Watching Your Baseball Team Get Blown Out Is Like Anal Sex
As I watched the Cleveland Indians’ wholesale slaughter of the Houston Astros last week (the final score was 19-6), an odd feeling crept over me. It was horrible to watch a baseball team get absolutely creamed like that, but it was also oddly familiar, and not just because the Astros are terrible. The mixture of pleasure and pain that unfolded over nine innings—it started out scary, but ended up being kind of fun—was pretty much like anal sex. Actually, baseball blowouts—be they the 1897 Chicago Colts’ 36-7 record-setting victory over Louisville, the 30-3 destruction of the Baltimore Orioles by the 2007 Texas Rangers, this season’s 15-0 shellacking of the Nationals by the Reds—are exactly like anal sex. Here’s an inning-by-inning recap:
THE FIRST INNING: BACKDOOR PRESSURE
The initial runs that appear on the scoreboard serve as a quiet harbinger of what’s to come, much like the none-too-subtle pressure of a wiener knocking on your tightly clenched rosebud. This game won’t really be so bad, you tell yourself. Then another walk, wild pitch, ground-rule double, and you surreptitiously clasp your cheeks in expectation. But I never do anal!
THE SECOND INNING: PENETRATION
Much like the moment when your lover spits on your asshole, the appearance of an additional three or four runs in the second officially heralds that anal is occurring, and then—yup, that’s a dick in your asshole. Any hope of a comeback is shattered, and no amount of praying for run support will make that sweet pucker of yours any less penetrated. The flesh of your loins quivers, bases loaded, no outs.
Why Sports Help
At some point, it’s clearly best just to turn it off. These blasts of idiot panic on Twitter, all these self-appointed (and actually appointed) social-media editors burping up liveblogs of some in-studio haircut’s dunderheaded ad libs or playing some screeching game of telephone with police scanner chatter. Those aforementioned haircuts, speculating rankly to fill minutes of airtime or reciting now-familiar horrors over looped video of whirling sirens. These fucking clownish Infowars rage-loafs, staring down very real horror and frothingly appliquéing the usual black helicopters in the usual places, sad old children writing themselves into some raised-letter airport potboiler, swapping their asinine imaginary horrors for the world’s and calling themselves brave; these Reddit sleuths taking a clammy break from mapping the bleaker margins of the Friend Zone to slap some MS Paint on smudgy photos and misidentify some monsters. Turn it off, turn it off. There is nothing here, nothing useful to learn, only more of the guilty inertia that leads us to put this shit on in the background in the first place. We should care, and we do care. We should want to know, and we do want to know. But there’s nothing here for us, at the moment. So I’m going to a baseball game tonight, where it’s quieter and more human.
It’s a Mets game, so obviously it’s not really “quieter.” But no baseball game, even one featuring a team that currently plays defense with all the grace and efficacy of a corgi chasing a torpedo, is ever really quiet. There are tens of thousands of other people there at the game, murmuring and sometimes cheering and sometimes booing and asking each other if they want a beer and doing their best to explain to (rightly) confused kids how the infield fly rule works, and why Ruben Tejada, the Mets’ palpably aghast and supremely snakebit shortstop, just scooped up a grounder and whipped it into the mezzanine. There are the little farts of spastic reggaeton and strutting butt-rock and Drake-mewls that soundtrack the players’ approach to the plate, too, and various other uses of the public address system. At some point in the game, fans will probably get up and sing Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” as a sort of tribute to Boston, the locked-down and terrified/defiant city that invented this particular in-game ritual. I probably won’t sing it, because I don’t generally do that sort of thing, but I’ll stand up and sit down with everyone else. I think that will be enough for me, and probably for many others there, standing and sitting all around in whatever silence or sound they choose.
Here’s David Roth on the New York Baseball Mets, which are less like a baseball team than an especially biting satire that keeps getting progressively more difficult to laugh at.
Hall of Lame
“We don’t take sports seriously enough” has to rank behind “many dumb people are heavily armed,” “many of the people who are heavily armed are also popping pain pills like Mike and Ikes” and “Congress” on any list of the problems facing our culture. Pretty far behind all those, in fact. It could be argued, actually, that as a general rule we take sports entirely too seriously. Somewhere, a grown man has been on hold for hours so he can get through to some Beefer and the Squelch sports-talk radio show to ask his “question,” which is, “LSU is all faggots.” Somewhere else, there is an adult planning to walk around outdoors on Sunday in a big goofy nylon mesh football jersey with another person’s name on the back. There are—and I am sorry to remind you of this but it does us no good to ignore it—Philadelphia Eagles fans, and they’re already drunk.
But this type of unserious too-seriousness, the loud and backwards binge-drink-y kind, is not necessarily the problem. It is a problem, in the way that Adam Sandler’s movies and face are a problem, but it’s not a pressing issue; we can’t stop sports fans from behaving like peevishly entitled kidults any more than we can stop moviegoers from wanting to see Sandler’s new film, Guy in Khaki Shorts Has Smutty/Heartwarming Gay Panic Misadventures on Vacation. We, ourselves, don’t need to do either of those things. Under-reasoned overexuberance of that sort isn’t the reason for overly serious, fatuously righteous sport-idiocies like the Baseball Writers Association of America’s collective decision not to induct anyone into the Baseball Hall of Fame earlier this week, despite a ballot full of deserving candidates. But low-grade, high-volume too-seriousness—the superfan’s goonish arrogation of the first-person plural and the right to send dickish @-messages on Twitter to players after poor fantasy showings; the calculated stupidity of ESPN’s pretending-to-argue programming—has more in common with the high-minded too-seriousness of the Hall of Fame voters than those voters might think.
