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Me, Elsewhere: John Rocker and Johan Santana, Together At Last

I wanted to alert loyal Scratchbomb readers to a couple of posts I’ve penned elsewhere that went up in the last few days. First, for Vice, a look at creep ne plus ultra John Rocker, who’s just released his long awaited (by no one) memoirs entitled Scars and Stripes. (GET IT?) Rocker’s been making the rounds withe bottom-barrelest right wing news sites, and one such profile was the inspiration for my piece. Spoiler alert: I’m not a big fan!

One thing I’d completely forgotten about when I wrote this article (which is just as well, since it probably wouldn’t have fit) is how half-assed Rocker’s “apology” was when he came to New York for the first time after his infamous Sports Illustrated profile. While doing my research for Yells For Ourselves, I rediscovered coverage of his return to NYC, and it’s sickening how much he tries to weasel out of saying he’s sorry, like he’s Racist Fonzie.

Rocker recorded a video they played on Diamond Vision at Shea in which he said, among other things, “Many people perceived these comments to be malicious, and for this again I apologize.” In other words, It’s YOUR fault for being offended. “I am not the evil person that has been portrayed.” It’s the media’s fault for reporting exactly what I said.

Rocker’s the kind of bully who, if you punched him back, would run to the principal and insist you started the altercation. I realize that writing about him at all is just fuel for his warped fire, but good lord, he cannot fall off the face of the earth fast enough for me.

I also took time to write about non-horrible people. Last week, the Mets finally saw one of their pitchers throw a no hitter. Maybe you heard about it? It was a cause for much rejoicing, which is why I was so perturbed by a post at Deadspin that wondered if Mets fans wished another pitcher had done it. I disagree strenuously with that premise for several reasons. To find them all out, you’ll have to read this post I did for The Classical. Or, barring that, have someone read it to you.

Speaking of which, Jon Stewart’s piece on The Daily Show about attending Johan’s no-no with his family was heartwarming in a Jon Stewart-y sort of way. When it comes to baseball + children, I can get embarrassingly sentimental. This ESPN ad still brings a tear to the eye, and every time a broadcast shows a dad with a small kid in the stands, I get all misty. I’m sure the same is true for many parents who also sublimate their emotions into sporting events. Go team!

Stamped

Of the remaining GOP presidential hopefuls, Newt Gingrich has the ugliest soul.

Rick Santorum possesses some vile views on gay rights and abortion (like thinking rape victims who get pregnant should just accept this “gift from god”), but he seems like such a brutally strange and damaged person that I’d pity him if he weren’t in such a position of power. Ron Paul seems sincere and I don’t disagree with his anti-war and anti-war-on-drugs stances, even if some his other positions bug me (not to mention his ugly newsletters, the racist content of which he’s never explained satisfatorily). Mitt Romney has the nonplussed cheesiness of a local news anchor.

All members of this trio possess varying degrees of harmlessness, as far as I’m concerned. So with Rick Perry out of the race, Gingrich stands above all of them as, hands down, the worst human being of the bunch.

Among them, Gingrich is the most eager practitioner of Bully Politics. This has been a feature of the Republican arsenal ever since Barry Goldwater and part of the general pushback against New Deal/Great Society ideals we’ve seen since those days. However, it’s never been practiced more brutally than now, and never more gleefully than by Newt. When he talks about making kids work as janitors, there is vengeance, and almost glee, in his voice. When he sneers at Juan Williams during a debate, he all but invites the riled-up audience to attack his outnumbered questioner and seems not too concerned about the consequences. He is never happier than when he attacks those can least defend themselves.

When Gingrich called Obama a “food stamp president,” it was an obvious dog-whistle statement. (Subtext: “Remember, guys, he’s BLACK. And he’s gonna give YOUR money to OTHER BLACK PEOPLE.”) But apart from the badly disguised racism, it was also part and parcel with the delight he takes from attacking the least of us, joyfully positing that the poorest among us are the most deserving of our scorn and ridicule.

Hearing this, I had an immediate, visceral, infuriated reaction, for reasons I couldn’t quite articulate at first. Yes, it was a reprehensible attitude, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on exactly it bothered me so much. And then it all flooded back to me, a memory I’d done my best to bury: My family was once on food stamps.

