Jack Curry Interview Transcript – 5/16/2023

jc: So, the first thing – I’ll ask a couple of baseball questions, and then I want to do
some music, all right?
Jack: Okay, Perfect. I just feel like… I don’t know. I have this Johnny Cash shirt
here, but I feel like it’s not fitting right. I don’t know what happened. I haven’t worn
it in a while and it feels like it’s all over… I, let me see something here…
jc: I like it! It looks good. This is going to be audio-only anyway.
Jack: Oh, okay, Then we’re good.
jc: I wore my Morrison Hotel shirt for the occasion, so I think we’re set here.
Jack: I love it. I love it. There we go. We’re matching. All right.
jc: All right. So, first things first, I remember one thing that I was able to get out of
your book were the recent interviews you did with (Derek) Jeter, and (David)
Cone, and how much they gave you. They seem to be so unbelievably open about
how really good that team was and how even back then they knew they were good.
I tried to tell people for years when I met Jeter in the clubhouse at Shea Stadium, it
was his birthday. It was the second season of the Subway Series, (Paul) O’Neill hit
that home run, I think off (Mel) Rojas. And Derek had all these stuffed animals
around and I waited for everybody to leave, and I said, “Derek, you got to tell me
how good is this team?” and he waxed poetic for about three or four sentences
about, “Everybody’s good. We’re on a mission.” And I didn’t realize until years
later when he became a closed book with the press how incredibly rare that is. I
wonder when you were covering the team in ‘98, did you get the same vibe as you
got from doing these newer interviews for this book about how confident this team
was then?
Jack: No. I’ve told people that twenty-five years later, I think the pride, and if you
want to call it, the swagger was oozing a lot more, and I’m glad you brought up
Jeter because I wrote a book with Jeter twenty-plus years ago. And in that book, he
didn’t want to touch certain topics. He was still playing; his career was still
ongoing. And Jeter was never the type to criticize anyone anyway. Well, when I
spoke to him about the ‘98 Yankees, his pride was bursting through the telephone.
So, I think that twenty-five years later, these guys were very happy and content

with where they stood in baseball history. And James, I do think it’s easier for all of
us to reflect on our work, if you or I wrote a great article or a great book, and
someone complimented it a week or a month later, I would hope we would both
show some humility, maybe ten years down the line, when you saw where that
book or that article stood in your history, you’d say I’m pretty proud of that. And I
think that’s what happened with these players.
jc: Good point, a little space makes us think we’re commenting on someone else’s
Jack: It’s a great point, and I think what I needed to do as a journalist, and I tried to
do in this book, was to have these guys take me behind the scenes and tell me some
of the things that we hadn’t previously heard. And I have a couple of friends of
mine who covered that ‘98 team and before the book was published, they said to
me, “There were things in this book I did not know about” I mean, I should just
name them. One is Michael Kay, who’s now the play-by-play guy for Yes, one of
my colleagues, and one is Joel Sherman of the New York Post. They were around
that team almost every day. So, when they told me that there were things in there
that they didn’t know, I knew we had ventured down the right path.
jc: Yeah, that’s the beauty of this. It’s the retrospection of it. And I think it’s very
important that you did write this book, because a lot of young people are unaware
of this incredible season, so you did a great service by bringing this back twenty-
five years later.
Jack: Right. And by calling them “the greatest team ever,” this is just not me
opining on a top of a mountain top. I have evidence to support that, I interviewed
other people. Now, of course, the people on the Yankee team may think they’re the
greatest. But one of the most important interviews I did for this book was with
John Thorne. He is Major League Baseball’s official historian – you can talk to this
guy about baseball from the 1870s and he’d be on-point. He thinks the Yankees of
’98 are the best team ever, so that was a very powerful voice. And I think when
you talk about best of all time, James, you got to talk about dominance. And I
could reel off the statistics and how that team dominated. You talked about one
already 125-50. No one’s come close to 125 wins. They had the fourth highest
winning percentage. And then this is an important point that I think people forget,
they had to win three rounds of playoffs, and that’s where baseball has changed for
me, the ‘27 Yankees and the ‘39 Yankees, if you want to say they’re the greatest
ever, I’m going to say that that’s fine, make your argument, but they had to win one

round of playoffs and where do we see teams stumble? In the playoffs. The
Dodgers have been the best team in Major League Baseball across the last decade,
won World Series, and it happened in the shortened 2020 year, because it’s hard to
win in October.
jc: It sure is. And, you know, I’m glad you brought up Thorne, because that was my
next question. In the early 90s I interviewed John when his Total Baseball first
came out. And we all grew up with the Baseball Encyclopedia and we were like,
“What’s this new thing?” So, I had just gotten introduced to him, and, of course, I
had to ask him, “What’s the greatest baseball team ever?” This was in 1990-91.
And he said, without hesitation, which lit a lightbulb over my head, “the 1939
Yankees.” And I’m thinking, you know, the ‘27, ’61 teams. And then, of course,
you know, that team lost (Lou Gehrig), one of the greatest baseball players ever
before the season really starts. But he said, “It’s simple as this, James, you give up
runs or you don’t give up runs, you score runs, or you don’t, and the greatest run
differential was that ’39 team. So, for Thorne to say now, twenty-five years later
that the 1998 Yankees usurp that is a major statement in my book.
Jack: Well, the ’39 Yankees had the highest run differential in Major League
history, but, as you said, the ‘98 Yankees had the highest since the ‘39 Yankees. So,
I think if you’re picking the best four or five teams of all time – it’s the ‘98
Yankees, it’s the ‘27 Yankees, it’s the ‘39 Yankees, it’s the 1976 Cincinnati Reds.
And I’ll leave a wild card out there for number five, because there’s a lot of teams
that could vie for that. The one place where I think John and I disagreed a little bit
is he thinks that you could be considered amongst the greatest of all time if you
didn’t win a World Series.
jc: Right, like the 2001 Mariners.
Jack: I totally disagree. The 1906 Chicago Cubs were 116-36 but didn’t win a
World Series. To me, you’re out if you can’t complete the deal, like the 2001 Seattle
Mariners that you mentioned, you’re not amongst the greatest of all time.
jc: Yeah, I always hear the ‘06 Cubs, right? And they didn’t win either.
Jack: Yeah, exactly.
jc: All right. So last one, I adored some of the personal stories in here. In the early
90’s I was a research assistant for the late, great, Roger Kahn. I am sure you know
Roger’s work, his greatest work being The Boys of Summer, where you really learn
about the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers. I learned a great deal from Roger about the

stories of the people behind the season, the accomplishment, the turmoil, and
triumph. You did that so well in this book, and I’m reminded of the Wells’ chapter
most of all. Just magnificent insight into his personality, and what a personality!
And I get the feeling from the book that he and Joe (Torre) never really got over
their battles. There is also the wonderful story of Orlando Hernandez, and you said
at the beginning of the book, “I’m going to tell you right now, I’m going to be
really into Orlando Hernandez in this book.” And even the story of (Daryl)
Strawberry talking to that guy who got cut from that team, Dale Svuem..
Jack: Mike Buddie.
jc: Buddie, right! He was cut from the team the day the team photo wassd being
taken and Strawberry makes him get in the photo, even though he was bummed
from being cut and just wanted to get out of there. And he’s in the photo today. I
love those stories. You’re smiling. So, tell me what your favorite story in the book
Jack: Well, I’m glad you brought up the Straw/Mike Buddie story, because I have a
soft spot for Straw, I loved covering him. I am proud of him as someone who
covered him to see that he has conquered a lot of his demons. But Mike Buddie
was a little used reliever on that team who was sent up and down to AAA five or
six times that season.
jc: I forgot he was even on the team, yeah.
Jack: We’re getting to the time where the roster is going to be set for the
postseason. I think it’s a day away and Buddie thinks he’s finally made the cut. He
gets called into Joe Torre’s office and gets sent down. He doesn’t want to talk to
anybody, and you read it, so you know the story, but he just wants to get out of
Yankee Stadium. His flight isn’t leaving for four or five hours, but he says I gotta
get out of here. He had taken every other demotion gracefully, but this one
bothered him. And as he’s leaving the stadium, he bumps into Darryl Strawberry.
And Strawberry says to him, “Where are you going?” So, he tells him the story,
and Strawberry, showing an incredible amount of empathy says, “You know,
they’re taking the team picture today. You might want to hang around and be in
that, I have a feeling you’re gonna want to let people know you were a member of
this team. If you want me, I’ll go ask Joe if that’s okay. Buddie, recognizing how
right Strawberry is, says “No, I’ll go ask Joe.” Torre sanctions it, and Buddie is in
the picture. And James, he is now the athletic director at West Point, has had a
great career in college athletic administration. And he told me at home that that

