The Power of My Proven System, Vol. 36

05/09/2007 12:00 AM |

I had to more or less check out of my sports watching routine this past couple weeks, owing to an urgent need to "take care of a few things." The process was onerous and the details of these tasks are fairly traumatizing — too traumatizing to relay in any detailed way here in this cheerful venue. I did my best to handle it all, but truth be told mistakes were made and this time ‘the Barr ate me.’

The lesson I’ve taken away from this past couple week is that no matter how bad things get at work, home or within your family, it is imperative to never stop watching sports. Vigilance is the eternal province of fandom. The need to carefully oversee and manage all events as they unfold it is the greatest and most solemn duty any of us can adhere to. There is real life yes, but then there is SPORTS, and sometimes in the midst of dealing with a tax fraud trial or divorce, we lose sight of what is really important (the antics of highly paid athletes).

Man, what a wake up call I received! I just had no concept of how bad things would get and how quickly. During my brief respite all the major figures of serious menace in the constellation of modern sports slithered from the woodwork like groping pestilence. It is apparent now that all of my least favorite athletes have been conspiring, plotting, waiting for me to demonstrate a moment of vulnerability and weakness, and then spring into action. How does one properly refer to this amalgam of bad actors? A cabal? A cell? Or shall we simply cut to the chase and refer to them as the Mad Horsemen of my personal sports apocalypse? In any case, consider if you will the chilling developments of the past two weeks:

Favre Throws A Tantrum

Why do people love this man?! A nonpareil prima donna and numbers-hanger who cannot stand being out of the spotlight for an entire offseason, he has been unable to interest anyone in his normal infuriating game of "Will I or Won’t I retire?!" this year, and so has taken to sulking about the failure of the Packers to trade for Randy Moss? This strikes me as an important moment of reconciliation in the narrative arc of Favre’s unaccountably lauded career. A singular iteration of "me first" selfishness, a reckless player who is also prone to essentially giving up in the middle of games by dint of throwing balls up for grab — it is only natural that he would identify with Randy Moss. Why exactly would the Packers, building for the future with a young nucleus, want to bring in the NFL’s worst lollygagging malcontent in order to derange the team as he did for two years in Oakland? As a team captain on his last stop Moss helped turn the Raiders into perhaps the worst NFL offense I have ever seen. It’s one thing for a veteran contending team with a welter of stars to take a flyer on a player like Moss, and quite another for middling group of ostensible up-and-comers like Green Bay to throw another character like this in the mix.

So for this bit of entirely sensible inaction on behalf of the front office, "Mr. Packer" Brett Favre decides that he wants to be traded? I’m so tired of his act. I can’t abide Favre. I wouldn’t trade a Billy Joel outtake for him. And certainly he should never have been allowed to run riot while I carelessly look into "serious health concerns."

Clemens Performs Mussolini Imitation At Yankee Stadium 

I recognized, and I think that most of us reasonably assumed, that sooner or later the Yankees were going to offer up something on the order of $8,888 a pitch to Clemens in order to try to bail them out of another embarrassment of a failed season. And Clemens, the most mercenary athlete I have ever seen in my lifetime (a not insignificant achievement), was always going to take the Steinbrenner/Cashman money and throw his customary four months of 2.50 ERA ball, when he felt like he wanted to stop pretending that he might retire. (What is WITH these guys?! How hard is out to just say: "I will be playing until an EMT unit carries me off the field and brings me to an assisted living facility"?)

But what I did NOT see coming was this Leni Riefenstahl, cult of personality gig, with the Rocket standing up in the owner’s box at Yankee stadium and announcing his return with all the mild, self-effacing grace of Napoleon back from Elba.  

Clemens’s greatness is beyond argument. He would certainly have a privileged place on any staff collected from the greatest pitchers in Major League history. That said, I have always found him to possess a somewhat less a compelling personality than full blossom poison oak. How it is that he can be received by baseball fans with Papal fanfare while Barry Bonds is verging on persona non grata seems highly inequitable to me. That Clemens has not been painted with the same thick brush of steroid suspicion that has long dogged Bonds feels to me at best like a willful suspension of disbelief and at worst a significant miscarriage of justice. I have no idea if Clemens has used steroids or other performance-enhancing substances to prolong his career, but I will say that his career seems to mirror Bonds’s in more ways than seems appropriate to dismiss. Both men essentially started their careers at the level of a legendary performers and then continued to get better into their 40s, with a mild dip someplace in the middle. Bonds is essentially reviled in the court of public opinion and the commissioner won’t even come watch him break Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record. His steroid use is exhaustively and inarguably documented in endless reportage, whereas any suggestions of use by Clemens is far less well established: He was implicated, in interviews with investigators, by former teammate Jason Grimsley as a player who used performance-enhancing substances, but this news was essentially shrugged off by the public and media alike. Who knows what would have come to light had Clemens been subjected to the sort of endless digging into the facts that has characterized Bonds’s experience with the media? Bonds is often said to be his own worst enemy in terms of the manner in which his vaulting arrogance prejudices fans and the media against him, and I suppose that’s true, but then what sort of magnetism and gregariousness is there in Clemens that the same people can forgive him absolutely anything? Is it the endless faux retirements, the zillion dollar offseason beauty contests, the head-hunting, bat-throwing, hackneyed,  ‘aw shucks, I’m so great’ Texas-intimidator routine that has permanently inured him from scrutiny? I don’t get it.

And let me repeat, as I have said in this space before, lest anyone think I’m backsliding: Not only do I not CARE if these men used steroids or HGH, I HOPE they used steroids and HGH. Whatever gets you through the night. I am so tired of this alleged "controversy" that I just want to drowse into a thirty year Rip Van Winkle sleep and wake up in the future, when everyone is admittedly on this stuff and ballooned out to the size of a PT Cruiser. In the meantime this steroid talk is just the kind of boring stuff that is going to take my mind off the sports world, and send it reeling into the realm of something I can actually impact, which must be avoided at all costs.

Real world problems are difficult to solve: so difficult in fact that I can see next to no point in trying. Sports world problems are also difficult to solve, but much more appropriate to spend time on, given the imminent demise of all human existence. As a matter of principal, with the water levels rising and the great flood approaching, I see no further reason to tackle any of my actual interpersonal difficulties "head on." Friends, family, health, personal and spiritual matters all have their place, but let us never forget what truly matters when it’s all said and done: the NFL salary cap.