One of the many things I missed while I was out.
Cue the milquetoast opener:
Well gosh darnit, fans of the Deeg, I know you've been eagerly awaiting content from the Kings of Fresh Takes and like the degenerates we are, we've opted to tend to our real world lives instead of bloviating about the latest in bread and circus sports entertainment. Why the lull? Well, personally, my answer to that question has three parts: (1) it's July and I've been getting viciously hamzoed more often than I should admit (hooray anonymous internet monikers!!); (2) I've been traveling a lot over the past 10 days, aforementionedly (not a word?) drunk for 70% of it (not true... not not true either), and I've simply been too drunk and/or hungover and/or distracted to sit down for a little chat; and (3) the only bright spots in my sports world are a surging team in a still ignored league (for now) and an utterly unproven team in the best league in America (for now). Forgive me if I don't jump for joy at the prospect of dwelling on shit that makes me contemplate a swift union between my fist and Fred Wilpon's balls.
But more on those Mets in a few. I can't lead of this trainwreck with that much heartache.
Can't you tell this is going to be FUN??? I'm bored and drunk on a train and you all get the fruits of my labor!
Wait... we need music.
Jason Bay. It's up to you to decide whether I mean the dog, the poop or the scooper.
I've started writing this as the Mets finish the death rattle of Game 6 of the 2012 season. Their hot 4-0 start has cooled off considerably - first with the predictable result on a cold Tuesday night with bench players, and then with Wednesday afternoon's impotent bats that failed to give Johan Santana any sort of support. These more recent games, reminding fans of the stark reality of Mets baseball, are refreshing if only because they force me to get my head out of the clouds and actually think reasonably about what, if anything, the beginning of this season means. Or, more to the point, about whether I can actually expect to be looking about an above .500 record in a month, much less a week.
I cannot. Chances are they'll be 4-5 by Sunday and won't look back. Accepting this inevitable course towards oblivion is strangely comforting.
Even so, baseball is back and refusing to be all that emotionally invested in wins and losses - a particularly smart choice through roughly 1/27th of a season - helps me simply be excited that summer is around the corner and I get to watch a completely hopeless baseball franchise for bottom basement prices a mere 20 minutes from my apartment. What could be better?!?
/slams face in empty seat at Citi Field to keep awake during sleepy on-field effort
Pestilence, thy name is Fred: spreading sickness to the sports masses through ill-advised decisions and apathy for those fans left sick and dying in his wake.
I get paid to think everyday. Which isn't to say that my thoughts are generally profound, or that this is necessarily different than peers in other professions, but only to say that my job generally keeps the wheels turning quickly in my grey matter throughout the day, and it's often pretty difficult to switch it off. More recently, as I've settled down into my career and have managed to avoid too many anxiety-ridden nights fretting over deadlines that are coming or have passed, I've found myself with the opportunity to reflect back on books and movies that I was forced to watch as a kid or student, but which I either (a) did not actually read because I was the least-motivated ball of potential my teachers had ever seen (seriously, a teacher called me that once), or (b) did read, but didn't understand. Sometimes I'm giving it a second read or viewing - like I did with Crime and Punishment last year. (Sidebar: How anyone expects high school kids to truly understand that fucking book is beyond me, but my adult self thought it was boss. I know City Honors thinks its the shit or something
, but they might have been reaching with that particular curriculum choice.) Or when I watched Fraggle Rock
just the other day. (Second Sidebar: seriously, that show is a scathing critique of American society as it harkens back to Platonic ideas regarding social homogeneity and the benefit of stepping out of the cave - literally. That was definitely lost on me when I watched as a kid, as my only thought would have been - "Oooh, COLORS.") However, sometimes, like the last couple days, my reflection is prompted not by the decision to re-immerse myself in a book or movie, but by real-world events that somehow spark a memory of some lesson urged on me by a teacher; a lesson I guarantee I didn't fully appreciate - and may still not yet. I revisit the themes of long-since-read tomes in the hopes that they might provide some guidance in framing the issues of my day - whether frivolous or profound - so that I might find a more thorough understanding of my world.
