Tom Laverty and I have started a baseball blog. In the movie Funny Farm Chevy Chase says, “As a novelist, I turned out to be a pretty good sportswriter.” That’s pretty much how I feel right now. As a poet, I really can write about baseball.
If you get a chance check out our site: BaseballJerks.com
Or just jump to some of our stories:
Baseball Jerks MLB Power Rankings–Week 22
Josh Beckett Won’t Stop Being A Jerk
Alfredo Aceves: Jerk of the Day
Radio Host Mike Valenti Dedicated to Being a Total Jerk
Josh Beckett: Hub Fans Bid Jerk Adieu
Definitive: Melky Cabrera IS a jerk
The Jerks are Here
Jemile Weeks, Justin Smoak and Drew Stubbs: This Week’s Jerks
And come vote for the Jerk of the Year!
We thank you.
As I was sitting in the Munro Muffler waiting room watching the mechanics fix the muffler on my wife’s 2007 Nissan Versa I asked the mechanic at the front desk how his day was going. He said, “Like a broken chicken’s neck. It’s gonna turn.” I didn’t fully understand what that meant but I laughed anyway knowing it was something good. He said it with such honesty. He said it with a smile. He was older, early 70’s maybe. I liked him because he smoked cigarettes inside the garage next to a sign that read, “No Smoking In The Garage.” I liked him because he didn’t charge me to simply diagnose the problem like other garages had. And when he did find the problem he suggested places that would be cheaper since he didn’t have that particular part in stock. This was no fake sales pitch, this was real, this was honesty.
In the small waiting room of the garage was an old Sports Illustrated, an ESPN Magazine, and an US Weekly. In the old Sports Illustrated was a photo of Jeff Hostetler. Jeff Hostetler was New York’s backup quarterback in the early 90’s. Phil Simms was New York’s Hall of Fame starter. The Giants were a great team until Simms suffered a season ending foot injury. Hostetler had to replace Simms for the playoff run.
This was in 1991 when the Patriots were simply terrible and all home games were blacked out due to horrendous attendance at Foxboro Stadium. The networks replaced New England home games with New York games. I’m from Massachusetts and I’ll admit it: I was a Giants fan. But I wasn’t a Giants fan just because they were on TV. I was a Giants fan because my father had once been a Giants fan. When he was a kid the Giants were his team. They were the team he lived and died with. They were the team he was watching when he first saw the innovation of instant replay. He saw the first instant replay with his father. When they showed the replay his father yelled, “Oh my god they did it again!”
In 1991 when the Giants won the Super Bowl I finally knew my father as a person—raw and full of emotion. The Giants had earned their way to the Super Bowl by beating the 49ers in San Francisco. The 49ers were back-to-back Super Bowl champions. I was 11-years-old and knew the Giants had no shot against Joe Montana on Montana’s home turf. I mean Jeff Hostetler was New York’s quarterback that day. But the Giants put on a ferocious defensive display and even knocked Montana out of the game. When Matt Bahr, New York’s kicker, put one through the uprights with time expiring the Giants Won 15-13 sending them to the Super Bowl against the Buffalo Bills.
This was getting interesting. Not the drama on the field but how my father reacted. I was witnessing something different. Something truly human. He was excited. He was excited all week.
Everyone had picked the Buffalo Bills to win. Everyone. But when Scott Norwood, Buffalo’s kicker in 91, missed a last second field goal to give New York the championship my father leapt out of his chair and screamed, “All those predictions! All those predictions! All those predictions!” I saw him as a kid. A kid who just watched his team win the Super Bowl. I knew him without words, without facts. Football had allowed me to do this. Football had allowed me to see what my father was truly like. I knew him deeper than I could’ve known him any other way.
My father is quiet about his childhood. He will answer direct questions but usually won’t elaborate. I know very little about my father’s childhood. Both of his parents died before I was born. His mother died when he was just a child. His father died when he was in college. Only recently has he offered up stories unprovoked. I used to think of my father as a single entity, a person that just occurred, someone who existed in college (where he met my mother and played football) but had no prior history to that. But football gives me an insight into my father and gives me a connection to my family. Not just facts about his life. Anyone can read a biography and know facts about someone’s life. I mean to truly know them. When he tells stories about his childhood most of them revolve around watching football games. My father swears during football games. He doesn’t swear any other time. He goes to church every Sunday morning but swearing becomes an art form he has brought to perfection just for football games. Taking the Lord’s name in vain is allowed when the refs don’t get it right.
On January 22, 2012 The Patriots beat the Baltimore Raves to go back to the Super Bowl for the 7th time. That game was followed by the NFC Championship game: New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers. San Francisco was at home, the same field as 1991. My father has since become a New England fan and I have developed a healthy hatred of the Giants for reasons that go back to 2007. But as time was winding down on this new chapter of San Francisco-New York playoff history I found myself rooting for the Giants once again. This one went into overtime and I couldn’t control myself—I was becoming a Giants fan one final time.
My father and I were sitting in the same room we were in 21 years ago. I am married now and he is semi-retired. But I was a kid again. His childhood excitement was creeping back in. After a fumble by San Francisco New York had a chance to win the game with a field goal. The same two teams; the same field; Christ, even the same side of the field. Lawrence Tynes, New York’s kicker, kicked the game winning field goal with time expiring. There was no great outpouring of emotion this time around but over the course of 21 years I’ve come to know to my father through football. An unspeakable knowing. I knew he was happy. Something like a “broken chickens neck,” something honest and real, a call that can’t be overturned, somewhere his father screaming, “Oh my God they did it again!”