picture, the 1998 picture sits in his basement and he said “I could walk in any mall
in the United States that has a sports store and see my picture with that team, and
that’s all because of Darryl Strawberry.” So, I know you do this, you’re a journalist
hunting down stories, so you well know that when Buddie told me that story, you
just start to smile, because, my gosh. I even think I got off the phone because I
interviewed Mike early. I tried to, no offense to him, but I tried to start with some
of the reserves and work my way up to the starters, and I remember getting off the
phone and saying to my wife, “If I get twenty-five or thirty more of those, my
books done.”
jc: Right, because everybody really knows the stories of O’Neill and all these other
guys and Jeter. When I was working with Roger, I was working on a book on the
‘78 Yankees, which was my team. And I remember when the baseball documentary
came out, what was it 1990? – the Ken Burns one? And the next day in USA
Today, they had all these retractions of mistakes in it, and that scared the hell out of
me as a writer. But I remember thinking about Brian Doyle, the kid called up
because starting second baseman, Willie Randolf gets hurt and plays the entire post
season having the time of his life, hitting over .400 in the World Series, that’s the
story everyone wants to know. Where did this guy come from? And you have at
least a half-dozen of those in this book that even if you lived through that season,
like me, you just forget. Shane Spencer is a great example. We all remember
Shane’s crazy home-run September, but what an amazing story that guy had! He
couldn’t even get on a plane because he didn’t have his ID? Amazing. The stories
of the people, that’s what makes this book great.
Jack: Right, Spencer gets called up to the big leagues, had lost his driver’s license.
His girlfriend, who later became his wife, whips out a baseball card – it’s pre 9/11,
so, they let him on the plane. Homer Bush. I thought gave me some insight into his
story. He’s a little used player, a pinch runner. One game he doesn’t really hustle on
a ball, late in September, because he thought it was gonna be a homerun and it
ended up being a double. He still scores and everybody’s high fiving him in the
dugout. And Torre just threw a glare at him and basically said, “You got to hustle.”
And so Bush is down after the game, his shoulders are slumped, and Torre walks
over to him, puts his arm around him and says, “Kid, this is the time where I need
you.” So, it just showed you who Joe Torre was, smacks him down and tells him
you didn’t do the right thing. And then lifts him up and says you can’t let this
happen in the postseason; you’ve got to be there for me. So, just stories like that.
I’m glad you enjoyed the Wells and the El Duque chapters. Those were probably

two of my favorites to write about; two characters that we think we know all about
them. But I’m fortunate that both of them, and many of their teammates gave me
more information than had previously been recorded.
jc: They did. Congrats again. And I love the humor in your book too. I think there
was… I forget the pitcher, but I think there was one line, you surmised that this is a
guy who’s definitely not going be buying this book, because he got pounded by the
1998 Yankees. (laughs)
Jack: Oh gosh, it was um… he gave up fourteen runs… Oquist! Mike Oquist.
Oakland’s bullpen was shot, so Art Howe left him in to get tattooed, I think, for
fourteen runs in five innings. And James, and you’ll appreciate this too, as a
journalist, I tried to hunt down Mike Oquist. I left messages in a couple of places.
And he either got the message and didn’t want to talk about it, or he didn’t get the
message. (laughs)
jc: That speaks volumes. (laughs) “I’m not talking about that!” Because those guys
carry with you carry these wounds for a long time.
Jack: I also tried to reach out to… so the Yankees start 1-4. It’s well-known Torre
has this big meeting before game six. And they go on a run after that. They go 64-

  1. Well, when they won game six, Knoblauch lead off with a homerun and they
    beat the Mariners, I think it was 12-7 or 13-7. The guy who started that game for
    Seattle was the last game you ever pitched in the major leagues. So, his lasting
    memory of the end of his career is that the ‘98 Yankees took off on his back. Jim
    Ballinger. Left messages in a couple of places for him too, but I didn’t end up
    getting a call back.
    jc: Not surprising. All right, I was supposed to let you go at 11:30, so we got about
    fourteen minutes. So, let’s start talking some music.
    Jack: All right!
    jc: I want to know more about your musical tastes and such because I love when
    you Tweet, “I’ve got four minutes before I go on Yes, I have just enough time to
    listen to this song.” You have song-times down. You’re my kind of guy. Alright, so
    here’s a few music questions. What was your favorite band growing up? And what
    is it now?
    Jack Curry: It’s a great question. I’m pretty transparent about this on Twitter. I will
    preface this by saying I grew up in Jersey with a brother that is a couple years older

than me and who’s a music savant. So, the first band/musician that I fell in love
with was (Bruce) Springsteen. But the band that I grew to adore, and I always tell
people is my favorite band of all time, is the Clash. And I was fortunate enough
when I was sixteen, seventeen to see them at Bonds in Manhattan.
jc: You went to that show? Holy shit.
Jack: I went twice! They played twenty shows or something in ten days and I was
mesmerized James, and my brother and I actually got on stage at the end of one of
the shows, but we got pushed off very quickly. (laughs) Yeah, Joe Strummer and
the Clash became my guidepost. I thought that Joe Strummer had a message in all
of his music. I also loved his solo stuff after the Clash broke up. So, the Clash will
always be my favorite band. If you ask me who my favorite band is, today, I’m
probably gonna throw you a curveball; there’s a reggae artist named Chronixx. My
wife and I go to the Caribbean a lot. And several years ago, one of my buddies
over there, a guy named Van Roy, bartender, great dude, said, “You got to listen to
this guy Chronixx, he’s the next Bob Marley.” And I loved him. I’ve seen him
perform about half a dozen times. He’s got very socially conscious music. I’ve
actually interviewed him, because I did a little web series for a while at Yes, where
I would try and incorporate some of my music love. I also love the National. I
would put them high up as another band that I listen to a lot these days. But I’m a
new wave/punk kid from the late seventies, early eighties. So, the Smiths, Talking
Heads, Ramones, and really anybody who sort of sounds like that in the current
genre – Arcade Fire, the 1975 – I want to take a listen.
jc: Where in Jersey did you grow up?
Jack: I was born in Jersey City, which we always called “the sixth borough.” My
buddies and I would head over to Manhattan on the PATH train when we were
thirteen, fourteen years old, heading down to the village to explore record stores,
go to sporting goods stores because we thought they sold better baseball gloves or
hockey sticks than the ones in Jersey City – they probably didn’t (smiles). Yeah, I
lived there for the first twenty-seven years of my life. I got married, I moved out a
little more to suburbia, but Jersey City molded me, it’s a tough place, but I learned
a lot there.
jc: What was the first song that really sparked you? And how old were you?
Jack: We’re probably gonna have to go back to Springsteen. It’s probably
“Jungleland,” something off Born to Run that was so mammoth that it stuck with

me. I mean, obviously, when you’re eight, nine, ten years old, and your parents are
playing music that sticks with you, too. I’m wearing a Johnny Cash t-shirt right
now. My father adored Johnny Cash, and my brother and I grew up listening to
that. So, I’m sure when I was ten, I would have told you it was “I Walk the Line” or
“Ring of Fire,” but Springsteen definitely hit me hard as a kid growing up in New
Jersey. And then later on London Calling from the Clash. Because I cover baseball,
people will say, “If you were a baseball player, and were headed to the plate to bat,
what would your walk-up song be?” And I never hesitate, I just say “London
Calling.” I’ve talked to Paul O’Neill (former Yankee great and member of the 1998
team) about this. You need something, especially now with the pitch clock, that it’s
going to hit you in ten or fifteen seconds and “London Calling” has that at the
beginning. That would get me fired up, as I went up there and struck out on three
pitches. (laughs)
jc: You said your parents played music; did they play professionally?
Jack: No, but my father probably should have. My brother and I to this day still
have cassette tapes of my father playing guitar and singing. He had a lot of skills
and a lot of talent but I don’t know that he was as aggressive as he should have
been and getting people to hear his music, because, I can get misty talking about
this, my mom died in ‘94, my dad died in ‘95, so it’s been a long time, but I cherish
the fact that we have these cassettes where my dad is just going off playing music,
just riffing, and doing whatever he felt like. Unfortunately, it didn’t pass on to my
brother or I, but it passed on to the next generation. My brother’s son, one of my
nephews, is in a couple of bands and he can really play the guitar. He’s got some
serious skills.
jc: Yeah, I lost my dad in 2019, and he would have adored this book, Jack, he
really would have.
Jack: I appreciate that.
jc: So, you don’t play an instrument then?
Jack: I don’t. I’ve always loved music. In college, I was not only the sports editor,
but I also did music reviews. I interviewed Billy Idol when I was in college
because he came to Fordham and played on campus, but I’ve never had the skill.
My wife plays the guitar, too, so she’s another one that’s nearby, and I love
listening to her. I took about four lessons playing the guitar, but I was a pretty
honest kid with myself, and I didn’t see it being a skill that I was going to adapt to.