I read Great Expectations for the first time pretty late in my life. I was in England at the time, a junior in college, and enjoying a semester abroad in Bath. We read the book as part of 'Images of Masculinity,' an interesting course exploring the way that men were represented in literature and popular culture. Pip, the protaganist of the story, is chosen - by whom, it does not become clear until much later - to be a beneficiary of a life track toward greatness. Without his full knowledge, he is encouraged to make more of himself, to strive to be greater than he could ever have dreamed. And, as the esteemed American author and visionary Stan Lee teaches us, unearned benefits of privilege carry with them a corresponding responsibility to conduct one's self according to higher standards of manhood. While Pip fails to live up to those expectations for much of the story, the high standards set for him are always in the back of his mind, urging him to be better, to find something deeper within himself to share with the world. And, when we discover that Pip's expectations were set by Abel Magwitch, the Convict, we the readers share in Pip's realization that, sometimes, the dreams of our own greatness may just be thriving in people who don't necessarily achieve that greatness themselves. Thus, story suggests, I think, that there is real value in patronage when it is coupled with a moral imperative that the beneficiary act to the highest standards of humanity.
I'll be the first to admit that I may be getting all of this wrong. I haven't read this book in 8 years. But, in my perhaps nonsensical deconstruction of this book, it becomes abundantly clear to me that one of the central points is that we are often at our best when motivated to live up to the better version of our self hoped for by those around us, but that the extent of that motivation may realistically need to be tied directly to the promise of rewards or the threat of penalties.
I turned to Dickens because expectations have been on my mind this week, and - being a simple fellow - the title popped into my head and I had to run with it. While this theme had been forming in my thoughts for a while, it all came to a head the other night walking to the subway from a drunken DGWUSports night at The Pony Bar in Manhattan. The Apologist and I were treated to classic Yatchsman: lots of yelling, cursing, high-fives to random people he met along the way. It sort of began with Yachstman enraged by a horse-drawn carriage - his PETA sensibilities coming out very strongly - and continued with more general themes about tourists and commercialism as we approached Times Square. His comments, while hilarious in the sheer awkwardness that it caused amongst the out-of-towners we passed, also got me thinking about our collective unwillingness - with few exceptions - to call each other out and encourage each other to be better. His comments begged the question: whether acceptance of, for instance, the ridiculous reality of Times Square, is a rather unacceptable failure on our part to demand that humanity keep striving for something more than merely scraping along with a commercially-driven set of priorities and values. These thoughts were with me as I began scribbling notes and ideas for this post on my way home that night, and they were with me as I woke up Friday morning - hungover as all hell. Seeing Yachtman's post
Friday morning continued the theme - he was, again, demanding something more (this time from Ralph Wilson), and was doing so for all our sakes as fans of Buffalo, the Bills, the NFL and its history. Hell, his post - logically sound, if verbally offensive - was making demands on behalf of reasonable thought, itself.
I share the Yacther's beef with Ralph, though he is not even be the most apt example of ownership fuckeduptitude in my sports universe these days. That title, dear readers, is of course held by Fred "I don't ask questions about ridiculously good returns on my investments with my pal, Bernie, and will casually act in a way that will endanger the future of the Mets franchise for years to come"
Simply put, by way of comparison, if Ralph is an "odious taint," Fred is somewhere between a despicable pile of douche and Sarah Palin. Assuming there's even a difference between the two.
Some may call him willfully ignorant, some may call him passively fraudulent. To me, he's just the rotten bastard who has ensured the Mets will be be in financial crisis for the next five to ten years. Good job there, bud.
