Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How can anyone be a Mets fan?

By Bob Gaydos
OK, I have avoided writing about this topic for years because I didn’t want to have to deal with the whining, delusional comments that pass for rational argument among Mets fans. But honestly, I don’t get it. I don’t get how anyone can be a Mets fan.
As far as I can tell, being a Mets fan these days consists of being willing to root for a boring team made up of mediocre major leaguers, rookies who never ripen, and established major league stars who are always hurt. But more than that, it’s fans caring about some of these mediocre players and talking about them as if they are ever going to be good major league players that baffles me. You know, like Joe Beningo and his kid sidekick, Evan, on WFAN or that noontime kid on ESPN Radio.
They go on and on about a team that has tanked at the end of the year for a decade, whose legitimate star pitcher may not pitch this year, whose star outfielder and shortstop have been hurt more than they’ve been healthy for two years and whose star third baseman, who literally broke his back playing for them, has spells where he literally couldn’t hit the ball if it was the size of a grapefruit.
All the rest is gruel. Plus, the owner of the team, Fred Wilpon, lost hundreds of millions of dollars in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme and can’t spend money to get better players, so he’s going to have to trade his few blue chips for some young, potential stars. And we know how well that’s worked out recently. Wilpon has stayed quietly in the background most of the time, letting his general managers and managers talk about the team to the working press, which in the Mets’ case also contains a disproportionate quota of wanna-believers whose memories don’t go back past the 1990s.
But Wilpon sat down last month with a talented reporter from the New Yorker, a publication with no rooting interest save selling more magazines. The story that resulted told about Wilpon’s rags-to-riches story in real estate and his being snookered by Madoff. He and Madoff says that’s what happened; a trustee for other big losers say Wilpon knew what was going on. But that’s another story. Wilpon also made some comments in the New Yorker about his team and star players that has Mets nation in a tizzy. Here’s how it was reported in the Sporting News (also a non-rooting publication):
“The comments were made on April 20 while Wilpon watched a 4-3 loss to the Astros with the reporter, so don't blame him for coming across more as fan than executive. Jose Reyes, whose contract is up after the season, had led off with a single and stolen second when Wilpon told the New Yorker, ‘He's a racehorse. He thinks he's going to get Carl Crawford money (a seven-year $142 million contract). He won't get it.’
“When David Wright hit, Wilpon said: ‘A really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar.’
“About Carlos Beltran, given a seven-year, $119 million deal by the Mets, Wilpon took a shot at himself as well as his player: ‘We had some schmuck in New York who paid him based on that one (2004 playoff) series. He's 65 to 70 per cent of what he was.’
“Finally, the magazine sums up what Wilpon thought about the Mets at the time when Ike Davis stepped in. ‘Good hitter,’ Wilpon said. ‘(Cruddy) team-good hitter.’ ”
Only he didn’t say cruddy.
Now, any Mets fan who can utter the words Armando Benitez with a proper sneer, knows that Wilpon’s assessments are right on. But the whining is that he didn’t have to say it publicly. Oh, please. He’s owned the team for 30 years. He remembers when they were a star-studded, scrappy bunch of all-stars, even if many of the fans don’t. He also knows he hasn’t delivered that kind of team nearly as often as he should have, what with playing in the biggest market in the country and making tons of money because of it.
Wilpon and his baseball staff have let Mets fans down year after year by failing to draft or trade for good, never mind star, players, by running a wreck of a medical staff that has seen star after star go down year after year, passing it off as being “snake-bitten,” and by being unbelievably inept in public relations. (They made manager Willie Randolph fly to the West Coast so they could fire him in the middle of the night.)
Mets fan know that they have to trade Beltran for some young player(s). Ditto Reyes. Wilpon is trying to sell a huge hunk of the team just to keep operating, for Pete’s sake. And he was absolutely right about Wright. Nice kid. Trouble throwing to first base. The thing is, Mets fans know all this and jabber about it on talk radio for hours (or at least when Joe and Evan are on), but for some reason the guy who pays the players’ salaries is not supposed to talk about it.
His saying it publicly doesn’t change anything. They will play for their next big contracts, wherever they may be and fans will talk about Ike Davis as if he’s the second coming of Keith Hernandez. Keith’s in the TV booth now with Ron Darling, who may still be better than anyone in the Mets’ starting five.
