Archive for June, 2010
Maybe it is because he’s lean, mean, and lets his weapon do the talking. Or maybe it is because TBS used to play all the Western movies on repeat. But whatever it is, I’ve always thought of Chipper Jones as the Clint Eastwood of baseball.
Clint Eastwood said goodbye to the West in the Oscar-winning “Unforgiven”. His skin is leathered over after years under the searing Western sun. His morals shot after decades of gunfights (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XoAPKt7kbD0) . The Man With No Name is just another weathered cowboy. “I’m just a fella now,” he reflects. “I ain’t no different than anyone else no more.”
Major league baseball is nearly as cruel. A breaking-down Chipper Jones is bidding a wistful farewell to the game. Chipper confessed after 16 years wrangling pitchers and the New York Mets, “we all know where I’m leaning.” But Chipper doesn’t want your pity. He doesn’t want to be a distraction, and the last thing he wants is a farewell tour.
The son of the South is an old 38 now. He was never a perfect man, but now the battle-scars are really showing. His mythical bat speed ain’t what it used to be. His creaky hip aches chronically. His feet, leaden. Chipper doesn’t crush home runs anymore. He takes his walks or sprays Texas leaguers just over the second baseman’s head.
But just when you think he’s done. Just when you think Chipper’s gone to the well one too many times, he laces a two-run gapper to left-field. Chipper trots into second, un-Velcroes his batting gloves, and cracks that crooked grin of his. And fathers across the South look over at their sons and say, there goes the greatest third basemen who ever lived.
This is the west, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend. — The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Chipper Jones was always MY ATHLETE. His bat helped fuel the Atlanta Braves to an unprecedented 14 straight division titles, or Kindergarten through my Sophomore year of college. He’s the one younger, chubbier me used to muddy my Nikes imitating in the backyard Georgia clay. The scowl. The gnashing bubble gum. The signature toe-tap. The swing of beauty. (Warning: Results may vary.)
Younger Chipper Jones copy-catted the 1970s Los Angeles Dodgers’ swings in his Florida backyard.: Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, then he’d switch to the other side of the plate for the left-handed hitters. And that’s the other thing. Chipper Jones is a switch hitter. Third baseman Mike Schmidt hit more homeruns. George Brett had the higher batting average (and pine tar). But Chipper Jones is the best switch hitter in the history of the game after a fella named Mickey Mantle.
Now, it’s true. Chicks dig the long ball:
But you’d fall in love with Chipper Jones’ game. He’s never mashed Ruthian home run blasts. Instead, he is a rare blend of discipline and power. A career .300 batting average/.400 OBP/.500 slugging kind of guy. In translation, ladies, he has great eyes, power, and knows a thing or two about getting to first. The sexiest part about the back of his baseball card isn’t the World Series title, the MVP trophy, or the string of .300, 30 home run, 100 RBI seasons. It’s that he’s spent his entire career with the Atlanta Braves.
In the age of free agency and $300 million contracts, Chipper’s loyalty is an anachronism. He could have bailed when the going got tough in Atlanta. But he just reworked his contract so the team could afford more payroll flexibility. Now, in the twilight of his sparkling Hall of Fame career, Chipper’s ready to renegotiate his deal to give millions BACK to the Braves so the small-market team can have more cash in the war chest to win, even if it’s without him.
Maybe the greatest accolade of all is Chipper Jones is the anti-ARod. Alex Rodriguez couldn’t win a ring with the hand he has dealt. So he jumped ship to the Rangers and took steroids for three years. He couldn’t win there either so he switched teams and even his fielding position. He finally won his ring (albeit, in Derek Jeter’s shadow), but he’ll always be a juicer nomad who chased the money out of town. His records will always end with an Asterisk.
In the age of steroids, perhaps the greatest compliment is Chipper aged the way stars are supposed to age. 38 year olds don’t crush titanic blasts deep into the seats (see: Bonds, Barry). They don’t whip crackling 96 MPH fastballs down the pike (Clemens, Roger). They lose a step. They fall asleep in the clubhouse during games (Griffey Jr., Ken).
With the exception of Evander Holyfield, we can never tell champions of the game when to hang them up. For every Brett Favre career year at age 40, there are a dozen more cautionary tales. In the 1970s, Willie Mays looked pitiful stumbling around Shea’s outfield. In the 2000s, Michael Jordan looked strange and human balling in a Wizards jersey. Nowadays, twenty-something nobodies are dusting Lance Armstrong in Texas road-races. Yet, we can’t say anything. They earned the right to play as long as they wanted. And there’s a certain ephemeral beauty in it. These all-time greats reigned over the game for so long finally get their comeuppances at the hands of Father Time.
Chipper, on the other hand, is leaving on his own time. Sure, he could squeeze out 3-4 more seasons for an outside shot at 500 HRs, but he’s got too much pride. His bust in Cooperstown is already measured.
Clint Eastwood is arguably an even better director than actor. Likewise, Jones may be an even craftier marketer. His real name is Larry, but he renamed himself Chipper because he figured a guy named Larry Jones could never be famous. Chipper named one of his sons Shea in honor of the favorite demolition derby—the Mets’ old stadium. Now this whole season when he should be ticking off his lasts—last walk-off home run, Wrigley Field trip, and (hopefully) playoffs—he’s thinking about all the firsts he’s missing with his four youngsters back home.
And maybe, just maybe, one of them will grow into a Braves jersey and make Mets fans groan: not again.
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Generation Y is sick, yo! We’re 70 million Americans strong, born between 1981 and 1992, and always have the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ back:
We still love Obama but disillusionment is starting to creep in. Change may be coming, but it’s glacially slow. Remember the iconic “Hope” poster that was a clarion call for fresh thinking? It was donated to a museum by a pair of lobbyists.