It’s sort of like golf. I have a bunch of friends that tried to get me to play golf. I
tried about five times I said, “Nope, this is not for me.” I love music, but I have no
ability to play anything.
jc: I think self-awareness is a wildly underrated trait. Speaking of my dad, I’ll
never forget his speech to me when I was around fourteen and was a small kid and
had hopes to play high school football. I had played Pop Warner and the like but
was not built in any possible way to play at any higher league. He said, “Son, to
play football, you need speed, size and strength, and you don’t have any of those.”
Set me straight. Saved me from serious injury. (laughs)
Jack: He’s a wise man, he hooked ya up.
jc: What is your medium of choice to listen to music?
Jack: I’ve migrated back to vinyl. It’s interesting that you asked that question
because you get to the age that I am, and my wife will ask, “What do you want for
your birthday? What do you want for Christmas?’ Everybody’s asking me… and
I’ve recently just begun to say, “Just get me this.” And I pick out a record I want.
And it’s been neat to go back and have that to recapture those moments from when
I was a kid. I mean, for the longest time, I bought CDs, I don’t know the last time I
popped a CD in, so it’s obviously streaming music, listening on my phone,
listening on my laptop. But I do get a real kick out of the vinyl experience. On a
rainy day, I’ll sit in my office and just pull out five or six albums, and I feel as if
I’m fourteen, fifteen, sixteen years old again, going back and reliving those
jc: It’s true, you’re gonna hate me for this, but I’ll introduce you to… if you don’t
know this, there’s a website called Discogs, D-I-S-C-O-G-S. I don’t know if you
know this, but it’s a great community, very trustworthy sellers and buyers. You
have to sign in. So, it’s not like eBay, which I’ve had success on eBay, but Discogs
is another level. Anything you want to find – albums, forty-fives, imports, stuff
that you can’t even get on CD, or could never get on CD. It’s very dangerous. I’m
just warning you now.
Jack: Well, as soon as this interview ends, I’m going to check it out – not only for
myself, but I mentioned my brother previously, and I’m always looking for
something for him when a birthday or Christmas rolls around. So, you just helped
me out in a couple of ways.
jc: Alright, good. You have kids, right?

Jack: No, I do not. We’ve been married thirty-one years, just the two of us, I have
three nephews, kind of tried to be as vital in their lives as we possibly could, so I
think we, I think we’ve done well with that.
jc: All right, so when you pass on your music love o these other generations. Do
you give them the classics, do you find that you need to give them the Beatles?
What do you do to get them going?
Jack: That’s a great question. I’m going to use my brother as an answer here. I
remember when my nephew Shane was starting to get into bands, my brother
texted me excitedly that Shane had asked him to download a couple of Clash songs
for him. So, we we’re excited about that! I think… I always say this, James, there
are your ears and there are my ears, it’s your sensibilities and then it’s my
sensibilities. So, I don’t try to force my music down anyone’s throat. If someone is
curious, and if someone asks me, I’ll say this is why I’m listening to this artist, or
this is what I like about them. I have to tell you, I had an experience a few weeks
ago, late April, I had never been to Red Rocks in Colorado. So, I went to Red
Rocks in Colorado and saw Bob Marley’s five sons playing his music. You talk
about a spiritual experience and an experience that resonates. Now, when I came
back that is a story I want to tell a lot of people, but that doesn’t resonate with
everybody. I’d say eight out of ten people I shared it with said that’s not their kind
of music. I had one friend, who said… probably not the greatest friend because he
should know me, “You flew all the way to Denver for a concert?” I said
“Absolutely!” I would have flown to Europe for a concert because that’s where my
interests lie.
jc: All right, last one. What song or album or band reminds you of the 1998
Yankees or vice versa?
Jack: Wow, that’s a great question. It would have to be, as I’m struggling to come
up with an answer here, it would have to be an album that every track hit you,
every song hit you, every song was perfect, you wanted to listen to every song. On
the ’98 Yankees, you didn’t want to just see (Chuck) Knoblauch and (Derek) Jeter
hit. You wanted to see (Jorge) Posada and (Scott) Brosius hit at the bottom of the
order. You didn’t want to just see (David) Cone and (David) Wells pitch, you want
to see (Andy) Pettitte and El Duque (Orlando Hernandez) pitch. Wow. I would
probably pick, I’m going heavy on the reggae here, I would probably pick
something from Bob Marley or Johnny Cash or Springsteen or Elvis Costello.
jc: There you go, all your favorites.

Jack: Because those are my favorites, right? And I already talked a lot about the
Clash, but it would be in that wheelhouse, because those are the artists that meant
the most to me.
jc: All right, listen, Jack, I want to thank you again for a fine book. Well done, sir.
I also want to send you a copy of my latest book on “Hey Jude” or any music
books, through your publicist?
Jack: Oh, that’d be great, James. I appreciate that.
jc: Send me the address. And also, if you could, if you see Paul soon, Paul O’Neill,
I heard him mention on one of the broadcasts that his father’s favorite song was
“Hey Jude.”
Jack: So, send it send it to me, and I’ll get it to him.
jc: Would ya? Great!
Jack: I have to look at my schedule. I don’t know when I’ll see Paul next. It might
not be until June or early July, because I’m in the studio most of the time, and he’s
at the stadium a lot. But I will get it to him.
jc: Thank so much. Well, listen, Jack, this has been a blast. I hope you had a good
time. And it was a little different…
Jack: James, as soon as I saw this request come up… it’s interesting, because
thankfully, I’ve had a lot of press for this book, and I truly appreciate it. But when I
see the Vermont Sports Radio wants you on between 6am and 7am. That’s an easy
no, because I don’t think we’re selling any books in Vermont anyway. But when
yours came up, and it included music? I said yes instantly. So, I appreciate it. This
was a lot of fun. More of a conversation than an interview.

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Aquarian Weekly
Reality Check

James Campion
I used to be a sportswriter. That’s how I eventually got the gig here. I was covering sports for a paper in Westchester called the North County News in the early 1990s and hosting sports-related radio shows when I finished my first book (on music, mind you), and was hired by the publishers to do the “sports thing.” I ended up penning a sports column for the East Coast Rocker during the mid-90s before moving back to my first love – bashing idiots, uncovering the folly of existence, and generally being an asshat. Also, music. Hence, Reality Check. Twenty-five years later, I’m still at it. But I’ve written my share of pieces on seminal and cultural news-making sports events and figures before in this space. And everyone knows I love the N.Y. Yankees. Grew up in the Bronx. My late dad was an epic fan, and for a time in my youth it was the one thing (as stated beautifully in Field of Dreams and one of the reasons I weep every damn time I watch the film) we could always talk about. In fact, we talked about the Yanks the last time I spoke with him. It was our thing. And I really wish he was here to see Yankees 30 year-old right fielder, Aaron Judge tie and then best a former Yankees right fielder, Roger Maris, for the most home runs in the history of the Yankees franchise, the American League, and, as many important people around the sport are now arguing, all of baseball history.

It was so cool seeing Judge do it. I have followed him, as I’ve followed all Yankees players either through the farm system, trades, or free agency since the mid to late 60s, and he is a class act – cool as a cucumber, humble, and damned talented. He is not just a slugger. Like Maris before him, he is the league’s best defensive right fielder, and has played an excellent center field too, which is nuts because he is over six-foot tall, and you’d figure he couldn’t cover ground out there. But you would be wrong. At the time of this writing, he is also close to leading the AL in batting and well ahead in runs batted in – a solid hitter and super clutch. He was the right guy to stand together with Maris, and eventually surpass him with 62 dingers to become the all-time single season HR champ.

But he’s not, technically. Is he? This whole thing would have been so much more historic if there had not been the Steroid Era of the late 1990s into the first months of this century. Can you imagine how this would have reverberated throughout baseball – a sport of tradition and rich history, that reveres the names the N.Y. Yankees have rung down through the ages, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Thurman Munson, Don Mattingly, Derek Jeter, etc., if after 61 years, another Yankees right fielder took the crown? The first guy wore #9, the new guy wears #99. Crazy fun! But nope. Baseball was silly with drug-jacked monsters for a spate, and that takes a bit of the sheen off this affair.  

Although now a tougher chore to get to even 50 home runs today with league-wide drug testing, during the Steroid Era, a ton of heretofore mediocre major leaguers, bulked up on steroids or human growth hormones and other things, hit a lot of home runs, and still others rose above that crowded field to obliterate the single-season home run record nearly every fucking year. St. Lous Cardinals’ first baseman (a man I called “a human parade float” in these pages back in 1998 for a piece called “Freak Show Baseball”) hit 70, and Chicago Cubs right fielder, Sammy Sosa, hit over 60 homers twice, as did McGuire, by the way. Both of those guys were okay players before the drugs, but it was when one of the best players in the game, Barry Bonds – allegedly motivated by the jealousy he felt for McGuire and Sosa, far lesser players than he – did every possible steroid and rub and gobbled every pill and took every shot he could get his hands on to become part android and belt 73 home runs in 2003. 