I have digressed all over the place because, as I said, I don’t get it. Yes, of course, I’m a Yankee fan, and have been for about 60 years. Mets fans, I am told, hate the Yankees and Yankee fans. Yankee fans don’t care. We have enough trouble wondering why Brett Gardner is still in the major leagues and when Derek Jeter (who was supposedly washed up two weeks go) will get his 3,000th hit.
Yankee fans are used to a team owner talking publicly about star players. No, it was not always useful, but George Steinbrenner also poured tens of millions of dollars back into his team every year to try to keep it a winner, or at the very least, fun to watch. Many Mets fans I know are still hung up on the Brooklyn Dodgers, who also lost to the Yankees a lot, but who at least were always fun to watch and had lots of star players. I think these older Mets fans think Yankee fans are condescending. I don’t think so. I think Yankee fans just really don’t care about the Mets because lately it’s the same old story -- they can’t seem to get out of their own way. (Personally, I loved the ‘69 World Series and bringing Willie Mays back for a curtain call. In the ‘86 World Series, I rooted for the Mets. Of course, they did beat the Boston Red Sox.)
I also think Mets fans think that the true test of a fan is whether he or she is willing to suffer stoically and endlessly through lean times with the team. Again, just listen to the radio shows. But the Yankees didn’t win much in the ‘60s or ‘80s. The thing is, they never stopped trying and they were hardly ever boring. They set the bar high and, yes, they paid well to reach it. They still do. That’s why Yankee fans get upset when the team doesn’t play up to expectations (like losing Friday to a Mets knuckleballer). It may be easier to be a Yankee fan than a Met fan, but it’s much harder to be a Yankee player than a Mets player. Because it’s what they’ve done, their fans expect the Yankees to win. Not always, but usually. There is nothing wrong with winning. It’s why they keep score.
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OK, Mets fans, you get your say in the comment box below, or e-mail me. Why do you do what you do? Of course, any Yankee fan who wants to chime in is welcome as well.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Posada didn't play? Didn't notice

By Bob Gaydos
I had the a) privilege; b) opportunity; c) misfortune of attending the Yankees/Red Sox game last Saturday night with my 16-year-old son Zack and his 22-year-old cousin, Andy. It was the Jorge Posada Game. Or rather, the “Where the heck is Jorge Posada?” Game. We sat in the right field seats, near the foul pole. Second deck. Actually, decent seats to watch a wholly indecent game, at least as far as the Yankees are concerned. They could not hit; C.C. could not pitch. It was so boring, all the Red Sox fans in our section didn’t even get excited over winning, 6-0.
In fact, the game was so boring I spent more time observing the “fans” around us and left wondering who the heck these people were because they definitely were not baseball fans.
We were surrounded by what I guess would be considered upwardly mobile young people -- males and females between 25 and 35 years old with an apparently unlimited supply of disposable income. I surmise this because of all the couples surrounding us (and they were all boy/girl couples) not one ever had even a fleeting conversation about the game we were supposedly watching. I know this because, as I said, the game was so boring you could hear everyone’s conversation.
The two couples behind us talked non-stop the entire game. No one ever mentioned a player’s name or a game situation. They did drink a lot of beer and eat and laugh a lot and the guys wore Yankees jerseys, but I had to wonder why they couldn’t find a cheaper place to double date on a Saturday night.
The same went for two couples two rows in front us. The girls spent most of the game going somewhere or other with each other, coming back with a new bottle of beer ($9) each time. The words, “Let’s go, Yankees!” never passed their lips and they didn’t even notice that Jorge wasn’t in the lineup.
They all did, however, enjoy the stadium cuisine, which is priced to make movie theater food seem cheap. (I sent Zack up with $10 for two more hot dogs and he had to kick in a couple bucks of his own.) Another young guy in front of us sat down with a $25 bucket of chicken wings and a couple of beers. There were probably fries involved, too. He and his date disappeared somewhere in the middle of the game. I don’t know which team they were rooting for.
The highlight of the game (I know because Zack posted it on his Facebook page) came when the very quiet young man sitting directly in front of us got hit, first by a hot dog, then by a beer shower, from the third deck directly above us. Since he was wearing a Lester shirt, we assumed he was a Boston fan and so we got some not-so-secret (we smiled at each other) enjoyment out of his misfortune. But he never even got angry. His date did, looking skyward with a “Who are those cretins?” gaze. But “Lester” sat there calmly. He didn’t even cheer when Adrian Gonzalez buried the Yankees with a three-run home run.
Who are these people?