Deep down, we’re starting to think we missed the peak of the American Empire by 40 years. We quietly fear Afghanistan, “the graveyard of Empires”, is our Vietnam. Domestically, 15 months of filibustering and partisan infighting over health care reform reminded us why we hated politics in the first place. We don’t understand why “don’t ask, don’t tell” is still an issue. And don’t even get us started on Arizona:
Grown-ups I talk to are befuddled as to why we aren’t angrier. My Dad emails me gloomy Wall Street Journal articles enumerating the mountains of debt his Baby Boomers are putting on our tab. My dad laments that unpaid interns are conquering the world. He’s not alone. Economists whisper that, thanks to the protracted Great Recession, we are showing the symptoms of another Lost Generation. My school Dean Glenn Hubbard worries about Generation Y’s perniciously high unemployment rates (over 16% for 24-year-olds). He fears for twenty-somethings two years out of work can become virtually a “life-sentence”.
Despite all of the turmoil, us Generation Y’ers are still a bubbly bunch. Maybe we’re naïve. Maybe YouTube keeps us happy. Or maybe it’s that the world has doubted American generations since our Founding Fathers. And never before has the world seen a generation with our tolerance, creativity, and innovation. It won’t be easy. But I have no doubt we have the vitality and ambition to become the Sweetest Generation. And perhaps one day our grandchildren will marvel at our achievements against tall odds. Even if they never get our love for the “Jersey Shore.”
Ladies, I apologize in advance.
Hopefully you laughed a little during the bomb also known as Sex & The City 2. Because with the July arrival of the LeBron Sweepstakes, the World Cup, and the return of Jersey Shore (in Miami this time), the Summer of 2010 is poised to become the Summer of Bro-dom. And the official drink of the Summer of Bro-Dom is (unfortunately) Smirnoff Ice.
There are certain Internet fads you wish you could fast-forward life until they are over. RickRolling was especially painful. The Hitler Hates The Jonas Brothers / The Minnesota Vikings memes, while hilarious, are thankfully on their last legs.
The latest, and by far, the vilest of the Internet memes is Bros Icing Bros. The game is simple. If a friend surprises you with a Smirnoff Ice, you “got iced.” By rule, you must get down on one knee and chug it. To be clear, there are no winners here. You simply have to drink more Smirnoff Ices you never wanted to drink in the first place. Trust me, no bro is happier after a Smirnoff Ice than he was before it. Yet by a quirk of fate, Smirnoff is rewarded for making such a dreadful libation. You could always quit playing, but that’s the move of a Faux-Bro (See also: Rodriguez, Alex).
From those twin pillars of Bro-dom justice, the rules diverge based on apartment and cruelty of roommates. At the Rivergate apartment on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the game has unfortunately taken on more of a guerrilla war tone. The fridge is the only Holy Land. Beyond that, all’s fair in love and icing. Smirnoff Ices are hidden, not just presented. Any pile of laundry or especially chubby cat could be “landmined” with a lurking Smirnoff Ice. You can be iced whenever. No time, too early (see: 7:13 AM last Monday). No event (final exam, wedding, investor meeting), too important.
My roommate, let’s call him Uncle Benny, works in Private Equity. I am in school. It’s a veritable New York Yankees vs. Kansas City Royals match-up, and Uncle Benny has a George Steinbrennerian desire to win no matter the price. When I got back from a long day of classes Tuesday, I checked the deli downstairs and saw all the six-packs of Smirnoff Ice were sold out. I could only sigh. Uncle Benny had been shopping, again.
I live in fear. The left pocket of my favorite pair of jeans is now forever molded to the shape of a Smirnoff bottle. Security often stops me while leaving Duane Reade or Chipotle until they see the suspicious bulge is a lukewarm bottle of malt-liquor and realize not even shop-lifters would stoop so low. I carry a Smirnoff Ice on me at all times. Even when I go run. Make that, especially when I go run.
It gets worse. As New Yorkers can attest, the past two weeks have been excruciatingly hot. Keep in mind these “Ices” typically sit around in boiling Manhattan apartments for days on end. So what’s it like to drink a four day old, warm Smirnoff Ice? It’s perhaps most aptly described by the following clip from “Anchorman”:
Bros Icing Bros is not a campaign by Smirnoff Ice. Smirnoff’s marketing team only wishes it could be so clever. Instead, Bros Icing Bros was the brainchild of a couple meatheads at the fratiest of all Southern colleges: The College of Charleston (Think: walking, talking J-Crew magazine with a Southern accent).
The frat boys set up a website BrosIcingBros.com, where users can upload pictures of the more spectacular ices. They posted a couple icing videos on Youtube and Facebook. From there, Bros Icing Bros spilled up the East Coast before hitting the New York City epicenter. Investment bankers especially got a kick out of it. An icing was recently reported at Goldman Sachs.
Typically Internet memes fizzle out within weeks. What’s worrisome is Bros Icing Bros is only escalating. Social media expert Sandy Smallens believes, “We’re gonna see more of this. Now that everything can be delivered through digital media, what’s the last authentic thing? Spontaneous experience.” The frat boys, Smallens said, are at the vanguard of the next phase in social media: real life. Smallens believes memes such as Icing Bros will become more potent in the future because they build a feedback loop between Internet you and real world you.
In translation, it took a while but frat boys finally figured out the social media game. Meatheads could always ruin your day off-line, now they can do it online as well. Smallens believes corporations will now follow suit.
In translation, don’t forget your ice block, bro!
In anticipation of the soon arriving 2010 FIFA World Cup, ESPN released 32 murals for each team/country in the World Cup: