Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: I’d Like to Know Where You Got the Potion

We welcome back Skitch Hanson to the Scratchbomb pages. You may know him from his nationally syndicated sports column, “Up the Middle”. You may have also seen him on the ESPN roundtable discussion show, The Loudeners! Or you may have read one of his 107 books, such as Everything You Know Is Right. Without further ado, here’s Skitch to talk about Derek Jeter’s free agent talks.

Thumbnail image for jeterhero.jpgI’m not an excitable person. Just ask anyone who knows me–my kids, my editor, that one guy at the newsstand where I get my USA Today and orange Tic-Tacs. It takes a lot to get me riled up. If I get the wrong order at Taco Bell, I roll with the punches and just eat whatever’s in the bag, even if I get a hard-shell taco. (Crunchy foods make me uncomfortable.) I didn’t even raise a fuss when that strange man showed up in my house and said I couldn’t sleep in my own bed anymore. Oh, I thought about making a scene, but then my wife said he was with her and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. Boy, my face would’ve been red if I’d tried to kick him out!

But when I heard about what the Yankees were doing to Derek Jeter, that was enough to send me off the deep end. I’ve been quite cranky and snapping at people all week. Although it may also have to do with the small amount of sleep I’ve been getting lately. The Barcalounger in the den is not too comfortable to sleep on, and it’s hard to nod off with all the noise coming from my bedroom upstairs.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, or sleeping on a recliner, here’s the latest chapter in the Derek Jeter Free Agency novella. (Presumably, it will soon be a saga, but I think only qualifies as a shorter work of literature right now.) Word leaked out on Monday that the Yankees think their beloved shortstop is asking for too much money and needs to “drink the reality potion” before negotiating with them any further.

Derek, let me give you a piece of friendly advice: Don’t you dare drink that reality potion! Or truth serum, or factual elixir, or any other sort of mystical beverage that will alter how you perceive this universe. I don’t think we could bear it!

Instead, keep quaffing deeply of that heady brew that makes you think you’re worth a $25 million/6 year deal. As for you, unnamed Yankee front office person, perhaps you’re too quick to drink that Reality Potion. This isn’t reality we’re talking about. It’s baseball, where men get paid millions of dollars to hit balls with sticks. If we all dealt in reality, we’d all be horrified that the Jeters of the world are billionaires and teachers are on food stamps. Do you want to live in a world where we are cognizant of this terrible truth? I sure wouldn’t!

Sports are so wonderful because they keep us from having to drink Reality Potion. Potion? Yuck, sounds too much like medicine. I’d rather eat a big bowl of Hero Sauce, which I imagine looks and tastes a lot like rocky road ice cream. (One of my weaknesses! That and collecting vintage airline pillows.)

If I drank too much Reality Potion, I’d know Derek Jeter is not as quick as he used to be and he’s coming off one of his worst offensive years ever. But that potion’s not the kid of late night snack I crave when it’s 3am and I have to turn the fifth rerun of SportsCenter up extra loud to drown out certain sounds.

I prefer the tasty, calorie-rich Hero Sauce that tells me Derek Jeter is forever young, making spinning catches and getting clutch hits and rescuing a kitten from the Yankee Stadium rafters. I’m not sure that last part actually happened, but as long as I stay away from Reality Potion, I can believe it did.

Reality Potion must also be avoided whenever it looks like Brett Favre is on his last legs, or Michael Jordan might retire. Some might say Favre is already finished, and Jordan has really been retired for years. To those people I say, Why would you want to know what’s really happening? If you want a sour spoonful of Reality Potion, watch the news. If you want the delicious taste of Hero Sauce, you read me.

I found out long ago that when you write a nationally syndicated sports column, reality is usually not your friend. That may seem silly to you, but I didn’t wind up in the same number of newspapers as “Funky Winkerbean” for nothing!

For instance, the Yankees offered Derek Jeter a three-year contract at $15 million a season. Now, if I had Reality Potion with every meal, I might think that this was an insane amount of money, and that paying a baseball player that kind of money when so many people are starving borders on the obscene. And then I might also remember the time my son brought his own special friend named Steve home for Thanksgiving.

That’s why I feast on Hero Sauce, so I can remember that time Jeter flipped the ball to Posada. Hero Sauce tells me he’s worth every single penny the Yankees can spare. He’s worth every penny all of us can spare, and more! I have an old plastic water cooler tank filled with pennies in my basement, Derek. Sometimes I count them to distract my mind when it’s filled with too much Reality Potion, like my wife’s special friend walking through my house wearing only a towel, but you can have it, Derek. You’re worth every single penny in that bottle, which was 7,493 the last time I counted.

Don’t get me wrong: Reality Potion’s fine in small doses, like when I’m doing my taxes or writing a very special column about the dangers of t-shirt cannons. But sometimes you want to curl up with a big bowl of Hero Sauce and forget your troubles. Of course, sometimes “sometimes” turns into a potentially unhealthy length of time. If that ever worries you, you know what the best cure for worries is? More Hero Sauce! Works for me, as far as I know!