fan, especially a fan of a successful team. You never want to admit the other guy is better.


Before I continue, I want to pause for a moment and just say a great, big, gushy 'thank you' to Robinson Cano.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows he's my favorite baseball player. I've loved him since the beginning. I couldn't really tell you why, except that some players speak to you, some players don't, and some players transcend their team and their sport and everything else to become your favorite.

I keep forgetting to mention that Freddy 'Sez' Schuman died this week. He was an old man with a pot and a spoon who was always at Yankee games. He never sat down, just walked around banging the pot and holding up inspirational signs like "Yankee Stadium Gave Birth to Champions!" Before games at the Stadium, they play an audio clip of him saying "Let's Gooooo...Yankees!" His voice is high-pitched in the way that some very old men's voices get when they're excited, and even though you can't see him, you get the sense that he's smiling.

This summer, Freddy got to meet Robbie Cano.

Freddy starts off bragging to Cano that one of his spoons is in Cooperstown, and Robbie says "you're more famous than me! You know how many years I need to get into Cooperstown? 2,000 more hits. You're there already."

Freddy tells Robbie that he's one of his heroes. Then, out of nowhere, he goes into a rap about the Yankees. The whole time, there's not even one hint of Robbie laughing at him. Which would be a pretty easy thing to do. But the way he behaves just affirms everything I like about the guy, from his humility to his niceness to his empathy for other people, and on a morning like this when I'm dead tired and it seems like it's darker out earlier and I just remembered that fuck, we haven't even turned the clocks back yet, it almost makes me want to cry.

But that's not what I wanted to say. I wanted to talk about how he's playing. Robinson Cano is the single bright spot for the Yankees in the playoffs, and it's a marked growth from last season's struggles. He's destroying any pitcher the Twins or Rangers throw at him, and the pressure is spurring him to greater heights. He's already one of the best hitters in the game. Now he's putting it all together. Robinson Cano is becoming the complete package before our eyes, and I always knew it would happen.

Watching him brings me joy, and I don't care how corny that sounds, motherfucker. It's a gift, and I will acknowledge it. Even in the midst of this utter disaster of a series, I still perk up for his at-bats. Guys like Robbie Cano are why I continue to watch the Texas Rangers maul the Yankees. Boiling it down even further, he's the reason I watch sports.


But as I was saying before, it's hard to admit when you're beat. You flail around for excuses. You justify and rationalize and construct mental scenarios where specific things that very much happened- a sequence of events most definitely transpired, my friend, past the point of equivocation, and that sequence is now etched permanently in the unchangeable past- did not, thus producing entirely different, and more favorable, outcomes. Why? Because they should not have happened. Not in whatever mystical fucking land you occupy as a fan, where your team never loses in a fair world, where every loss is the equivalent of some undeserving rube picking up the 5 of clubs on the river for a goddamn straight flush when you're holding four aces.

Here's what I'm getting at: as the title indicates, this is a grudging admission of inferiority.

Sometimes the black cap must be tipped. Even if that black cap is emblazoned in white with the glorious interlocking N-Y, a timeless symbol of greatness that fucking echoes, yes it does, deep into the heart of even remote bumblefuck outposts like Arlington, Texas, where now they have baseball that is unfortunately very, very good.

Texas, you are better. You are better at pitching, hitting, and fielding. You are better at winning, too. You are better at that which is required.


I'm still going to complain. You don't spend years building up a wheelhouse just to ignore it.

Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira: you disappoint me. I can imagine you responding to this sentiment with a response like "go fuck yourself." That's probably how I'd respond. But I'll say it again, for emphasis: you disappoint me. This is two years in a row where the playoffs come around and you disappear. You've cost us so much.

A-Rod, was last season a mirage? Is the pressure eating you up again? What, exactly, did Kate Hudson do before each game to make you successful in 2009? Was it something that can be taught, you know, to other people's girlfriends? Are we off track a little bit here? Hey, I'm just asking.

Everyone else except Jeter and Cano: what's the deal, guys? You tanked all September, came back for a lucky series against a bad team, and started tanking again. Is it just bad timing? Has the wheel of skill and luck and whatever spun us into the down cycle? Why are we hitting .198? Why is the ERA of our starting pitchers above 8? What happened to the bullpen, even? Why can't we hit with runners on base?


I guess I had less in the tank for the complaining routine than I thought.

Someone early this morning commented on yesterday's post, and they did so from Ireland. I just want to say on this increasingly emotional morning that I'm grateful that I have readers at all. It makes me feel connected to the world, like I'm literally reaching out through this window and past the pine tree and somewhere out there beyond where I can see, other hands are touching mine.

We're going into uncharted territory here. Look, I'm not comfortable either.


What is it about writing off your team's chances that makes you feel so oddly powerful?

Last night, when it became 7-3, I said "this series is over." It made me miserable, of course. But there was also a weird strength. Like by giving up on the Yankees, I was declaring my sovereignty from them. You've failed me, I said. You've failed me and I'm leaving. I don't have to drown with you. But I can declare your death, and it will be momentous and important.

Some people say things like that very early. I used to. "It's over," I'd say after a 1-run single in the first inning. I had a brief relapse Tuesday night after Josh Hamilton's two-run home run in the first. But that had more to do with Cliff Lee than any kind of beaten-down pessimism, and in any case I turned out to be right.

Do I think this series is over? Yes. Am I taking the usual sort of backward pleasure from declaring it so? No. It's sad for the season to end. It's sad to go out like this. But the right thing to do is to go out believing. Not blindly. Blind faith doesn't make a good fan. But with the idea that anything is possible. In October 2004, people in Boston sat around their homes wondering what the hell it would take to beat the Yankees ever, since it wasn't going to happen for them that fall. They thought of Aaron Boone and Bill Buckner and Bucky Dent. They thought of winter. They stared into the future at a lifetime of failure. People they knew would die without seeing a Red Sox championship. Maybe they would die too. 3-0. The insurmountable lead.

Then, a few days later, against St. Louis...


Today, my brother Thomas celebrates his 18th birthday. I mean, talk about blowing your mind.

My parents were divorced when I was young, so if we're being technical all my siblings are actually half-siblings. We lived apart except on weekends. When I turned 16 and got my car, I would drive the 45 minutes from my mom's house on Fridays to see them.

Thomas would ask my dad what time I left, and he'd be waiting by the window to watch my car roll up the long driveway. By the time I turned off the ignition and stepped out, the front door would open, and he'd come running.

I'd wait at the car. You want to draw these things out, believe me. His face looked like I imagine stars look when they burst. He'd be yelling my name. He was, what? Seven years old. My younger brother Keegan would be chugging along behind him, trying not to stumble.

Let me tell you: it is literally impossible to feel any better than I felt at that exact moment. Happy Birthday.

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