Before the Steroid Era only two players hit over 50 home runs from the time when Maris broke Babe Ruth’s 1927 mark of 60 in ’61. But during it, weak hitting borderline major leaguers were routinely smacking 30, 40, 50 homers a year. What a wild time of misrule it was. It was so off the charts, the U.S. government had to get involved. The league woke up under its pile of money to “police” itself, so it could hold fast to its unconstitutional anti-trust exemption. That was when it conducted a series of “anonymous tests” on random players, although many of the names were leaked. Then came full testing that brought half-year to season-long suspensions for those caught doping. Immediately, offense, especially home runs, plummeted and players who were big-contract stars faded. The sport subsequently panicked and “juiced” baseballs to get homers back, but things got a tad goofy two years ago, so last year they deadened the balls, and fuck it – let’s get back to Aaron Judge’s incredible 2022 season.

He was the right guy to stand together with Maris, and eventually surpass him with 62 dingers to become the all-time single season HR champ.

Putting this all into perspective, Judge did something no one has done without juicing in 61 years, and only two others (both Yankees) have done sans performance enhancement substances. He’s had a season for the ages, and because of it, his achievements have drudged up all the past inequities to the MLB record books and prompted a revisionist view of the era from sportswriters, commentators and ex-players. This was already taking place in the Hall of Fame voting for McGuire, Sosa, and Bonds, as all of them, statistical locks for the Hall of Fame, have been consequently denied entry, bringing attention back to the true “legitimate” Single Season Home Run King, and, well, Aaron Judge.

Because of Judge’s exploits, another Aaron has also come to mind, the late, Hank Aaron. There is suddenly chatter on his 755 as the “legitimate” All-Time Career HR Record, calling into question the aforementioned Barry Bonds, who “artificially” drugged his way to 762. In a single season, Judge has done more than awake the echoes of Yankees greatness or thrill the league with his chase. He has reminded everyone of the folly of the Steroid Era two decades later. He did it, as far as we know, “clean,” as Roger Maris’s son said the day Judge tied his dad: “He should be the home run champ, and baseball should recognize it.”

I am not getting involved with that argument. I can only wrap this up by stating for the record that Aaron Judge had the best non-steroid season of my lifetime.  

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Aquarian Weekly

Reality Check

James Campion

New Rules for NYC – Courtesy of the Yankees & Mets $$

In the most expected outcome for us stalwart cynics, the New York Yankees and Mets used their hefty financial clout to bypass health mandates for vaccinated workers in New York City, something not available to the over 1,400 workers sacked due to their refusal to get vaccinated. Unvaccinated millionaire baseball players can now ply their trade come this week for opening day as people who make something in the ballpark (pun intended) of $30,000 to $60,000 a year stay unemployed by the same city. In a world filled with examples why things ain’t fair, this one is a doozy. Especially for those who believe, as we do here, that rules for the rich and famous – also massive corporations like Major League Baseball teams – do not apply to the rest of us.

This was the week of the infamous Slap Heard Round the World, which I was tempted to write about – saw it live and found it hard to fathom even after watching uncensored versions of movie star Will Smith assaulting comedian Chris Rock on live TV – but then I thought, if two men in their fifties can’t control their school-yard level teasing and vengeance, why should I comment? Shit, this is a space written weekly by a man in his fifties who challenged a sitting U.S. congressman to a fist fight (https://jamescampion.us7.list-manage.com/track/click?u=c9c075c37aeb02bd04a4e7dfb&id=2999703be6&e=c1ab353e46) in print. Cops were involved. Campaigns were upset (https://jamescampion.us7.list-manage.com/track/click?u=c9c075c37aeb02bd04a4e7dfb&id=0a3f7a5072&e=c1ab353e46) . It was a merry time of misrule, but I had enough clout to get away with it (https://jamescampion.us7.list-manage.com/track/click?u=c9c075c37aeb02bd04a4e7dfb&id=aa447d4ce6&e=c1ab353e46) , so I am the problem as much as the solution.

I am not saying I am rich (I am not, by Smith, Rock, or baseball standards for sure) nor famous, but if you have the First Amendment and the guise of satire behind you, there is some rope provided columnists that you might not have if you are not a member of the Fourth Estate and threaten to pummel politicians with their phone. Just ask the suckers on their way to jail for January 6.

Speaking of which, consider the ongoing mess that is Donald J. Trump, who has committed more crimes than any politician in our lifetimes, and that’s before he became president of the United States. Can’t seem to get an indictment on this guy. More investigations. Sure. Investigations. Ha! We understand that means – rich and famous people don’t get busted for shit that would put us in jail for years. That’s how it goes around here (Cue “God Bless America” while throwing up) The Academy Awards Committee (whatever the fuck that is) is investigating an assault every human has seen a dozen times all over the planet. What is there to investigate? They should have ushered Smith out of the building into a police car. Just like they should have impeached and removed that thug Trump when he was in office and then ushered him into a police car. You know that would have happened to 99.9 percent of us. But that’s not how the world works.

What changes from a transit worker and Aaron Judge? Money. Lots of money. That’s it.

Back to the Yankees and the Mets, who convinced the city of New York, one of the most hardcore purveyors of Covid-19 rules in the United States (I need to show a Vax card to get a slice of pizza), to toss its stringent restrictions so unvaccinated players can make that money. It doesn’t hurt that many of them are top stars. The Yankees best player, Aaron Judge is allegedly not vaccinated and didn’t plan to be, and as many as ten Mets, including the games’ best pitcher, Jacob deGrom, are also reported to not be vaccinated. Keeping them from filling the stands and bloating the TV and radio ratings won’t do for multi-million-dollar entertainers. So, the Mets new billionaire owner, Steve Cohen, who incidentally donated (invested, it turns out) $1.5 million to the current mayor’s 2021 campaign, got on the horn and made some inquiries. So did Yankees President Randy Levine, esq. (the key to that prior sentence is esquire), running interference for billionaire son of George Steinbrenner and current CEO of the Yanks, Hal. They both worked Eric Adams like a hand puppet for weeks to get this new ruling.

To bury the lede, Mayor Adams held a press conference to lift health restrictions for all of NYC’s “entertainers” everywhere (good cover to lump in mimes and buskers with MLB power) at the N.Y. Mets’ Citi Field. No more blatant spit in the face of health concerns and the ignoring of the 1,400 city workers could have been conjured by a Hollywood PR firm that frantically tries to paint Will Smith’s brutish behavior as a noble attempt to protect his wife, his race, and his profession’s honor by acting like a jabbering ass-hat.

I jest in place of rage. This is a fucking travesty. What changes from a transit worker and Aaron Judge? Money. Lots of money. That’s it. Cash. Not science. Not health. Not the greater good for the community or the city. Nothing. This is as craven a cash grab as can be displayed in broad daylight. (Cue “Money Makes the World Go Round” while you go fuck yourself).

And let’s face it, who cares about sanitation workers, firemen, cops, and the rest of the city’s civil workers when we can see baseball? I mean, I don’t live in NYC, and I am barely part of the human race, much less a functioning citizen of this long-line of bullshit country, so if I can see my Yanks and my friends can see their Mets, then I guess all is good. But is it, really? Is it more of the hold-your-nose kind of thing we’re doing with the evils of the NFL or college sports and the moral sinkhole that is the Olympics? Or the NBA, for that matter, as the Brooklyn Nets used several lobbyists at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars harassing the mayor’s office for months to get their flat-earth jackass point guard, Kyrie Irving back in business.

So, the answers are: Yes, all is good, and: No, hardly anyone one cares. I haven’t seen much outrage for this than usual. I think maybe a boycott might be in order for those who move with the whims of the almighty dollar, but, alas, I only watch the Yankees now. That is what is left of my interest in sports. So, fuck it. If this is how NYC and Mayor Adams wants to play this, I shan’t argue. Free market capitalism at its best.

When nurses ask me why people playing a child’s game make fifty time what they do, I point to the utter, sad, fucking horsecrap hypocrisy of this. Because that’s what we do here, make it clear we are all full of steaming shit. So we can go back to watching the curveball snap and someone go yard. Let us all bask in its obvious disregard for sanity, comportment, morality, and reason.

And play ball!

Or… ahem … pay ball!