Thank you to Leah Maines for nominating my chapbook Morning for a 2012 Massachusetts Book Award.
I had a dream last night that the brakes on my car had given out, that I was driving down the highway at a high rate of speed. I looked at the speedometer and saw the hand inch past 70 mph, fly past 80, and ultimately top out at 110 where the speedometer stops keeping track. But I was blissfully unaware of my brake situation. I was unaware until I saw something strange in front of me. Where there should have been the Mass Pike tolls was just a giant brick wall. I desperately pumped the brakes. Nothing—and with great speed I crashed into the wall.
When I woke up my radio was on. My radio is always on. The first thing I heard was something about Lady Gaga’s New Year’s Eve performance. Not about her music but something about her outfit. I was ready to leap back into the dream and accept the consequences of the crash. I’m tired of hearing about celebrities. But I’m not some “throw away your idiot box” or “I only listen to vinyl” asshole. I’ve seen my fair share of Jersey Shore. Something just snapped today.
I know this isn’t breaking news: we are a nation obsessed with celebrities. Or you could say I am an individual obsessed with the obsession of our nation’s obsession. At times it’s a passing obsession—an article that catches your eye in the doctor’s waiting room, a quick glance at the latest Kris Humphries/Kim Kardashian drama (God I hope they work it out!). Maybe I’ll read the first couple of sentences about Katy Perry and Russell Brand when Yahoo! tells me I should. In the checkout line I can learn about the new Aniston/Jolie drama. But when I pay for my groceries it’s over. Maybe it’s not all that bad. I want to believe that. But look at what I know without even trying. Jesus it’s bad.
I want to believe we aren’t a nation of stalkers, of sycophants, of ball lickers. Perhaps, at one point in time, we weren’t. But let’s look hard at ourselves. Or to make it easier I’ll take a look at myself. I believe my morning wasn’t that much different than yours: wake up, brew a pot of coffee, check Facebook, check Twitter. It took 89 tweets before I came across one from someone who I had actually met in person. It was from a college professor I had 10 years ago. I scanned though 50 Facebook posts before I got bored. I actually had met 30 of the 50 of posters in person. But man I felt like a stalker. There was no reason for me to know where people were currently living let alone what they were having for breakfast.
I’m no better than you. I don’t pretend to be. I’m posting a piece on a blog. I want to be Kim Kardashian. I want to believe someone will listen to me. I want to believe I matter. I want to believe what I have to say means something. We’re all the same. We all breathe the same breath. Social networking simply allowed us to spew our neurosis onto everyone in a nice ‘timeline.’ I fear rejection. You fear rejection. I fear you will reject this. I want you to retweet this, I want you to ‘like’ this. We fear rejection like we fear the brakes in our cars will give out. We don’t really think about it until it happens and by then it’s too late.
The great thing about celebrities is that even when they are rejected they aren’t. Even their rejection turns into a ‘story of triumph.’ At worst it’s publicity. Perhaps that is why they truly do get stalkers—I mean the kind that show up on their doorsteps. The celebrities seem to have it all. Oh the Great American Dream. The stalkers do no not want the celebrity. They want acceptance. They want the Dream. They want love. I believe this to be an American phenomena. Oh the horror of the American Dream. I wonder if there are mental disorders that are specifically ‘American.’ I wonder when ‘stalking’ started. Did people stalk Jesus? Did people stalk Aristotle?
The documentary ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ drives me toward the conclusion we have an American Fame Disorder. This stalking seems to be completely American:
The documentary is sad and scary. Watch it if you get a chance and tell me what you think. As a society why do we suffer from such a lack of love? Why did these two people turn to Tiffany for love? Is it isolation? Is it depression? It’s perhaps both. It most likely is both with a mind numbing cocktail of fear and rejection. But it’s also something more. It’s the failure of the American Dream. And when something fails we as a nation love to point fingers. It’s the easiest thing to do. But this goes beyond politics and finger pointing. We are taught by television: American Idol, The X Factor, Hell’s Kitchen, America’s Got Talent—that if you’re not the best you’re worthless. We believe Ricky Bobby: If you’re not first you’re last. Television is America’s God. It’s an unrelenting assault on the average person’s self-esteem. But it also makes us feel better. We watch the poor souls of these shows talk about themselves as if they’re the greatest singers since Billie Holliday. Reality is hell. How sad is it to see some kid from a small town where everyone tells him he’s a great singer get judged by three panelists who have already achieved the American Dream? At least in the past he could fail privately. At least that kid could’ve still been the star of his town.
We all fail. Even the greatest poets have been rejected by the shittiest magazines. Walt Whitman wrote rave reviews for his own poems. But America has brought failure to an art form—a public display of ridicule—a display so nauseating I can’t turn my head. I’m guilty. I watch. I’m the one who causes excessive traffic simply to catch a glimpse of the crash. I cause the curiosity factor on the freeway.
I’ve been away for a few hours and saw my title ‘The Horror of The American Dream.” Perhaps it’s that–this horror that we have to do something huge with our lives. That it’s not ok to be unknown. That it’s not ok to be happy in something simple. That is the horror I feel. It’s America Baby. Dream big or go home. But I don’t dream big. I don’t know what a big dream should feel like. I don’t dream for millions of dollars. I don’t dream for fame. I guess I dream for respect in some sense but even then I don’t really care. Maybe I don’t want to be Kim. What is the American Dream? What are my dreams? A shadow slanted sideways across a dead-end street no one ever heard of. My dreams are there. I’ll wait for them, I’ll wait for them to tell me what they are.