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Jewish World Review July 5, 2000/ 2 Tamuz, 5760

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Reeling in the years


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- THE METS-BRAVES GAME at Shea Stadium last Saturday afternoon was over in a flash. If you were stuck on a concession line in the bottom of the second, when Benny Agbayani and Mike Piazza hit homers to highlight a six-run rampage against aging superstar Greg Maddux, well, there wasn't much left to witness. Junior and I were sitting in field box seats not far from the foul pole in left, and aside from the crick in my neck from trying to keep an eye on the pitchers, it was cool to be so close to the leftfielders and have a binocular-view into the Braves' bullpen.

It was Phoenix-like sunny that day, which wore my son out by the seventh, and sometimes we lost track of fly balls, but this was the most revved-up Mets crowd I've seen in a long time. Granted, I don't care for the National League as a rule, and Shea is just the worst, with its quasi-suburban feel and jets flying overhead into and out of La Guardia, but the still-huge contingent of cops because of John Rocker's presence made it feel like a playoff contest. By Saturday, the controversy had mostly been defused: Rocker apologized on camera two days earlier, pitched a one-two-three inning that night and then sat down with a blister on his finger for the remainder of the series. One vendor told me that his stock of "Rocker Sucks" t-shirts plummeted by Friday.

Dennis Duggan, writing in the June 29 Newsday, put the absurd Rocker travesty in succinct perspective: "The fact is baseball has put uniforms on bigots, wife swappers, child abusers, gamblers and drunks-as long as they could throw a ball 90 mph or hit one into the bleachers. A convicted felon named George Steinbrenner owns the proud New York Yankees. So, a loudmouth like Rocker is small potatoes."

Duggan might've added that an admitted perjurer, one of the filthiest politicians still alive, sits in the Oval Office, and yet the Arkansan has the gall to feign offense at Republican campaign advertising and the soul-sickening effect of big money on presidential politics. After all, the Leiber/Stoller song "Only in America," which was a hit for Jay & the Americans decades ago, didn't include the following lyric: "Only in America/Can a kid without a cent/Get a break and maybe grow up to be a relief pitcher."

Bill Clinton really is a P.T. Barnum creature. Did you catch his act last Friday in Philadelphia before a crowd of union members, where the President mocked his wife's Senate opponent Rick Lazio for a recent campaign commercial? It was priceless. Grinning like the cat who ate the Constitution, Clinton said: "He said, 'How dare her say such a mean thing. I am for a patients' bill of rights.' A patients' bill of rights? The tie here, it's got a little red on it. That don't mean I'm wearing a red tie."

Lazio

Holy San Quentin Blues! I could rattle off 18 reasons to vote for George W. Bush this November, but right now number one would be the disappearance of this poisonous Hee-Haw character from public life. Can you imagine what it'll be like if the Democrats score twice, with victories for Al Gore and Hillary Clinton? Old shuck-and-jive Bill will take up guest quarters in both the White House and Capitol, whispering in the ear of the President and junior Senator from New York. Remember, Clinton pulls Gore's strings just as the Vice President dictates lies for his stooge Chris Lehane to feed the media.

In a press conference on June 28, Clinton came up with this whopper: "Let me remind you that a lot of these other so-called scandals were bogus... [S]o the word scandal has been thrown around here like a clanging teapot for seven years... We had totally innocent people prosecuted because they wouldn't lie. We had totally innocent people's lives wrecked because they wouldn't go along with this alleged scandal machine." I won't bother to list the number of "totally innocent people" this wretched excuse for a man has "wrecked"-it's all in the public record-but just once I'd like to see a reporter interrupt Clinton and say, "You know what, sir? You're full of garbage, baby."

But back to the Temple/Church of Baseball. On the way to Shea, my innocent seven-year-old boy, decked out in his Red Sox garb-hat, batting gloves, Nomar Garciaparra jersey-startled me after looking at a Budweiser ad on the train and saying, "Hey Dad, will you buy me a beer at the Stadium?" I shot him a severe glance, even though I remembered sipping the foam off my brothers' Rheingolds at sporting events when I wasn't much older than he is.