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Aquarian Weekly
Reality Check

James Campion
I realize I’m in the crosshairs of the woke mob right now, so before my final nail gets put in my cancel culture casket, I think I would like to set the record straight on so many of the blatant lies that are out there about myself.
– Green Bay Packers quarterback and reigning NFL MVP, Aaron Rodgers after getting caught in a dangerous lie about having been vaccinated according to league rules.
Spoiler alert: There is no “Wake Mob” that busted Aaron Rodgers. For very weird reasons, he didn’t want to get the Covid-19 vaccination, so when he was caught bullshitting his teammates, the league, the fans, the press, and anyone else who may have been in contact with him, and then consequently contracted the virus, he relied on the new way for idiots to get out jail free; blame it on “Cancel Culture”. Since Rodgers is purportedly a “smart guy” – when using football player metrics, this is like being the thinnest Sumo Wrestler – we’ll assume the maneuver is less brain damaged muscle goon and more like Ted Cruz lite. This is assuming the Texas Senator doesn’t have brain damage, which is still very much up for debate. Nevertheless, Rodgers is part of a league that makes him millions of dollars a year playing a kid’s game, and that league has a rule about Covid vaccinations, and he broke it. He could have at least blamed it on some middling employee like Tom Brady always does when he is nabbed cheating. But he went the lazy “Woke Mob” and “Cancel Culture” route, and that put him on the Reality Check radar.

I haven’t watched pro football for five, six years now. I don’t like the game anymore – the rules, the general play philosophy, the replay, the way it is broadcasted or the cadre of criminals that play for, coach, or run its teams. The whole thing is a cesspool unworthy of my attention. If it were still enjoyable, or more to the point, I still gambled, then I would endure the other stuff. I am no moralist. But the game sucks and the players mostly suck now and couldn’t hold a sweaty jock to anyone who played the thing before 1982, never mind the 1990s. It’s a joke. But I do know who Aaron Rodgers is, since he won a Super Bowl and an MVP before I bailed. He seems like a fine gentleman. He is friends with friends of mine. I don’t mean to disparage him here. But he needs to be made example. Not necessarily in the vaccination debate, which is even more inane than the NFL, but because we need to call-out phonies who fuck up and then conveniently blame some imaginary goblins.

The “Woke Mob” is a pejorative reference, I presume, to being “woke”, which when reintroduced into the lexicon in 2017 (a socio-political reaction to the Neanderthal horrors of a misogynistic racist having been elected president of the United States and duly supported Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia that year) is defined by Miriam Webster’s as “Aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).” It was also attached that year to a modern women’s movement after the massive national inauguration day women’s march. But Woke is not a 2017 invention. Its earliest usage is as old as me, and if my knees are any indication, that is a long run. In a 1962 New York Times Magazine article written by African American novelist, William Melvin Kelley, titled “If You’re Woke You Dig It”, the author of that year’s controversial best-seller, A Different Drummer deftly satirized the mostly white Beatnik (Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsburg, Gregory Corso, William Burroughs, etc.) movement’s appropriation of Black vernacular in their work.

We need to call-out phonies who fuck up and then conveniently blame some imaginary goblins.

Now, I don’t expect a Green Bay Packer QB or that fat idiot from Texas to know any of this, but people yammering on about shit they don’t know has kept the words flowing in this space for nearly quarter of a century, and I don’t expect that spigot to turn off anytime soon, so we forge ahead on this imbecilic issue.

Now, to Rodgers’ moronic attempt to place himself within the Cancel Culture argument – also a misinterpretation of a wider social undercurrent still in its infancy. Like sports trades, any social movement needs perspective. When people were in the middle of the Civil Rights era, there were arguments against providing rights to Black people considered cogent – state’s rights, property rights, who gives a shit about Black people, that sort of thing. Now, we think these things are insane. Unless you consider people cracking the social mores of society and being ostracized for this as some kind of sin against liberty. But that is a terrible shortcut to actual thinking. No one is jailing Aaron Rodgers for this, he’s not being “cancelled” – sent adrift like Bill Cosby, who got funneled into Cancel Culture after his repeated raping of drugged women for decades. In fact, I would respect Rodgers more if he was stripped of his right to earn a living like Muhammad Ali was by the boxing commission for rightly rejecting the draft on religious grounds. He could be a martyr. Get a little Lenny Bruce thing going. But he won’t, because he is a phony dipshit, who just wants to remain likable after lying about a dangerous disease he’s been spreading in secret.

Rodgers, unlike Colin Kaepernick, is still a viable talent. When Kaepernick was demonized for his right to protest the killing of unarmed Black men by police in 2016 – something the league did not prohibit, like unvaccinated cry-babies – his abilities had eroded so much that blackballing him from the league, which he most certainly was, worked famously. It also helps that Rodgers is a white man. And if you ain’t Woke, you might miss that point.

I am not into labels, and I really hate grown men who don’t man-up when they’re busted. If Rodgers wants to make a stand on this, which he most certainly won’t, because it will cost him a shitload of money and the last part of his prime, and let’s face it, the kind of courage and strength Ali possessed would not bitch about Woke nonsense.

You want to have the fluid social movement argument about Woke and Cancel Culture that will look as lovely to your grandkids as the state’s rights stuff did in 1962 to keep Black people from using the same toilet as a Caucasians, then have at it. Just don’t use them to make excuses because you got pinched. Own up. Move on.    

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Aquarian Weekly
Reality Check

James Campion
A Guide for Our Children
This past week a Major League Baseball investigation concluded that the 2017 Houston Astros cheated to win the World Series. They stole signs that catchers put down to let the pitcher know which pitch he should throw (curve, fastball, change-up, slider, etc.) through an elaborate electronic system of cameras and then players banged on trashcans in the dugout to alert batters of what was coming. It is the greatest cheating scandal in modern baseball history. Only the 1919 Black Sox affair, in which eight members of the Chicago White Sox took mob money to throw the Series to the Cincinnati Redstockings eclipses it. And maybe not even that, as only part of the team was implicated. It is clear now that everyone in the entire Astros organization was part of the scheme to steal a title. All eight men on the White Sox were banned from baseball. Those guys didn’t have a union. Current players do. Thus, they were granted immunity to come clean. They did. They told MLB that they all cheated, all season, and during the playoffs. They admitted that their individual achievements and their team title were a complete and utter fraud. So, Astros owner Jim Crane, in a CYA move for the ages, fired manager, A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow after the league fined the team, took away draft picks and suspended those gentlemen for a year. However, the counterfeit title stands. Again, it was a fraud, but there it is, in the record books.

Was it worth it?

The answer would have to be yes.

The players are likely being vilified behind closed doors from fellow players who rightfully whisper if they knew what pitch was coming, or more importantly, which one was not coming, and they too could win an MVP, like Jose Altuve did that year or their entire team could lead the league in every offensive category or go 8-1 in the post season at home where the cameras and system to spy were set up. Sportswriters, ESPN and fans of other teams are registering their disgust loudly. No one outside of Houston actually considers them the legitimate champions of anything, but who cares? They have rings. They have awards. They got all the outside-the-game revenue that comes from being a champion, from being considered the best. It’s still there. Cheating helped that happen. Good for cheating.

Of course, the very next year the Boston Red Sox took the World Series, winning a ridiculous 108 games, and they also had an MVP, Mookie Betts, and led the league in all the pertinent offensive numbers. The stat-heavy Five Thirty-Eight web site actually said they were the closest thing to the immortal World Champion 1998 Yankees that went 125-50 that we ever thought we’d see. Their manager, Alex Cora had been the architect of the Astros cheating as a coach in Houston, so, of course, the Red Sox were caught using video monitors to steal signs. Why not? “If it ain ‘t broke, don’t fix it” is how the saying goes. The Red Sox are now under investigation and Cora was sacked to save face. Their title is also a goddamn fraud. But it still says 2018 Champs, so was it worth it?

You’d have to say by the standards of American ingenuity and success, absolutely.

Fairness? Fuck that. Sportsmanship be damned.

Take the New England Patriots aka America’s Cheat Machine, its coach, Bill Belichick aka Belicheat and its bogus quarterback Tom Brady aka Tommy Tuck-Rule (look that one up, it’s a doozy), who have been making a mockery of the rule book for over a decade and as such winning championships and awards after championships and awards. It’s a tragic fucking joke what is going on up there. And everyone knows it. The league has repeatedly fined and disciplined and suspended and warned and castigated this gory lot for camera and audio spying, deflating footballs, finding weird loopholes in rules, and other illegal shenanigans. The players, coaches, owners, front offices and fans of the teams that have repeatedly cheated have screamed from the rooftops. For a while. But everyone loves a winner. Beantown loves to say everyone is jealous or that they’re being persecuted. Everywhere else watches the Patriots get slapped on the wrist, another freaky thing occurs, everyone winces, and things go on as before. Tainted Super Bowl titles stay in the record books. Hell, “if you ain’t cheating, you aint’ trying,” is another old saying that applies here.

