Friday, August 20, 2004

Banned in Boston

With no game to discuss, and not wanting to face the music regarding how Williamson's injury really weakens the Sox bullpen, well, let's get all pedantic with trivial stuff surrounding Red Sox Nation.

DirtDogs is reporting,

The Boston Red Sox have finally come to their senses and recently formally instituted a new policy that bans all t-shirts that feature the 1990's paranoid inferiority complex phrase "Yankees Suck" (which does more to promote the team from New York and does nothing to support Boston) and/or related anti-Yankees slogans from Fenway Park. Ticket holders wearing the embarassing shirts are now asked to turn the low-rent vulgar t's inside out or change them before entering the gates at Fenway.

I've never gone for that sort of thing myself, but more out of general distaste for slogans or being pegged/slotted as being a certain Red Sox fan type, than a particular disdain for the YS slogan. However, I've never particularly bought into the argument that the slogan is bad because, as the conventional wisdom goes, "the Yankees have won so much that they don't, in fact, 'suck.'"

Why? Well, because in my use of the word in general, it doesn't mean so much someone or thing who doesn't win but rather, someone or thing that I just don't like.

Indeed, offers the slang meaning as, "To be disgustingly disagreeable or offensive." In that light, then, the slogan works, no? I know I find much about the Yankees to be disgustingly disagreeable or offensive.

So back to Lucchino's ban, is it the word itself that is objectionable or is it the sentiment implied? That is, is it OK to wear a shirt that says "Devil Rays Suck"? What about "Sox Sux"?

Would it be OK to use Lucchino's own description of the Yankees as the "Evil Empire" in a shirt saying something like, "Death to the Evil Empire." My point here being that, personally, I find the notion of "death" and the implied killing therein to be more offensive and "vulgar" than the word "sucks" and all its various slang meanings.

That's the problem with these sorts of bans. Who is the arbiter? Who determines what is offensive?

What about shirts that have no words at all. How about a shirt showing a caricature of George Steinbrenner defecating on the caricatured head of Theo Epstein? What about a shirt that shows Giambi biting the heads off babies? What about a shirt bearing the Confederate Battle Flag? What about a shirt showing Tom Yawkey in a Ku Klux Klan hood?

Are these offensive or not? Surely some segment of the fan base would find one or all of my above facetious examples offensive.

BDD quotes someone from WEEI (a call in?) who says," It [Yankees Suck stuff] makes us look, as a community, like idiots." True, but I'm not sure you can ban people from looking like idiots or making the community they represent look like idiots as well. For instance, I think the whole "Bush is Hitler" argument coming from the fringe left to be pretty idiotic as well as offensive (I'd find "Kerry is VietNam baby killer"shirts equally offensive), but could one wear such a shirt to Fenway? And if yes, that's OK, is the message, then, that baseball, and in particular, the Yankees are on a higher level than the President of the United States? It's OK to diss the prez, but, oh, no, not the Yankees, while attending a game at Fenway?

These are just questions I have. If you can't tell, I have a pretty strong libertarian streak in me. I'm from New Hampshire after all. Live Free or Die. I don't like bans or edicts about what people can wear or how they should look etc in general, but if you are going to issue such bans they have to be stringent and easy to follow in order to be fair, as my facetious examples above point out. If you're going to ban "Yankees Suck" you've got to ban all slogans. Heck, why not require the gentlemen to wear shirts with collars and slacks and the ladies dresses with a hem no higher than 1 inch above the knee?

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Grinding It Out

Another satisfying win with Wakefield returning to form, yet I'm treading ever so lightly here because, well, Theo Epstein says it better than anyone when speaking to Mike Lupica of the NY Post,

We do not have the right as a team to pat ourselves on the back for small victories. There's no time for that. We have put ourselves into the position where we have to out-grind the teams we're fighting for the wild card. And if we do? If we play the kind of baseball I think we're capable of playing from now until October? We still might only win the wild card by a game or two. That's how little margin for error we left ourselves by being the kind of dysfunctional team we were for those three months.

Sounds like Epstein is a student of the Bill Belichick/Bill Parcells school where the curriculum emphasizes the pragmatic and the earnest. Epstein at least concedes, the Red Sox "are a more functional team now."

Since I need not be as poker faced as the Red Sox General Manager, I'll disclose that I'm starting to feel good, quite good, about a team that is "a season-high 15 games above .500 and left them just one game off last year's pace (they are 67-52 after going 68-51 last year)" (Hohler, Globe).

And while the Red Sox have miles to go and 43 games left to prove something to both themselves and the fans back home, including starting on the road with another three against the previously irksome White Sox, it's worth remembering that last year's team was also in a battle for the wild card and did not get hot until September.

Even perennial Red Sox hater Lupica asks when comparing the Red Sox to the Yankees:

[The Red Sox] might not make October. But if they do, if they somehow survive the long haul in the American League, ask yourself a question:

Who's built better this time for the short run?