Superficially, of course, these are two different things. The doofs happily sitting on hold in hope that they might get to tell the world some 19-year-old they’ll never meet is a gutless loser are ridiculous—loud, simple avatars of dimwitted entitlement and misplaced priorities, casually making outrageous demands of strangers in the name of no-excuses toughness. The baseball writers who refused to vote for qualified Hall of Fame candidates—whether because players even flimsily connected to the sport’s steroid scandals of the last two decades should just have to wait a year because something something “the sanctity of the game” something something, or because the voter in question is huffily fighting a rearguard action against the last 30 years of human history—are… well, this part is complicated. Like talk-radio types, these voters are blithely holding others to impossible standards in the most self-righteous way possible, and define “getting tough” as “accusing people you barely know of being cheaters instead of dealing with a complex issue.” The difference between the two groups is that, on balance, the talk radio people are slightly more drunk.
Beyond the superhuman prerequisites—talent oozing out of pores, a decade or so of dominance, preferably a full head of hair—it’s not quite clear what fans actually want in their all-time great baseball players. But it is clear that whatever that is, Alex Rodriguez isn’t providing it. Which is weird at first glance, but less so when we look at who we’re talking about here. For all the things that are permitted of baseball’s generation-defining stars—and it’s a lot, from transcendently prickly and prickish vanity, to being a colorful but nihilistic and doomed drunk—the one thing they are not allowed, it turns out, is being the way A-Rod is.
Rodriguez has had the tough part of immortality locked down for years—if he hadn’t moved, without complaint, from shortstop to third base after joining the New York Yankees in 2004, he’d be regarded as the best shortstop ever to play the game; he probably is anyway. He has won three Most Valuable Player awards, five home run titles, and has a decent chance—he’d only need to hit 23 per season over the next five years—to hit more homers than any player ever to play baseball. Per Baseball Reference’s formula, Rodriguez has been worth 111.4 Wins Above Replacement over his career; Albert Pujols, his nearest active competitor, has been worth 22.9 fewer. Rodriguez is not only one of the best prospects ever, he’s one of the greatest baseball players in the history of baseball players. Everyone knows this, and it still doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter because whatever the other, ineffable things we seek in our all-timers are, Rodriguez not only lacks, but exemplifies their opposite. All-timers are allowed to be virtuous ciphers whose robo-hearts pump whole milk, but A-Rod, a buff android coated in marzipan and inauthenticity, can’t even clear that low bar of dull verisimilitude—it’s easy to imagine RoboCop (he works in private security now), John Tesh, and Mitt Romney chuckling together on Skype about how deeply inauthentic and distant and weird A-Rod seems when he’s asked to answer even basic baseball player questions.
Who do you root for if you don’t have a team in the postseason? While there are no wrong answers to this question (except for “the Yankees”), if you’re not cheering for the Oakland Athletics, you’re probably a jerk.
THE LESS CRAPPY REFERREES ARE BACK
On a beautiful fall weekend where the multicolored leaves were fluttering off the trees and it was just cold enough that everyone in the neighborhood kept their smelly babies indoors, I got a phone call. “Snakes!”—that’s my nickname—“We have to go to that place with all the babes and cheap cool food and then to the store with the secret deposit of deadstock 1940s sweatshirts, the ones with the four-inch cuffs that you’ve been faxing me about.” I really wanted to go and experience all those things, but I couldn’t because sports. A few hours later I got a call about the art zine fair in Long Island City, which I had to skip for sports, too. I really wanted to see those zines, but part of being an adult is not going to zine fairs. If you didn’t skip anything, that’s fine. I didn’t need to eat that pizza made by a 95-year-old guy who’s retiring tomorrow anyways, I really was happy watching that Alabama game and telling you about it.
- The real refs are back, duh, and kind of blew it Sunday, so things are back to normal. Since you know the refs are back, you know it’s because the replacement guys made a fuck-up for the ages on Monday and gave Seattle the win. I won’t mention that the president got involved and the Reagan-boner guy from Wisconsin sided with the unions because he loves his team so much. It was one of those insane sports items that crosses over into regular news, so, like I said, I won’t discuss it. But on the off-chance you didn’t read this column, by the LA Times’ Michael Hiltzik, on the subject, you should, because it’s pretty much all there.
- The Saints, who won the Super Bowl last year, are 0-4 after missing a last-minute field goal in Green Bay, and I’m told they’re not going to play the rest of the season out of pride. Of course, they didn’t actually win the Super Bowl last year, but it feels like they did, doesn’t it?
- It’s only September (as I write this), so it’s a little premature to say that the season is over for the Jets, who have an injury-depleted defense and not one competent player on offense. Wait, no, it’s midnight……. Now. The Jets’ season is over. Thanks for reading.
- Michael Vick just shut the press conference game down.
- I had this whole thing written about how going into Sunday night, no AL team has clinched a playoff spot, but then the Rangers beat the Angels and somehow clinched spots for themselves, the Orioles, and the Yankees. Still, not knowing what the playoffs will look like until the fourth-to-last day of the regular season feels like some sort of record. I’d look it up, but you probably don’t care. There are postseason implications in pretty much every series these next few days, which is awesome, but it’s also the last week with 15 games a night, which is a bummer.