Continue reading Stamped

Bless You, Random Vandal

If you follow my Twitter feed, you know that the one team I truly, deeply hate is the Florida Marlins. There are other teams I dislike at various times for various reasons, but the Marlins are the only one who incite in me a white-hot burning rage.

Why? I delineated many of the reasons in this piece, so it seems pointless (and blood pressure raising) to do so again. But one cause I just glanced over was their owner, Jeff Loria, who I daresay could out-douche George Steinbrenner at The Boss’s infantile height.

Loria is the man most responsible for choking off the Expos at the root so they could move out of Montreal. Granted, he couldn’t have done this if Bud Selig et al weren’t so keen on making it happen, but the fact remains that he, more than anyone else, destroyed that franchise. (For some arcane reason, this move also necessary to allow the current Red Sox ownership to take over. It is a complicated tapestry of deceit.) He picked a needless public fight with Joe Girardi (who has done just fine for himself elsewhere), and fired another good skipper in Fredi Gonzalez, thereby serving up the next manager for a division rival (the Braves) up on a silver platter. He keeps his payroll at poverty levels (by baseball standards) and bullied Miami into building him a new stadium, only to be revealed as a lying scumbag who puts MLB revenue sharing money into his own pocket.

He has a huge man-crush on Hanley Ramirez to the detriment of his other players, despite the fact that shortstop’s tantrums and lack of hustle have increased at the same rate his performance has declined. He is also the kind of person who would buy his team the largest–and therefore best!–World Series rings ever when they came out of nowhere to win a title in 2003. And quickly returned to nowhere, as he dismantled the team piece by piece. Take a big steamy gawk at this thing and tell me this man should own a baseball team. Go ahead, I dare you.

That is why I have taken particular delight in this altered entry on Loria’s Wikipedia page. Bless you, random vandal. You are truly doing the Lord’s work. (Hat tip to @jameskann whose tweeting alerted me to this.)


Tony LaRussa Shall Not Be Mocked

Do you hear those insolent fans, Yadier?

Yes, sire. I believe that’s the local custom of “giving you the business.”

I care not a whit for what these barbarians call it in their vulgar dialect. They’re mocking me, Yadier. Me! Would you not say that the Cardinals play the game of baseball the way t’was intended to be played?

No one would dare say otherwise, sire.

And would you also not say that baseball is the Good Lord’s game?

Certainly, sire.

Of course you would. Therefore, it follows that the Almighty has appointed me to rule these Cardinals. To stand for such insolence against me would be to mock His Divine Will. And that I cannot brook! Instruct the pitcher to hurl the sphere toward one of their beloved favorites.

Certainly, sire. I will command him to dent Ryan Braun’s upper back. Will that be all?

Continue reading Tony LaRussa Shall Not Be Mocked

Wilkommen, Bienvenue, John Boehner

You want to know why I’m willing to risk sending America into the economic abyss? It’s because I made a promise to Grover Norquist I would never vote to raise taxes or the debt limit. I know I’ve done both those things before, like, a lot of times. Seriously, so many times, you would not believe. But I think I’ve matured since then, and I want to show Grover that I can change for him. Things are gonna be different from now on, baby!

But there’s another reason why I’m doing this. I’ve always been fascinated with Weimar Republic Germany. Oh, such decadence and scandal! Such artistic blossoming! Every since I was a young man, I’ve dreamed we could have such a time in our country. Now we have that chance! All we need to do is send the economy careening off into the horizon on a flaming Viking ship, and voila! Instant creative boom! People will be able to create freely once they’re not preoccupied with paying jobs.

What a time this will be! There will be scandalous burlesques and wild jazz music and riotous paintings and mad, passionate love-making in the streets! And also, you’ll need a wheelbarrow to bring all your money to the store to buy a loaf of bread, because inflation will make the dollar worth a quintillionth of what it’s worth now. But you can also spend that wheelbarrow of money at a wondrous cabaret where all your most debauched fantasies come true! Particularly if those fantasies include being beaten to death by roving murder-gangs who want your precious wheelbarrow.