When I was their age (yeah, I know, here goes the old guy talking about the good old days), if you were fool enough to take a non-baseball-savvy date to a baseball game, you planned on explaining some of the nuances of the game. (“He’s bunting to put the runner on second base so he can score on a hit. You can hit foul balls ’til the cows come home.”) You didn’t mind that because she was at least feigning interest in the game and it made you feel competent. Who cared what the hot dogs cost?
I once took a date to a Yankee game and sagely informed her that Yogi Berra (stop adding up the years) was a very good bad-ball hitter. It didn’t matter if it was a strike, Yogi could hit it out. Which, God bless his pinstriped soul, he promptly did. Right down the right field line, near the foul pole in the old Yankee Stadium, where the seats didn’t cost anywhere near as much as the similar ones we had in the new stadium.
Of course, our seats Saturday were wider and definitely more comfortable. They cost a hundred bucks each, which is why I was wondering who these young men were who were taking young women on a date to a baseball game which they clearly didn’t care about and which would cost them close to $500 anyway by time they got through parking, paying tolls, eating and drinking. Even in Manhattan, dinner and a movie is cheaper.
I did notice that there were empty seats Saturday night, which is not something the Yankees saw in the last few years at the old stadium. Ticket prices and the cost of food and drink and souvenirs have risen beyond all reason at the ballpark. I think this has led to a new kind of “fan,” a social fan, if you will. These are young people -- apparently with healthy incomes -- who go to the Yankee game because it’s seen as the place to be. Whatever “cool” is today, this is it. (“Yeah, Cindy and I went to the Yankee game Saturday night with Mitch and Amy. Awesome. Posada what? Didn’t play? Didn’t notice.”)
Because they have not been winning lately, a Mets game does not carry the same cache as a Yankee game, but I am willing to bet there are many more actual conversations about baseball at Citi Field than at the new Yankee Stadium. Not that it’s any cheaper.
It was, in sum, disappointing, insofar as the game went. But Zack, Andy and I enjoyed the day and taking the train to the game made it real easy. We’ll do it again and hope for a better performance by the “Bombers.”
As for the fans, that may be another matter: In the bottom of the ninth inning, the game all but over and half the people gone, the Yankee ball boy along the right field foul line tossed a warmup ball to a young kid standing at the railing. Some 35-ish guy wearing a suit (A suit! At a baseball game!) and a glove reached over the kid’s head and grabbed the ball. He rejoiced in his theft, holding both arms to the sky to a chorus of boos from the remaining fans. He smiled and held the ball aloft as he returned to his seat along the fence (we’re talking four figures here) and adamantly refused to “Give the kid the ball!” as the chants demanded. Security came and talked to him. He clutched the ball more defiantly, perhaps anticipating his Monday morning spotlight. (“Yeah, went to the Yankee game Saturday night. Great seats. Got the ball Swisher was warming up with in right field. … What about Posada?”)
Just as I was saying to myself for the twentieth time, “Who are these people?” a gray-haired gentleman wearing khakis and a green windbreaker, walked slowly from his seat further up the right field line to where the kid and the suit were sitting. The guy in the windbreaker held out his hand and gave the kid a ball he had snared earlier in the game. Then he turned and walked back to his seat to watch the Yankees go down without a threat.
By this time, all those twenty-somethings had long been gone, probably looking for a bar to refresh their game memories. But Zack (an avid, true Yankee fan) saw the whole scene play out. He gave the guy in the windbreaker a nod of approval. Now that’s cool, however they say it today.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Cahoots: A place or a state of mind?

By Bob Gaydos
“It is disingenuous for anyone to blame Pakistan or state institutions of Pakistan, including the ISI and the armed forces, for being in cahoots with Al Qaeda.”
So said Yousuf Raza Gilani, prime minister of Pakistan, in response to statements in this country and elsewhere suggesting that the only way Osama

Mickie James
bin Laden could have lived undetected for six years in a million-dollar fortress on a residential street in Pakistan, just down the road from that country’s version of West Point, was if elements of Pakistan’s military and intelligence communities were working with bin Laden. In Cahoots.*
To which I say, “Where the heck is this “Cahoots” of which they speak? Is it in Pakistan? After all, it’s not the first time members of Pakistan’s military have been accused (is that the right word?) of being in Cahoots. This usually follows the assassination of one of their prime ministers. And a long time ago, the government of Pakistan was accused of being in Cahoots with China to snare a piece of valuable waterfront property that India also had its eyes on.
For some reason, people said to be in Cahoots always say they weren‘t there, so it would appear that this Cahoots is not a nice touristy place, but rather a place people go to plot evil, or at least nefarious, deeds. Which sounds a lot like Pakistan.