When I first started following the Mets in 2005, I had a vague notion that Wilpon was kind of a douchey owner. Yet, even clear instances of incompetency of the Wilpon's ownership didn't really bother me. Subconsciously, part of me may have identified with the crotchety, dottering old man, if only to the extent that he was a clear, but distinct, model of the sports-team owner archetype with which Buffalo fans had become oh-so-familiar. In other words, he often seemed stupid and pathetic in his management decisions, but also ultimately harmless and maybe even admirable in his seemingly feeble efforts to present a world-class product with his professional baseball team.
After all, even though there were frequent moments during which I was acutely aware that the Mets were being run like a second-rate franchise, my standards were artificially decimated by previous acceptance of Sabres' ownership that proved to be as slimy as they come.
Nothing like a little securities fraud to make you count yourself blessed to follow a team with ownership that can keep itself out of prison.
What was vaguely apparent to me as I recovered from the Adelphia/Rigas clusterfuck back in '02, and what is all-too-apparent now, is that sports franchises - even moderately successful ones - have a fickle existence, and that even a team thoroughly adored by its fans could vanish in an instant. So, perhaps it was my own willful ignorance to that reality that encouraged me to be generally accepting of Wilpon since, at least so far as I knew, he wasn't doing anything to endanger the Mets' future as a New York baseball franchise. My standards having been lowered by on- and off-field (or ice) failures of Buffalo sports franchises, I was frankly too willing to give Wilpon - who had a World Series ring, after all (Ooooh, Shiny!) - a pretty long fucking leash with which to, bit by bit, destroy the franchise. Not that I was personally in a position to put a stop to it, but - then again - the collective leash given by Mets fans as a whole may have allowed good old Fred a little bit too much leeway to treat this franchise like, as the Yachtsman might say, a country club project with no real-world consequences with which he chooses to be bothered.What's ultimately made me so troubled by Wilpon's recent troubles is that we Met fans enabled this guy with our consistent attendance at games (even when the team has been decidedly garbage), our jersey and clothing purchases, and - most importantly - our willingness to
casually ignore what's really going on with Wilpon's financial dealings. This lack of accountability is especially absurd when you consider that the athletes on the field are under an incredible microscope and are held to incredibly high standards by media, fans, corporate sponsors and owners alike. The sports world has become obsessed with ensuring that procedures are now in place to catch those who violate rules against performance-enhancing drugs (which, by their nature are designed to help a team), but we have thus far failed to create any real mechanism for ferreting out misconduct amongst the highest levels of sports franchise's hierarchy. And, for those of us who cherish these teams and want them to thrive within the communities we love, that's really where the most damage can be done.I guess what I'm trying to say, and without very much brevity or eloquence - so who knows if anyone is even reading at this point - is that we, as consumers of the sports industry, have a unique responsibility to require a higher level of conduct
from those people who directly benefit from the dollars that we so freely deposit into the world of sports commodity. Not just the players. The players are being watched with an eagle-eye by the league and ownerships that run shit, but it is incumbent on the rest of us to make sure that someone is watching the owners. The media picks this stuff up from time to time, but even so, there have clearly been times where an owner's misconduct went under the radar. Who knows if Wilpon's shady deals would have been apparent had a light been shone on Wilpon's financial records? But, as a basic starting point, given the public trust given to owners - through tax breaks, cheap lease deals, zoning exemptions and the use of public funds for renovated or new stadia - the least we can do is ensure that the public trust is not squandered. Through years of support and utter devotion, WE are the benefactors of the Freds and Ralphs of the sports world. For years, we have required very little of them, and we can't now be surprised that they treat us with such disrespect. Owners have received our patronage, often without any conditions whatsoever, while frequently conditioning their part of the relationship on our conduct - whether by demanding that a stadium sell out before allowing it to be broadcast locally, or by requiring that a city or county pony up public funds before investing anything more into a franchise. This status quo is backwards, or at the very least unreasonably one-sided.
But it can also change, as recent evidence suggests
. The open question, then, is how engaged do we each want to be in raising the expectations for the owners of our teams? To that, I have no answer - even for myself. Would love your feedback. Leave a comment!Follow me on Twitter! @theycallmedubs