I have plans drawn up for a fantastic nightclub I plan to open once our nation’s financial health flatlines. There will be beautiful girls in bowler hats and garters! Whiskey flowing freely! And I shall MC, prancing across the stage, grapevining with a cane under my arm, and making sardonic comments on how our lousy president got us into this mess! But unlike Joel Gray or Alan Cummings, I won’t put on any weird makeup. Can you imagine coloring your skin in such an unnatural way? Yuck, imagine that!

I shall attract artists, musicians, researchers from the Heritage Foundation…oh, it shall be a naughty good time! Until those jackbooted liberals shut us down AND THEY WILL, YOU MARK MY WORDS! Then I’ll write a novel on a train about how great it all is.

Then I’ll probably move to the Bahamas or something, ’cause this place is gonna be super-fucked. But if any of you guys wanna buy a wheelbarrow, I can give you a good price. Trust me, you’re gonna wish you had one in a month or so.

Why LeBronenfreude Is Okay


As much as I wanted the Mavericks beat the Heat, I also dreaded it, because I knew it would bring out the holiest of the holier-than-thous in the sportswriting racket, ready to leap all over LeBron James because he had not earned it yet. I’m assuming such people dislike him in large part because of the way he left Cleveland, which brings up a thorny sports-related issue I’ve discussed on this site before: If you think an athlete did something that makes them a bad human being, saying that a loss on the playing field/court is “just deserts” for that offense implies that a win would have redeemed the offender.

LeBron James is nowhere near as awful as some of the examples I’ve cited in the past. Really, his only “crime” was to turn his back on the established narrative of his career. If you want, you can add toying with Cleveland’s emotions to the list, plus rubbing salt in the city’s collective wound by celebrating his move to Miami like a 45-year-old creep who just divorced a woman his age and snared a trophy wife. All crummy behavior, to be sure, but not as bad as guys like Ben Roethlisberger or Michael Vick, whose failures to win championships were seen by some sportswriters as “payback” for their off-the-field deeds, an attitude that suggested winning would have forgiven them their trespasses.

So in the immediate aftermath, I cringed at the thought of such pieces on LeBron. I even considered feeling sorry for a 26-year-old billionaire who had so many expectations resting on his shoulders. Not to mention that obsessing over what he did or did not do during the Finals served to diminish what the Mavericks accomplished. By concentrating on LeBron’s “failures,” you essentially say that Miami lost the series more than Dallas won it, which seems extremely unfair to everyone involved. Then there was the narrative of the Mavs being a “team-oriented” squad while the Heat were a “superstar” one, which is usually sportswriter code for “we’re rooting for the white guy.”

So there were a few reasons, initially, to not want to join in piling on LeBron. Until he opened his mouth, that is. Then I realized all the haterade was justified. Maybe even necessary. Because the truth is, he is one eminently hateable human being.

First, it was his postgame press conference response to questions about the hate that’s heaped on him, and how that makes him feel. Now, there’s no easy way to answer this. It’s the kind of question for which a million different responses can come across as whiny or insensitive. Luckily for us, LeBron left no room for ambiguity. He exposed his soul by giving the absolute most head-slappingly douchey answer possible.

All the people that was rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today.

As bad as that looks in print, it was even worse when voiced. It was not an off-the-cuff remark spoken without thinking in a moment of weakness and frustration. The ease with which he said these words indicated they were thoroughly premeditated, a line he either rehearsed or believes in his heart of hearts.

Now, do people who actively root for the failure of others have problems? Yes, to varying degrees, depending on how deep and sincere those wishes are. And I suppose anyone’s life appears to be full of “personal problems” compared to someone who will never have to worry about money. But to actually say something like this out loud, that only people with crappy lives dislike you, that takes a colossal amount of ego and self delusion. About the same amount that would make you call yourself “King James” when you’ve yet to win anything, I guess.

Not long after this insanity, he tweeted that the Heat didn’t win because “The Greater Man upstairs know when it’s my time. Right now isn’t the time.” Amazingly, after years of comedians joking about athletes blaming God when they lose, someone actually went and did it. It wasn’t LeBron who failed to show up in the fourth quarter of every game this series, but God.

