Jewish World Review March 4, 2005/ 23 Adar I 5765
Clean-Shaven and Ugly: Yanks Ain't No Gentlemen; Where Have All the Quagmires Gone?
Here's a question, a serious one, for longtime Yankees fans: Why has the word "class" become linked to the most victorious, and avaricious, sports franchise in the past 100 years? Apart from Lou Gehrig's stoic appearance at the Stadium on July 4, 1939, probably the most dignified moment in the history of baseball, I'm at a loss for other examples of "class." Wait, their uniforms are by far the coolest in the USA.
General Manager Brian Cashman surely can't be thinking of Babe Ruth's off-field behavior (today, unless he contributed heavily to Democrats, the Babe would be on NOW's hit list), Mickey Mantle's pussy scavenger hunts, George Steinbrenner's two suspensions from the game, drunkard Billy Martin's ignominious death in a ditch, Reggie Jackson's pale imitations of Muhammad Ali or Gary Sheffield's recent criticism of teammate and fellow steroid user Jason Giambi.
Sheffield, who called the Red Sox a scummy bunch of "characters" before the Yanks choked in the ALCS last fall, recently complained anew that the Angels' Vladimir Guerrero bested him for the American League's MVP in 2004. "At the start of the year I had two homers and he had 15, "Mr. Wiggles told the Post's George King, "Look at the park he hits in and that's hogwash." There's a "team" player for you. As for Giambi, who wouldn't be tarred as a pathetic multimillionaire by the media if he'd hit 30 homers and batted .300 last year, Sheffield was a real stand-up guy. He said: "I said I didn't know I took steroids, the bottom line was I thought it was rubbing cream or my legs. I am not like Jason Giambi sitting here crying and say[ing] it's unfair, that the attacks are unfair. I have been attacked my whole career."
Maybe Sheffield's just a "classy" asshole.
Cashman reacted to Boston players jabbing Alex Rodriguez for boasting about his workout regimen by saying, "We're more understated than they are. If they want to throw hand grenades, let them throw hand grenades." Trot Nixon, devoutly religious and not known for verbal "grenades," unless you consider thanking the Lord for a victory, slammed A-Fraud earlier this month. He said: "Like Rodriguez says, he's running stairs at 6 in the morning while I'm sleeping and taking my kids to school. I'm like, well I'm not a deadbeat dad, Alex. He's got a kid now, too, so I guess he'll have his limo driver take her to school."
The Times' columnist Selena Roberts reacted on Feb. 17: "That's got to leave a mark, even on A-Rod's pristine veneer. But certainly, Rodriguez would be able to take comfort in teammates who would give him a kiss on the head a spray of Bactine for the boo-hoo, right? Certainly, his reputation would be valiantly defended by everyone assembled at the Yankees' spring training facility except that it wasn't. 'That's between them,' [Derek] Jeter said of the Nixon flap. 'I have nothing to do with that one. That's Trot and Alex.'"
A-Fraud (who may be goaded into having a lonely MVP season) tried to spin Jeter's lack of support by saying, with a straight face, "It just tells you how classy our organization is. Our players, they don't caught up in that everyday stuff. And I appreciate their position."
The Post's Joel Sherman, who uses his column as an ongoing audition for a slot with Yank suck-up Michael Kay on YES, was disappointed that Rodriguez didn't stick up for himself. On Feb. 21, he wrote: "Had he handled [the various taunts from Bosox players] more sincerely, Rodriguez would have made the Red Sox look like the unprofessional bozos they are."
Unprofessional? Because the Sox aren't forced to cut their hair, shave regularly and slather praise on their owner? By the way, if Steinbrenner wanted to show some "class," he'd spend a few bucks on doubling the size of the Stadium's concession workforce so that fans wouldn't miss at least an inning of a game waiting on line to get a beer and dog.
But let's be frank: There's not a lot of "class" in any Major League Baseball franchise. I'm a lifelong Sox fan, but every time Kevin Millar opens his trap you get the feeling that if Roseanne was still on the air, he'd have a recurring cameo role. Millar's a moron, just like Sheffield. There's a limited supply of gentlemen in the MLB today: Offhand, Bernie Williams is tops for the Yanks and Tim Wakefield gets the nod for the Sox.
Where Have All the Quagmires Gone?
Matt Taibbi's intentionally provocativeone reason he's usually an entertaining and intelligent writer, whether or not you agree with himbut his attack on Kurt Andersen in last week's New York Press makes me wonder if he's been hanging out with Maureen Dowd lately. I happen to like Andersen, personally and on the printed page, so this criticism isn't completely impartial. Still. When Taibbi reacted to Andersen's New York column of Feb. 21, which suggested that Democrats might be thinking like Germany's anti-war Der Spiegel that President Bush wasn't completely out of his mind in taking on Saddam Hussein, with such extreme vitriol you've got to wonder who's headed for the funny farm.
Taibbi, who accuses Andersen of now being an "upper-class weasel" and a "feckless, left-wing snob" after an early career of writing with "dignity and iconoclastic fervor," is way off base. He writes: "Andersen's [New York piece] is the most shameful, vicious piece of horses***t I have ever seen anybody write about this terrible war. It is sickening not on the level of writing or rhetoric, but on the level of human behavior." More vicious than the op-eds of dreaded neocons like Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol (who cites Andersen as an example of "Old New York," in the latest Weekly Standard, proving that the 50ish journalist is getting it from all sides), Victor Davis Hanson or anyone who writes for the Journal's editorial page?
Taibbi, implausibly, denies that much of the left is either vocally or secretly rooting for the terrorists in Iraq to defeat and slaughter citizens there who voted for democracy last month. He says, "We could root for Bush to admit he f****ed up and appeal to the world for help in stabilizing Iraq. We could root for a similar admission and a similar appeal to the U.N., only coupled with an immediate American withdrawal. We could root for America to come out firmly against the Israeli occupation of Palestine, which would change the equation in Iraq."
Sure, let's hand the rather rapid pace of emerging democracy in the Mideast to the United Nations and maybe also Jimmy Carter. And why not screw Israel, which, after all, has committed the sin of being America's top ally in the region. Even the Times' Thomas Friedman, a Democrat who bleeds blue, finds reason for optimism in the Mideast, writing last Sunday while Dowd was dithering about with the original barb that Fox News is "Pravda-like"that "what's happened in last four weeks is not just important, it's remarkable."
At least Taibbi can take solace that Paul Krugman The Nation's ambassador to the Times isn't falling for the Friedman/Andersen/Der Spiegel line. On Feb. 15, Krugman, in a puff piece about Howard Dean, wrote, "Even on Iraq, many moderates, including moderate Republicans, quietly shared Mr. Dean's misgivings which have been fully vindicated about the march to war." The dream will never die.
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JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press (www.nypress.com). Send your comments to him by clicking here.