Or maybe Afghanistan. When 541 prisoners, including 106 Taliban commanders, tunneled their way out of Kandahar Prison recently, embarrassed U.S. and Canadian officials claimed Afghan prison officials were incompetent, corrupt, and in Cahoots with the Taliban. This suspicion was fueled by the fact that 800 Taliban prisoners had escaped from another maximum security prison in Afghanistan in 2008.
Then again, Cahoots could be in Mexico. In Hidalgo, Mexico, the Catholic Church, no less, has been accused of being in Cahoots with drug lords because it accepts donations from known leaders of that country’s drug cartels. A new church with a huge silver cross was built thanks to the generosity of a major drug lord. A plaque on the building identifies him. The people in the small town, who grew up with the man, say they don’t know him, but U.S and Mexican officials say they were in Cahoots.
The more I researched, trying to locate Cahoots, the more confusing the answer became. For example, on the other side of the ocean from Mexico, cases of radiation overexposure have led to suspicion that nuclear regulators and the Japanese government operated in Cahoots to cover up fatal flaws at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, flaws that some experts say would have manifested themselves even without the devastating earthquake and tsunami that cut off power to the plant.
Meanwhile in South Africa, Communist Party General Secretary Blade Nzimande said the capitalist system is neglecting the efforts made by the South Africa working class and that the South African media are part of the problem because they are “in Cahoots with the oppressive capitalist bosses.” In the interest of fairness, communist leaders in every nation have always accused capitalists of being in Cahoots with someone.
From here, the search for Cahoots became increasingly futile.
When federal officials sued to shut down an Amish farmer who was selling raw milk across state lines, customers of the Pennsylvania farmer said,
"The FDA is in Cahoots with the large milk producers.” And WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange charges that Facebook and the U.S. government are in Cahoots to build a mammoth database. He called it "the most appalling spy machine that has ever been invented," in an interview with Russia Today.
There’s also an American blogger who says, “My gas station and my grocery store are in Cahoots. They both keep inching up prices, waiting to see which one will bankrupt me first.” And a lawsuit has been filed in California accusing Apple, Google, Adobe Systems, Intel, and other tech companies of being in Cahoots to violate antitrust laws by allegedly conspiring to fix employee pay, as well as working out "no solicitation" deals with one another.
Busy place, that Cahoots.
I had a just about given up hope of finding it (Google maps kept referring me to burger joints across America) when I came to the web site for TNA Wrestling. And I quote: “We start things off backstage where it seems like the cameras are spying on Madison Rayne and Tara. The former Knockouts Champion is all up in Tara’s grill, telling that it was her fault she lost her title to Mickie James four days prior. She says that for all she knows, the two of them are in Cahoots. Tara reminds her that it was her locked in the cage with Mickie and Madison goes on to say that she wasn’t there when she needed her. From what I recall, Madi, you demanded Tara stay in the back and play with little dollies while you unceremoniously got your ass beat. But that’s just one person’s reflection. Oh wait, nope, Tara remembers it the same way I do. Maybe we’re in cahoots! CAHOOTS!”
Well, no wonder it’s so hard to find. Who would ever suspect professional wrestlers of being in Cahoots?

* Cahoots capitals are mine.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The man who got Osama

By Bob Gaydos
There I was, sitting around Sunday night, contemplating my navel (a novel refuses to materialize) and trying to decide whether to write about the Royal Wedding (capitals are a must), a rather schizophrenic UFO festival in Pine Bush, the roasting of Donald Trump or the ongoing nuclear meltdown in Japan. This haphazard thought process reflects more than two decades of writing daily editorials, in which no event is ever out of bounds for some sort of comment -- constructive and cogent, of course.
And yet here I am, on Tuesday afternoon, once again feeling compelled to write about the thought processes of Barack Obama, forever more to be known, to the chagrin of Republicans, as the man who got Osama bin Laden.
George W. Bush, the man who made water board a verb and who leapt before ever looking for eight years in the White House, ordered bin Laden, the al Qaeda mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, brought to justice, dead or alive. It never happened on Bush’s watch.
Obama, his White House successor, the anti-Bush who sometimes drives friends and foes crazy by insisting on discussing, debating, compromising and cooperating on every important decision, delivered Osama’s head on a metaphorical platter. Actually, we’re told a Navy SEAL put a bullet in the terrorist’s head and his body was buried at sea within 24 hours, supposedly in accordance with Islamic religious beliefs. The fact that this makes it difficult to build a martyr’s memorial to him, is purely coincidental, we are also told. Besides, the White House said, no country would take bin Laden’s body
Of course. And who cares? There must be a watery entrance to hell as well. Beyond the national euphoria and celebration of the death of bin Laden, there was, of course, the usual political posturing in comments by potential rivals of Obama. Short version: A lot of Republicans managed to praise everyone involved in the mission, except for the commander-in-chief. It’s almost as if he were just a spectator, along for the ride.
Bush and Dick Cheney were not among them, perhaps because their time has come and gone and also perhaps because they know firsthand what it took to finally succeed. They congratulated Obama. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, known for his bluntness, was also direct: “I want to commend President Obama's Administration for its commitment and dedication to finally bringing Osama bin Laden to justice.” Perhaps coincidentally, Christie says he’s not running for president in 2012.
But it fell to the equally direct Rudy Giuliani, the politician most affected by the events of 9/11, to put Obama’s role in true perspective.
The former New York City mayor specifically praised Obama: “I feel a great deal of satisfaction that justice has been done, and I admire the courage of the president to make a decision like this because if something had gone wrong everyone would be blaming him,"
Oh my God, would they ever. For a president accused of dithering and dawdling and trying to be too nice to everybody, this was an incredibly gutsy call. Go into Pakistan, the hell with what their government thinks. Don’t bomb the compound -- too risky for civilian casualties. Send in a small, specially trained force. Capture or kill Osama and get out fast. Get evidence. Don’t leave anything behind.
And yet, we also know that this order did not come without months of intelligence gathering, many meetings, discussions, debates and probably arguments. Out of that had to come an overriding faith by the commander-in-chief in the plan of attack and in the men who would be chosen to carry out the mission. Yes, this is Osama bin Laden. Yes, we can get in and out. Yes, the risks are high. No, we can’t absolutely guarantee success.
Whew! Remember Jimmy Carter’s helicopters in the desert? Blackhawk down? Heck, Remember Ike and U-2 and JFK and the Bay of Pigs? Obama is a student of history. He knew what was at stake, for him and the country and he gave the order. Do it.
That decision immediately puts him in a much different category than any one of his potential opponents in 2012. Not that he wasn’t there already.
Consider first what it took for a junior senator, with little foreign policy experience, to decide to run for president against Hillary Clinton. Throw in the fact that the junior senator is black. Consider that in the two-plus years since his election, Obama, the ditherer and dawdler, has delivered a rescue package for a seriously ailing economy, a major reform of health care that contains new benefits for millions of Americans and also trims the deficit, overseen repeal of the military’s don’t ask/don’t tell policy on gays serving, gotten a budget passed with a GOP-controlled House of Representatives, all the while dealing with a Republican Party seemingly devoid of common sense or at least some leader willing to stand up and say the birthers and the persistent nay-sayers have no clothes, never mind evidence.
Presidents supposedly have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. Gerald Ford was often mocked because of his difficulty mastering this challenge, but he was seen as a sincere, good man, so the joking was done in good humor. He never got elected president, however. Obama has no difficulty handling more than one problem at a time. Indeed, his intelligence, charm and rhetorical and oratorical skills are surely scary to some Americans, especially for a guy born in Kenya. (If there are any Fox News fans reading this, that’s a joke.)
Which, brings me back to Donald Trump. One of the most amazing things to me about Obama’s ability to carry on several projects at a high degree of excellence was his performance Saturday night at the White House Correspondents Dinner. As is custom, the president gave a 10-minute or so standup routine, aimed at members of the audience. Obama’s was spot-on perfect and hilarious, skewering a scowling Trump and plenty of other critics in the audience and, in my view, outshining the professional comedian who followed him, Seth Meyers of Saturday Night Live.
Yet Obama knew all the time he was mocking Trump that a decision on getting Osama was on his agenda in the morning. Pressure? Not so you’d notice. Obama was perfect Saturday night, leaving them laughing in the aisles. He didn’t miss a beat on Sunday either, bringing America cheering to its feet.
Some people are going to say he was lucky. Maybe so. But it takes a keen mind and a lot of careful thought and preparation -- not to mention a willingness to be criticized as indecisive -- to be as “lucky” as Barack Obama has been. He may still drive you (and me) crazy sometimes, but look around folks. So long as the wheels in that Occidental/Columbia/Harvard-educated brain keep churning, I’m sticking with the man who got Osama.