My attention then turned to the trio of kids in their 20s, hopelessly marked as 90s teenagers by their hack-job tattoos, and I was simply speechless when a tough-looking chick said, "I'm glad this is a Mets game. Like, I go to Yankee Stadium, and it's, like, I want to vomit, getting off the subway and having to cross the street in all that traffic!" Imagine. How complicated life can get at such a tender age.

After the interminable ride on the local 7, pleasantly punctuated by baseball chatter with former New York Press staffer Drew Dix, we made the endless walk from the subway exit to Gate B at Shea. The stifling atmosphere of Flushing felt like that at most faceless ballparks in the country. For my free-agent-inflated tickets, you can't beat seeing the Stan's block across from Yankee Stadium with guys hanging out in the sports bar and kids buying souvenirs, with all the clatter and clang of the city that says baseball. I mean, like Junior said, when you're walking outside at Shea, you can see trees! Not to mention acres of parking lots and not a cab or livery driver in sight.

Beaver's dad

At the game, Junior was looking off in the distance, trying to spy the Mets' mascot, without any luck, till a gentleman right behind us pointed out Mr. Met in the upper deck. The stiff to our left was a real pain in the ass, however. His wife and teenage son were fully engaged, standing up to cheer every strike Mets' pitcher Al Leiter threw, but this guy sat back, read his bridge manual and then got in my face. It was bad enough that he was a Trent Lott-lookalike, with that helmet of hair (although in his case, I'm sure it was a rug), and even though he was probably younger than me he had the look and comportment of a 40-year-old from the 1950s-Ward Cleaver back from the dead.

Early in the first inning, he tapped me on the shoulder and growled, "Would you mind sitting back in your chair, you're obstructing my view!" As if I had anything to do with Shea's poorly constructed seating arrangement. Generally, during an exciting baseball contest, leaning forward to see the action is what you do, if you're a fan. It's why you came to the ballpark in the first place, Mr. Dill Pickle! I had half a mind to remind him about Little Stevie Wonder's sonic hit from a generation ago, "Uptight," but it would've been like speaking in Latin. This goober definitely didn't believe in magic.

BILLY BRATTON, WON'T YOU PLEASE COME HOME?
On the subject of professional louses, life must be swell for Rudy Giuliani these days as he kicks back in his Mr. Nice Guy disguise, lets the city go to seed a la David Dinkins, and relishes the I-told-you-so that he's flashing to New Yorkers in 64-point type. I take no pleasure in trashing a guy when he's undergoing cancer treatment, but the Mayor is a vengeful shmuck and his abdication of duty has rapidly become apparent in the past two months. It wasn't just the Central Park wilding (which Hillary Clinton disgustingly tried to exploit as a woman's issue); it's also the everyday blights on the landscape, blights that Giuliani once would have cleaned up.

Suddenly, there are bums panhandling again in the streets, or setting up sidewalk displays of year-old issues of Esquire, Hustler and Brill's Content, bringing us back to the late 80s. I imagine these hostile living scabs (and I'm talking the pros here, not the Brown University graduates seeking an experience) got sick of the Florida sun and figured it was safe to journey back north, just like a flock of crows.

On the train out and back to Shea, once again we encountered the con men and ladies who shuffled between cars, begging for a penny to get some food; at various stops the doors would open and there on the platform, whether it was at the 5th Ave. stop in Manhattan or 82nd St. in Jackson Heights, would be a fat old drunk sleeping it off, oblivious to the passengers stepping over his half-dead carcass to get where they were going. Public urination and-whoa!-defecation is once again the rule of the streets, reminding me of days long ago when I'd walk to the New York Press offices at the Puck Bldg. and encounter an overpowering stench every single morning at the intersection of Canal St. and Broadway. Now that's a golden oldie!

This wave of lawlessness has even hit my neighborhood takeout joints. When the motorist from Au Mandarin arrived Saturday night with my order of pork fried rice, snow peas and broccoli, steamed dumplings and chicken with cashews, the bill came to a whopping $51.75. I was distracted by the kids-one of them had the volume for a Gilligan's Island video far too loud-and just peeled off a wad of bills and sent the chap on his way. Only when I inspected the tab did I see I'd been ripped off to the tune of 20 bucks. Did I call the restaurant to complain? Of course not. That would've meant another intrusion upon my cocoon and a headache in trying to explain that one-two-three, Mr. Lee don't know very good math. I let it slide.


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.

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