So, you see, none of it matters in the end, and all of it has led to an unprecedented era of winning for the Patriots. Even their owner Bob Kraft aka Nasty Krafty was busted in some sex trafficking, porn video, massage parlor shit and he gets to go back to his luxury box and preside over all this cheating. Because winning is the thing, how this achieved is a bunch of detailed bullshit for moralists. Fairness? Fuck that. Sportsmanship be damned.

Then we have our game show president. Holy shit, what a corruptibly insane asshole Donald Trump is. He gets help from a foreign enemy, like his rich daddy, denies it happened, like every stupid thing he says and does, fights the United States intelligence community, goes to Russia, tells our press that Russia didn’t do it, then when he is up for re-election tries to threaten another foreign nation to help him win again.

He is our greatest and most successful cheat. He sidestepped his way into the most powerful position in the world. If everyone on the Astros, Red Sox and Patriots shot everyone walking down Fifth Avenue, he can pardon them. He can assassinate heads of state. He can take people from their land to build an imaginary wall. He can even shut down baseball and pro football if he wishes. He is the shit, and he’s lied and cheated his way there, and that is a lesson for us all.

The illegitimacy of the president’s 2016 win becomes ever more into focus with every new allegation and piece of evidence that comes down on what eventually got him impeached. Impeached? Stained? Tainted? Sure. But Trump still gets to be president. Was it worth it? Fuck yeah!

Even when you erase the hoary characters from this fiasco, the entire electoral process is now in question. Who knows who’s currently hacking into the private emails of a major American political party, spreading false information and passing it off as news on Facebook, or even queering the vote counts of how many counties in how many states? Who knows?

But without all this, there is no victory in 2016 or the presidency. So, cheating worked spectacularly and may work again. Hell, those who voted for him or share his politics agree it doesn’t matter if he cheats. They love tax cuts, conservative judges, a rising stock market, and for those of us covering this hot mess, there is a shit-ton of craziness to get into print. Goofiness. Embarrassment. Anger. Racism. Idiocy. It is all on the table and a win-win for everyone.

Ask the U.S. Senate, who are preparing to sweep all of this president’s constant cheating and stonewalling under the rug. They will cheat to victory and move on for more cheating.

Cheating is in.

Class dismissed.   

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Aquarian Weekly


James Campion

Corporate Con Comes Home to Roost

The National Football League has done a magnificent job these last few decades conflating patriotism with its product; a product, by the way, run by despots, played by a disturbing number of criminals, and whose chief purpose now is to keep everyone from recognizing that their sport causes brain damage. Its play is sub-par, its rules a joke, and the team that wins all of its championships cheats constantly. But give the NFL a few moments to roll out a giant American flag that covers a 100-yard field, march out some uniformed people to salute it, and fly a bunch of fancy jet planes over head while someone butchers a horribly written song about bombing shit, and you will forgive them.

And this carefully concocted ruse is what makes people go nuts when someone, in this case a few players, decide to take the opposite tact and reject it wholesale in a fairly sincere albeit clumsy attempt at protest.

It is this cynical marketing ploy that makes people nearly topple over with shock and dismay when I tell them I no longer watch pro football. Sure it was my favorite sport when I was a kid and for most of my life, but there are plenty of things I liked to do when I was younger that I no longer do. But when I casually mention this to family and friends they react as if I have renounced my citizenship. “Why it’s downright un-American to do anything on a Sunday in the autumn but watch football like some dead-eyed man-child with an acute case of arrested development. You have to wear a jersey and show up to tailgate for six-hours or attend ten-hour fantasy football drafts and sing along with whatever crap they play at the top of whatever network falderal is carrying the latest slice of Americana.

It is a clever con, but then the other “knee” dropped.

This past week nearly the entire league – players, coaches, owners, the guys who help the Patriots cheat by deflating footballs and spy on other teams – responded to our Game Show president’s demands that teams begin firing “sons of bitches” for practicing their right under the First Amendment of the Constitution (the one he purportedly swore to uphold), because five or so players protested violence against African Americans by not standing for the aforementioned shitty song about bombs.

Some people with a preponderance of time on their hands that I can hardly conceive of and apparently faced with very little in the way of actual things to be appalled by had a fit.

Their reasons are as follows; the national anthem and the flag represent our military and what they have done to fight for our right to protest (the one Donald Trump clearly doesn’t understand or believe in); the players protesting are rich and famous and so they should shut-up and give up this right (similar to what most people who voted for the president think about gays and marriage); and finally sports should just be about sports and not all this annoying free speechifying, or what we have come to discuss; the playing field is no place for politics.

Except that the NFL has been a recruiting base for the military for decades and has used pre-games and half-times to conflate this idea that pro football is some kind nationalistic cornerstone of our culture, strike that, our very being and nature. NFL equals America. This includes bringing the players (the actual product) into it, for it has only become in recent years a thing for players to even be on the field for the anthem. Why? So we can forget that nearly every player at the top of every draft have records for abusing and assaulting women, random gun-play, drug busts, etc. So if this is how the NFL wants it, then their football field is the perfect place in which to express your displeasure with the country at large.

If NFL equals America, and the first tenant of the nation is the right to peacefully protest and freely speak out against (you name it), then what is the issue here?

The NFL’s military fetish – not only ceremonious rituals and support of wars (the worst of this is during the first Gulf War when the yellow-ribbon, giant flag stupidity reached its puke-inducing apex with the late Whitney Houston’s lip-synching of the crappy song about bombs that became a big hit – is also why people, for some weird reason, only equate this idea of standing for the national anthem as some kind of salute to the military, when the flag represents every walk of life, profession and blah blah blah.

And this is why simpletons like Trump think that the league should expunge those who besmirch this great game and its spiritual connection to our flag and our military.

The NFL created this monster, which is now equally being exploited by its players and the president, whose entire administration has to retain council and whose approval ratings are at record lows. The players see a way to get the reaction they want, which is what they got (thank you, America) and El Douche gets you to argue about a piece of cloth and a badly written song with more octave shenanigans than can be stomached on one listening and lyrics that sound like a fifth-grade poetry assignment gone terribly wrong.

If NFL equals America, and the first tenant of the nation is the right to peacefully protest and freely speak out against (you name it), then what is the issue here?

So to save everyone the trouble I simply call for there to be no mention of the flag or the playing of the awful “Star Spangled Banner” before sporting events again. None of this has to do with football. I agree, let’s keep the sport to the sport and stop trying to cash in on people’s emotional connections to symbolism – a fine tact used by every fascist movement since the dawn of civilization.

By the by, Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” should be the national anthem; a beautifully written folk song with fine lyrical stanzas about all the things this country is supposed represent beyond killing things and football. Best of all it was written by a communist, as was the Pledge of Allegiance, so that actually works. You might not know any of this because you’re busy arguing over a child’s game, a piece of cloth and a shitty song.

Meanwhile, as a postscript; the man who started all this as a simple protest, Colin Kaepernick, who has given a million of his own dollars and has raised millions more for charities and African American groups, is being blackballed by the league. And maybe in the end this is why the NFL and the president has made this whole goofy thing such a big deal. Let’s forget that black men are being slaughtered by cops and not going to jail for it on an almost weekly basis.

I say let’s sing a song about that.

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MUHAMMAD ALI – 1942 – 2016

Aquarian Weekly


James Campion

MUHAMMAD ALI – 1942 – 2016

He is America’s greatest ego.
– Norman Mailer

Few lives are as epic as Muhammad Ali’s. It is an American epic, an African American epic, a religious epic, a boxing epic, a socio-political epic, a generational epic, and most of all, an inspirational epic. It is what the great Joseph Campbell coined the Mono-Myth, a composite philosophy of the “hero’s journey” in which all valiant stories, especially those entrenched in the Western culture, are the same – a character of common means ventures forth into a supernatural realm to defeat darker forces and emerges with a great victory. It, of course, stands to reason that Muhammad Ali is my hero in every possible way that the term may be defined. I have been and continue to be inspired by, in awe of, idolize, emulate, and use his seemingly indestructible force of will to empower me. In my youth, Ali was a towering, almost comic book figure. In my professional years, I wrote extensively about him in heroic terms whenever commissioned, and even sometimes for pure joy. His Mono-Myth has become my Mono-Myth; like the enduring myth of America, sport and life.


Any understanding on the immensity that was Ali has to begin with his times. Confucius said, “May you live in interesting times”, and Ali did. Of course, it was he that made them eminently more interesting, but it is an indisputable fact that from the mid to late 1960s through the 1970s, Ali was quite simply the most famous human dead or alive. Everywhere. There are people in China who have no idea who Jesus Christ is or was, or Thomas Jefferson in Zimbabwe or Elvis Presley in Venezuela or Michael Jordan in Jordan. But everyone knew who Ali was. He was international in a singular way. He was Ali. Period. Ali was universal. Even if people had no idea why they knew him, that his name was Cassius Clay and he hailed from Louisville, Kentucky, or that he engineered one of the greatest upsets in boxing history at twenty-two, or that he took on the entire U.S. government for five years and won, or that he became the first boxer to lose and then win the world title three times. He was Ali, and Ali is universal. Ali is life.