Also, note the use of the phrase “The Greater Man.” I’ve never heard that used to mean “God.” People usually say, “The Big Man Upstairs,” or something like that. The use of a comparative word (Greater) implies that LeBron thinks he’s on a plane comparable to The Almighty. You know, not quite as big as The Creator, just a few ticks below.

To top it all off, we find out on Monday that LeBron didn’t talk to ABC or ESPN because, according to Jack Ramsay, “James felt the network didn’t report “The Decision” accurately.” That goes beyond chrome-plated balls. That takes gonads made of pure adamantium.

How the holy hell could ESPN not have reported “The Decision” accurately?! They gave LeBron an hour-long infomercial and asked him exactly zero hard questions! ESPN could not have treated him more reverently. The network has LeBron in the same space in their pantheon as Brett Favre (pre-dick pics), someone whose every move will be obsessively followed but never questioned. What more could LeBron want from them? The Oprah soft-focus-lens treatment on every dunk?

I wonder if LeBron is trying to play The Heel, because I can’t think of another reason why he would say such inflammatory things otherwise. Well, except that maybe he’s still a spoiled child whose had nothing but sycophants and enablers in his life for so long that he has zero perspective.

LeBron has been told he’s The Best for so long that the words have no literal meaning to him. LeBron James is The Best. The Best is LeBron James. Everything else in his life must be redefined to fit into these parameters. Those who deny his Bestness do so only because they have personal problems. If he is denied a championship, it is because of an act of God. If “The Decision” makes him look like a creep in the eyes of some, it must be the faulty reportage of the network that carried it, even though said network gave him complete creative control.

If you believe this might be a form of mental illness, you’re free to reserve judgment. Otherwise, hate away.

A One-Way Street

Recently, I was reiterating my pet theories on city traffic. I was reiterating them to my wife, because I’m sure she loves hearing me say the same thing a million times. I’ve held for a very long time that, of the five boroughs, Queens has the worst drivers while Brooklyn has the worst pedestrians. These theories have been arrived at following years of both driving and walking in New York. Queens has a deadly mix of aggressive louts and the dangerously clueless behind the wheel, while Brooklyn pedestrians love to pop out from between parked cars and get within a hair’s breadth of your car as they amble across the street. (Don’t believe me? Try driving down Bushwick Avenue some evening. Go ahead.) I shouldn’t call these “theories,” since all my evidence is circumstantial and I have no idea what the root causes might be. Regardless, experience convinces me of their absolute truth.

While I expounded on these theories, my wife asked which borough had the worst bikers. I thought about this for a few moments and then realized it was a trick question. The answer is, they all do. Bikers in all parts of the city are completely terrible.

Spiritually, I am pro-bike. They’re obviously much better for the environment than cars, and you burn more calories pedaling than you do steering. Critical Mass? Sure, go ahead. But in reality, 99.9% of my interactions with bikers, as a pedestrian, have been miserable.

Perhaps because there is an assumed superiority of bike ownership, at least in this city. Sometimes it’s implied, sometimes it’s stated outright. Proclaiming that a bike is your primary mode of transportation is often said in the same manner as one might say, I don’t own a TV. It reminds me of what Paul F. Tompkins once said of San Francisco residents, that they’re very proud–not of the city, but of themselves for living there.

It is often stated by bikers that cars need to share the road, and drivers in this city definitely need to work on pretty much every aspect of driving, from signaling to not zipping across five lanes of the BQE at a 45-degree angle. The problem is, bikers in general do not extend pay that courtesy forward to pedestrians. I can not tell you how many times I have nearly been mauled by a biker who decided to ignore a red light or a stop sign, or to drive the wrong way down a one way street, or to hop the curb for no good reason. And in the vast, super-majority of these incidents, the biker will give me the stinkeye, like I’m the bad guy for getting in their way.

I was reminded of all of this yesterday as I walked up Hudson Street on my way to the L train. A good chunk of Hudson Street has a bike lane, and that’s perfectly fine. Considering the homicidal proclivities of cabs and trucks in this town, bike lanes are a legitimate public safety measure.

There is one awkward spot where Hudson meets Bleecker and becomes Eighth Avenue. Hudson curves eastward a bit, forming a weird little cobblestone triangle. This triangle has a tree and well manicured island surrounding it, guarded by large black pylons that I presume are meant to guard this elm from terrorist attack. It all conspires to leave very little room for a pedestrian to walk.

As I reach this junction, it is necessary to step temporarily into the bike lane. There is simply no way to walk this along this street without doing this, unless you want to go out of your way to a ridiculous extent.

Before I step off the curb, I give a quick glance behind me to make sure there’s no bikes coming, as a courtesy to bikers and my own neck. I see nothing, so I proceed. I take three steps and am literally angling to get back on the “sidewalk” at a more accessible point, when a chunky blur whizzes past my ear.

It’s an older gentleman on a well-worn bike, with a large gray Jansport backpack strapped on tight. As he zips past me, he says Get out of the bike lane. I would have put this in all caps, but his voice wasn’t quite an all-caps voice. It sounded more like Droopy Dog, or, if you listen to The Best Show on WFMU, frequent caller Spike. It dripped with harassed annoyance, even though I feel I’d taken all necessary precautions and was literally one step away from stepping back onto the curb.

Something about this guy’s voice absolutely infuriated me. Maybe it was the tone, the weirdly wimpy aggressiveness. Getting “yelled” at by such a voice was so weird and grating; imagine being reprimanded by Truman Capote. But I think, ultimately, what I found so galling was the idea that, by virtue of riding on a bike in a bike lane, this schlub felt instantly superior to everyone in his line of vision. Oh, how DARE I tread on the majestic and sacred BIKE LANE, me a common flesh-bag with not even a single wheel upon my lowly frame! A thousand pardons, fat guy with rusty old Schwinn!

Unfair? Trust me, if this guy had hissed get out of the bike lane to you as you were in the process of exiting said bike lane, you’d want to crush every Huffy in the world under a Hummer’s wheels, too.

America Owes Curt Schilling

If you ask me, we did not deal with Osama bin Laden’s body properly. What, nobody asked me? Whatever, never stopped me before.

From top to bottom, this operation was handled all wrong. Look, I know these were Navy SEALs, some of the deadliest, most highly trained operatives on the planet, but I used to throw baseballs, okay? So I think I know what I’m talking about.

For instance, from all the reports I’ve read so far, not one mentions any of these operatives delivering a “kicker” line before sending Osama to kingdom come. Not even a “Message from Uncle Sam” or “Special delivery courtesy of the red, white, and blue!” If anyone had consulted me, I’ve got a 300-page Word document filled with such phrases, ranging from punny to ironic to righteously indignant. I have one for any conceivable scenario. If we found him on the moon, I would’ve said “The Eagle has landed–on your motherfucking face!

Another failure of imagination: They didn’t booby trap his house, Death Wish 3 style, so when he tried to flee the scene he could be whacked in the face with a board filled with nails. At the very least, his demise could have been far more humiliating. For all their skills with the deadly arts, these Navy SEALs didn’t think to shove a hand grenade up his poop chute? Is this where our tax dollars are going?

So no, I don’t give so-called President Obama any credit for this. I agree with my good friend Rush Limbaugh; Obama acted like he was responsible for this operation just because he approved it and gave the kill order and monitored it from start to finish. It’s amazing–some people have to make everything about them, don’t they?

And don’t get me started on the Muslim burial thing. Honoring other people’s religious traditions, ugh, it makes me sick. I think we should have desecrated the body. And when I say we, I mean me. I think America owed it to me, a millionaire athlete who was nowhere near New York or Washington DC on September 11th, to exact my own personal revenge on someone who once made me nervous to fly.

Look, those are the rules. When you kill the bad guy, you get to do bad stuff to his corpse. Sure, it might not be “politically correct,” but that’s what war is like. At least it is from what I’ve gathered from Tom Clancy novels. Prime example: Mussolini, hung upside down. Now there’s a desecration you can set your watch to!

There are some who say that mutilating his body would have incited riots and endangered hundreds of thousands of American troops stationed overseas. Well, that’s a risk they’ll just have to take. What are we paying them for, anyway?