I think we know the answer. Let's hope with all hope we get a chance to find out.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The Transformation

"… Here comes the winning run. And Damon is in! The Red Sox win 5 to 4. Orlando Cabrera getting it done tonight" (from the NESN broadcast).

Time to turn to Giamatti once again:

… [sport] is a medium for self-transformation. Differently but nevertheless in concert, participant and spectator seek that agon, that competition with self to make the self over, to refashion or refigure or re-form the self into a perfect self, over and over again, in sport (Take Time for Paradise, p. 38)

And so, in one swing of the bat, Orlando Cabrera re-forms himself into the perfect self,

Cabrera's reception in his new hometown has been rough, as he has been getting his share of boos here lately with both his defense and offense falling short of the expectations of many …

Last night, all was forgiven as Cabrera enjoyed his first-ever curtain call in front of a throng of Fenway fanatics.

"Unbelievable,'' Cabrera said after the win … (Silverman, Herald).

It is unbelievable. No matter how many games we watch, how many seasons full of ups and downs and all arounds, the perfection, the freedom in winning the struggle, the agon, Giamatti writes of, is surprising. You forget just how good it feels, as spectator, to be whole again, to be complete, to be perfect.

"I have done it in Montreal, but it's not 35,000 people," said Cabrera, who knocked in Johnny Damon from first. "[The fans] deserve it. They come here every night just to support the team" (Carig, Globe).

We both, participant and spectator/fan, deserve it. It's why you play the game, It's why we watch the game. Thank you, Orlando Cabrera. Thank you, Johnny Damon.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Nobody Expects …

Oh, no, here we go again. Another Red Sox shortstop going to radio silence?

After the game, Cabrera was in no mood to talk about his struggles. Speaking calmly, he told reporters waiting for him at his locker that he didn't wish to speak. He dressed quickly and left the ballpark.

Not tonight,'' he said as he left. "You can write whatever you want about me" (Buckley, Herald).

Saying something like to that to a reporter like Buckley (or the CHB) is like telling the Spanish Inquisition, "Oh, yeah, I'm Protestant, by the way, just go ahead and put me on the rack."1

As it goes, Buckley chose to take it easy on the struggling shortstop, choosing to highlight the difficulties of adjusting to the "passion" of Red Sox fans as well as the things Cabrera is doing well:

Counting his 3-for-5 performance in the Sox' 5-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox [stats, schedule] on Sunday, Cabrera has four hits in his last eight at-bats after collecting just three hits in his previous 24 plate appearances.

I can't imagine how difficult it must be to go from most any other than the Yankees and adjusting to the life in the Fenway fishbowl — But coming from the Montreal Expos to the Boston Red Sox? As Jessica Simpson would say, "Ohmigaw!"

Cabrera will come around. (But take my optimism with a grain of salt, as I hung on for months thinking Tony Clark would bust out of his 2002 slump but he never did. Well, he does seem to be doing OK now that he's with the Yankees. Go figure.)

It was a pleasing win, though, wasn't it?

It was a Red Sox team moment when a Gold Glove first baseman, Doug Mientkiewicz, was willing to play out of position at second base. A team moment when a pitcher, Derek Lowe, took it upon himself to hit the Blue Jays slugger, Carlos Delgado, who had cleanly but forcefully leveled Mientkiewicz on the basepaths in the second inning (Cafardo, Globe).

I'll take more of those "team moments," please.

1To be fair, new scholarship suggests the Spanish Inquisition was not nearly as horrific as we've been told.

Monday, August 16, 2004

A Blustery and Gloomy Weekend

This is disheartening:

The Red Sox fell to 8-17 in one-run games, including single-run decisions in six of the last seven defeats (Horrigan, Herald).

And no cheer can be found here:

Cabrera, the player brought in to fill the shoes of Nomar Garciaparra at shortstop for the stretch run, isn't hitting .340 in a Red Sox uniform. In fact, he came into yesterday's game at .167 and that average dipped when he grounded out on a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded to end the first inning.…

[And in] the ninth, with Takatsu and his wide assortment of offspeed pitches on the mound. Cabrera came up with runners on first and third, two out… The reliever's second straight slider to Cabrera didn't break as much as the first one and struck the bat, by accident. Game over (Shalin, Herald).

The one-run game issue is the bigger problem, no? Cabrera will break out of his slump. But when he does, will he only be replaced by another player going into a slump leading to more stranded runners and more losses by a single run? Or worse, more guys ending up on the DL. Those the heffalumps and woozles spooking my postseason dreams.

But as the sagacious Winnie-the-Pooh advises us,

"Don't underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering."

Take 2 of 3 from Toronto then go to Chicago and counteract losing this Fenway series by taking 2 of 3 in Commisky and our honey pots will be full again.

Meanwhile, though, I don't think anyone would fault us for feeling a bit more like Eeyore than Pooh today.

"You can give a donkey a happy ending … but the miserable beginning remains forever."