But that is not what makes Ali epic; it is his flaws. It is his darker side, which I am sure will be ignored this week when the world mourns his passing. It is his raging narcissism and viciousness, his forays with racism, religious fanaticism, repeated adultery and misogyny. Like all heroes, he fell. And like all heroes, he rose again. This was due to his magnificent fearlessness. He owned fear. You had the feeling when you saw Ali or listened to him that he had known fear, like we all do, and then he took it down like he took Liston down when he was a seven-to-one underdog and a newly minted member of the Nation of Islam, which is to say he was the devil.

It took Joe Frazier, his greatest opponent and likely the second best heavy weight fighter in the latter half of the twentieth century, decades to get over Ali’s dehumanizing of him during pre-fight promotions; something Ali invented and did better than anyone ever. But it crossed the line. It became something else for a black man to call another “gorilla” on national television, repeatedly, in poetic and jocular form, to his face; to say he was the white man’s champion. Frazier, like all epic opponents brought the worst out of Ali, but it also brought the absolute best out of him too. He handed “the greatest” his first defeat in the real and only true “fight of the century”; Madison Square Garden, March 8, 1971 – the first time two undefeated titans would square off. It was the night the world stopped. It is the greatest, most covered, most mythologized sporting event of my lifetime. It was, in a word, epic. And when it was over, Ali nearly died. But, as the epic story goes, he rose again.

Ali emerged from this brutal beating to defeat Frazier in the rematch. But all of this pales in comparison to how Ali had seen him as an enemy first; an enemy of Allah, of the African experience, of his spiritual quest to be free of the forces of evil perpetuating a war that will stain our national soul forever. And before he could fight Frazier for the title, he had it stripped from him, because he refused to fight in Viet Nam, as all men should have rejected the immoral and useless sin that massacred 60,000 Americans, and hundreds of thousands more Vietnamese and Cambodians and severed a nation. Assassinations and riots and protests and a national spying ring that would bring down a president; there was a crack at the base of the system, and standing on the fault-line was Ali. Because Ali was not American, Muslim, Black, he was Ali. He is universal, epic.

I keep this Ali quote, with other inspiring musings about speaking truth to power in a drawer where I do most of my writing, to remind me of what we do here at The Desk, but it may be my favorite: “My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they didn’t put no dogs on me, they didn’t rob me of my nationality, rape and kill my mother and father. . . Shoot them for what? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.”

Ali also famously said, “It ain’t bragging, if it’s true.” It was his calling card, and what made him both the most hated and beloved athlete in this country; changing his name, throwing his Olympic gold medal into the Ohio River, taking on the government and winning a unanimous Supreme Court decision against the unconstitutional murder of thousands of American kids and wiping out any rational idea to the entire horror show. It was, even as a kid, what made knowing, watching, worshiping Ali a special thing. The sun came up, my mom loved me, my eyes are blue, and Ali is the champ.

Like all heroes, he fell. And like all heroes, he rose again. This was due to his magnificent fearlessness. He owned fear.

I remember part of my childhood went away the night a brutish dolt by the name of Leon Spinks took the articulate, brilliant, poetic, epic Ali down. He was no longer the champ – even when he wasn’t the champ, like when they stripped it, or temporarily when Frazier beat him into a bloody stump, but forever; like he was old and Spinks was not and boxing would go back to its primitive barbarism again with no charisma and no universal personality, a vacuum soon filled by the bestial visage of Mike Tyson, which would teach us all what missing Ali would mean.

Of course, Ali would step back in the ring again, and again, and again, until his mind would eventually go away and his body would shake and they would call it Parkinson’s Syndrome, but we knew it was a human tank called George Foreman beating on him for fifteen rounds in Zaire and those three wars with Frazier and Spinks taking him down ignominiously, and that asinine exhibition in suicide against Larry Holmes. He got back in the ring and took the title back one more time from Spinks, but there was something hollow and sad about it, and we knew we weren’t kids anymore, or at least I wasn’t; and all those things about “invincible” and being “the greatest” was finite, like life. But until that moment, for me, it was infinite, because Ali said it would be, and if he didn’t say it, he meant it anyway. He was, after all, finite, and so I was no longer a kid and soon would be an adult and am now 53 and mourning the passing of my hero.

My writing hero, Hunter S. Thompson, oddly or not oddly, also from Louisville, once wrote of Ali (in maybe the finest twenty-four words said about him), “Anybody who can sell his act for $5 million an hour all over the world is working a vein somewhere between magic and madness.”

And it is between those two poles in which the hero resides; where he thrives, where he captures our imagination beyond the terrible notion that life is just this series of beats and electrons and periods of joy and grief and that it is special in the way you want it to be.

Ali gave me that, and I am not alone.

Not by a long shot.

This is what you get from universal and epic.

You get Ali.

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Aquarian Weekly

James Campion


Straight as an arrow; stoic with a slightly visible breath – a fierce figure of calm in a gathering storm standing upon a raised patch of dirt 18 feet in diameter. The left arm mobent to the chest, the ball gripped in the mitt, the right hand dangling casually. A look in at 60 feet and six inches – razor sharp and icy like a jungle cat at prey – before a slight shift in weight brings the bare hand to meet the ball. Then in one fluid series of ballet-esque motions – a coiled slant forward, as if a bow fletching to strike, cranks the body fusion into a bullet arc, a millisecond prelude to the knee kick from the left leg and the arm whirling high above the head with the release of the stitched sphere to its destination.

A single pitch. The professionals call it a “Cutter”, a spinning, knifing diving thing that burns inside on lefty batters and disappears to righties. One pitch. Nineteen major league seasons. A record 652 saves (the final outs of a close game) over a record 952 appearances in Major League Baseball contests. An unprecedented stretch of excellence with a single, devastating pitch has ended.

The great Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees is retiring as quite simply the undisputed finest closer to ever ply the trade at any level anywhere, and without question the longest running level of near-perfection in the history of sport.

I first heard the name on July, 4 1995 while riding shotgun in a grey Isuzu pick-up truck with fellow Yankees fanatic, Peter Blasevick, a long-time friend and colleague, whose band DogVoices I decided against all reason to follow and turn its exploits and that of the New Jersey rock circuit into a book called Deep Tank Jersey. Rivera was dismantling the Chicago White Sox over eight innings, allowing one run while striking out 11. He would never be as affective a starter again.

The next time his name hit my radar was an 11-inning play-off game in 1995 between the Yankees and the Seattle Mariners, when a skinny reliever my dear friend Tony Misuraca called The Elfin while another, Bo Blaze frantically scribbled onto scraps of paper, “Please, Young Mariano, get this out!”, pitched three scoreless innings – the 13th, 14th and 15th to earn the win in a marathon at Yankee Stadium. The team would eventually lose the series in its final inning with Rivera in the bullpen helpless to stop it. But that would not happen too often over the next five years when the team that had not tasted a World Series in 18 years (an annual event the greatest franchise in professional sports history practically invented) would reach it five times, winning four, including three in a row.

Rivera would be the lynchpin of those title teams that could well be (considering the three-tier postseason set-up) the most dominant the game has ever seen.

By ’96, Rivera was a full-time bullpen pitcher, a set-up man for the then closer and mentor, John Wetteland. First year manager, Joe Torre, who had previously cobbled five winning seasons out of twelve in prior locations, placed the budding Rivera in the seventh and eighth innings and ostensibly turned a nine inning competition into six. It would earn the 26-year old right-hander a top-five finish in the Cy Young voting, almost unheard of at anytime in the game’s history and a telling quote from two-time champion manager of the Minnesota Twins, Tom Kelly, who famously said of Rivera, “He needs to pitch in a higher league, if there is one. Ban him from baseball. He should be illegal.”

Fortunately for the Yankees Rivera was not banned, and went on to shatter regular and post season records for closing out games from 1997 until this season. The most incredible of these statistics is his incomparable play-off performances, which for all intents and purposes Rivera turned into grand opera and classic art all at once. Over 96 appearances in his career (missing only 2008 – the only year the team did not make the post season – and last season due to injury) the man the sport affectionately called Mo would post an historically low .70 ERA with a record 42 saves and eight wins against one loss.

Robin Roberts of ABC News recently figured that less people have walked on the moon (12) than have scored a post season run off Mariano Rivera (11).