That’s why I’m leading a team of the world’s best deep sea divers to retrieve Bin Laden’s body. We’re renting a bathysphere and we’re gonna comb the ocean floor until we find that bastard’s body. Then we’re gonna bring it back to America and I’m gonna pose with it on a pier like it’s a huge marlin I just landed. Then I’m gonna hand out baseball bats so people can whack it like a piƱata. Signature Curt Schilling bats, only $175 a pop.

And then I’m gonna fly a fighter jet and shoot all the other bad guys. Pew-pew! Pew-pew! Ack-ack-ack-ack! Nyow!

Trump vs. Romney: The Unfair Fight

Of course I’m a better presidential candidate than Mitt Romney. Why? Because I have more money than he does. It’s simple math, people. More money equals better than. And before you tell me that’s from an old Mr. Show sketch, just know that I’m currently suing David Cross and Bob Odenkirk for ripping me off. And for calling their program Mr. Show before I could think of that name.

It’s a matter of fact that every president elected in the last 500 years has been richer than his opponent. Reagan was richer than Jimmy Carter. JFK was richer than Eisenhower. Abe Lincoln was richer than The South. Do I have to go on? No, I don’t, because I’m rich and I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do.

How could Mitt Romney possibly be a better candidate than me. He’s never even had a reality show or coined a copyrightable catchphrase! And that hair! Have you ever seen such a ridiculous head of hair in your life?

Sure, he was elected governor of a state, I’ll grant you that. And he managed to get a big health care bill passed in that state, whichever one it was. (I wanna say Vermont?) But how many casinos did he build? None. How many 75-story glass-and-gold turds did he build on prime real estate bearing his name? Zippo. How many times did he go bankrupt? Zilch.

Me? I’ve built so many things with my name on it, I’ve lost count (and also because I can’t count very high). And every one of them looks like it was built by that Russian billionaire in the DirecTV ads. Plus, I’m such a shrewd businessman, I’ve been able to go bankrupt three times and still get cities to give me land. Let’s see Mitt Romney do that!

At the end of the day, this is barely a fair fight. I’m one of the most recognizable human beings on the planet, and all Mitt Romney has is a few decades of political experience. Plus, Obama is terrified of the thought of me being the Republican candidate. He said so himself! Sure, some people thought he was being sarcastic when he said that, but I doubt that was the case, mostly because I have no idea what “sarcastic” means. Seriously, I dropped out of school after the fourth grade.

A Million Little Pieces of Crap

Right back atcha, pal.

I’ve been writing fiction for a really long time, though not without hiatus. I occasionally go through crises of faith with it, because both market-wise and creatively, this is probably one of the worst periods for fiction in America, possibly ever. After The Baby was born, I found my worldview and my time so altered that I felt I couldn’t write it any more. I didn’t see things the way I used to, and I also lacked the acres of time needed to get into a fiction “groove”.

That’s the biggest reason why I channeled my literary ambitions into this blog, because it satisfied my desire to write and didn’t require me to lock myself in a soundproof vault for 12 hours. For a long time, fiction was such a slog for me and with so few avenues for exposure, I simply had no desire to write it any more. It was quicker and much more enjoyable to write funny ha-ha’s here.

Lately, for reasons too varied and arcane to get into here, I’ve decided to dive back into fiction. I’m working on a novel I’d all but abandoned a few years ago when it hit the 100 page mark, because I think the idea behind it is still relevant. I’m trying to power through an admittedly sub-par first draft so I can revise it and hopefully finish it some time early next year. I’ve been feeling really good about it. I’ve received lots of encouragement. I can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel.

And then I read this and felt like throwing the whole thing in the garbage. Because when the fiction world can still stomach a vile specimen like James Frey, do I really want to associate myself with it?

For those of you don’t want to read the whole article or don’t enjoy vomiting, I’ll give you the gist of it. It’s a piece in New York magazine by Suzanne Mozes about Frey, who you may remember from such frauds as A Million Little Pieces (the “memoir” that turned out to be largely made up). What’s he been up to, other than not acquiring any sense of shame? He’s established a company called Full Fathom Five.

The firm specializes in YA fiction series, on the principle that if you sit a thousand struggling, desperate writers in front of a thousand typewriters, eventually one of them will write the next Harry Potter. It is the fiction equivalent of a veal pen, and is as much of a shell game as anything Bernie Madoff ever cooked up.
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