When the Yankees won, as they did in ’96, 1998 through 2000 and 2009, he was unhittable, and when he hiccupped in 2001 and 2004 for one inning each, the team went home. Only in the 2003 World Series loss to the Marlins did Rivera not play a prominent role in the team’s fortunes, but that was after his Herculean three inning scoreless performance in the second greatest baseball game I’ve ever seen, the 11-inning epic against the rival Boston Red Sox that ended on one swing of the bat.

This is the literal definition of most valuable player.

During the unfathomable 1998 season in which the Yankees posted a 125-50 record – the best single-season baseball team ever – I accepted a job hosting a sport show at WFAS in White Plains with my good friend and now Westchester County Executive, Rob Astorino. The following three years I spent a lot of time in the Yankees clubhouse, and there was never a time when Mariano Rivera wasn’t laughing or counseling or motivating his teammates, a completely opposite figure than the almost robotic assassin that took the mound time and again, cracking bats in half and whiffing confused hitters.

After the ’99 title, where he recorded the last out of the 20th century, a century the Yankees owned, I stood with him at his locker in the din of celebration all around and we spoke of his World Series MVP. Over a full ten minutes never once did he mention himself. In his then broken English, speckled as it was with contemplative uhhs and ahhs, he sounded like a Zen Buddhist, spiritually humble, defiant against the idea of the world being a random swirl of events. He was centered in all his genuine talk of God and family and teammates who allowed him to have the ball in the final minutes of glory.

In the press box that night, as the fly ball that ended the series nestled into the left-fielder’s glove, I jotted down a note in my scorecard to my Unlce Vinnie, who had seen Ruth and Gehrig and DiMaggio play and who had passed away when I was off on my honeymoon in mid-June.  I recalled one day the previous summer when he shook his head at the mention of Rivera. “That kid,” he whispered, “is an all-timer.”

In October of 2009, I took my wife, now a diehard Yankees fan, more than me, for sure, to Game 2 of the World Series, a game in which, as he had done countless times, Rivera came in to clean up a mess in the eight – two on, no one out in a two-run game – and closed the door.

This past August, I walked hand-in-hand with my five-year old daughter, Scarlet into the new Yankee Stadium; a favor my father granted me over 40 years before in the old one, and on her back was a number 42, Mo’s number, and the name of her favorite cat that we named after the great Rivera.

And so one of the leisure pleasures of my life, like a Joe Namath pass, a Woody Allen film, a Stones song, and a Hunter S. Thompson screed, the great Rivera standing on the mound about to throw, will no longer be.



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Aquarian Weekly

James Campion


Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez is a Major League Baseball Player. He also happens to be an America citizen. Mr. Rodriguez’s treatment by MLB makes it hard to swallow that his employers are fully aware of this. It appears, in fact, that MLB considers one of its signature employees a faulty product it’s recalling. And for that this space is openly imploring Mr. Rodriguez to take immediate legal action against MLB, so it can explain its motivation for threatening to deny his right to work based on circumstantial evidence that he broke any of the collectively bargained rules agreed to by the league and its Players Association.Bud Selig

And, as a result of this proposed legal action, this space hopes once and for all that MLB’s ridiculous exemption from the United States’ anti-trust laws be ceased, so its $9 billion enterprise can finally be litigated like every other business in this so-called democracy.

The current MLB “investigation” resembles more a witch hunt against one particular player than satisfies the grounds in which that player can be harassed with the threat of suspension. Such a suspension, whether it is the reported remainder of this season and all of next, never mind this insane nonsense of banning him for life, will cause adverse career ramifications for Mr. Rodriguez.

This is not some mere penalty handed out by a game. This is a man’s life and livelihood at stake and if it is to be impinged in any way, then there needs to be just cause. There is not.

In order for MLB to suspend a first-time offender for a maximum of 50 games, that player must fail a random blood test. MLB does not have a positive blood sample from Mr. Rodriguez. What MLB has is the testimony of a drug dealer and a vague list of clientele from a Miami biogenesis lab, which the league sued this past March for selling illegal substances to a handful of its players. In less specious terms, under the agreement MLB has with the Player’s Association, it has no grounds to perpetuate these actions against Rodriguez.

Yet the man the sports types call A-Rod, a cute nickname which reduces him to a figure from a children’s game and not an American citizen that provides him protection under the Bill of Rights, is currently the subject a dubious investigation for being linked with the lab in question. I merely use the word “dubious” to point out that while there has been a lot of unsubstantiated jabber about a preponderance of evidence piled up against Mr. Rodriguez, much of it has yet to surface, and the league, which is oh-for the courts in its long and sordid history, fails to engender any benefit of the doubt.

Moreover, this is a league well versed in the practice of leaking harmful information on an employee it wishes to besmirch preceding a suspension. In fact, MLB has done this once before to the very same Mr. Rodriguez. This ham-fisted but effective burying of a player’s reputation queers public opinion and riles the sports writing world (where nearly every speculation has something of a 17 percent success rate), making the subject guilty in the court of public opinion before any actual evidence is revealed.

In 2003, MLB conducted its “anonymous” testing of hundreds of players for steroid use; a test the league promised in collective bargaining with the Player’s Association to keep sealed. For reasons only known to MLB, in 2009, Mr. Rodriguez’s name happened to wind up in the notebook of a reporter working for the most prominent sports magazine in the nation. When Sports Illustrated got a hold of this illegally leaked information, Mr. Rodriguez had to eat shit, call press conferences, and deal with the fallout.

This is a league well versed in the practice of leaking harmful information on an employee it wishes to besmirch preceding a suspension. In fact, MLB has done this once before to the very same Mr. Rodriguez. This ham-fisted but effective burying of a player’s reputation queers public opinion and riles the sports writing world (where nearly every speculation has something of a 17 percent success rate), making the subject guilty in the court of public opinion before any actual evidence is revealed.

This leaking method was especially efficient on A-Rod, who, while he could not be suspended since no rules had yet to be put in place, was branded as an actual offender by proxy.

There was a time not long ago when Alex Rodriguez was arguably the best player in the majors and well on his way to perhaps being the best to ever play his position. He was an exceptional shortstop; a defensive master, and a high-average, run-producing machine with immense power. He plied his trade in Seattle, Washington and then Arlington, Texas, where he became a star. In 2003, he morphed into something of a celebrity icon when he was traded to the NY Yankees, the most famous professional franchise in the biggest city on planet earth. It was here where he became notorious for appearing with the TMZ set.

This put an already intolerable celebrity big ticket athlete on the shit list of a majority of the Americans, who, while worshiping the rich and famous, and harboring a love-hate fascination with New York City, tend to hold same with deep seated jealousies. Mr. Rodriguez was our specially packaged asshole; much of it, truth be told, due to his Herculean self-inflicted narcissistic idiocy. He’s a dumb jock; a muscle-headed pretty boy dickhead; none of which is even remotely illegal or pertinent to his first run-in with MLB, which was merely a media circus since before 2005 it was not even a rules violation for players to use PEDs.

In fact, one could argue that MLB not only ignored the use of PEDs, but in many ways, encouraged it, as did the sanctimonious band of feckless sports writers who made good livings sending sonnets to press about Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa’s famed home run chase in 1998; when both were most likely jacked to the tits on every steroid known to modern man.

MLB commissioner, Bug Selig, forever tarnished with presiding over the longest and most wildly uncontrolled abuse of PEDs in modern sport, subsequently reaping billions in revenues for MLB and its owners, finds he can no longer handle bad steroid press on his watch. Back when the homers produced by PEDs were pulling his sagging sport out of distant third place behind the NFL and the NBA, neither Selig nor his giddy owners could ever have dreamed the level of shock and awe produced from human parade floats making a mockery of baseball’s sanctified record books. This turned Daddy Warbucks into Captain Morality, and so now Selig wants desperately for there to be a symbol of steroids that has nothing to do with him.

Bud Selig simply needs a scapegoat, since Barry Bonds beat his system and then Roger Clemens went to congress and pissed on him. Whether they or Mr. Rodriguez are actually guilty of PED use is not at issue. They probably were and he probably is, but there are rules in place to cease this behavior, and none of these applies to his case.

So it’s Mr. Rodriguez’s turn to be the scapegoat and he should not take it. He needs to sue baseball for threatening to deny him the right to earn a living. Most of all, Mr. Rodriguez needs to put before a court the atavistic anti-trust exception that MLB has enjoyed for a century of its outside-the-law practices. He must break the backs of these tyrants and force baseball out of the shadows of American business practices.

Play ball!

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James Campion – Sportswriter and Broadcaster



jc at Yankee StadiumFor four years jc penned a sports column called Sports Shorts for a weekly newspaper called the North County News out of Yorktown, NY, where he gained notoriety and acclaim for his emotional, funny, and often compelling look at the world of fun and games. Although some of the work was considered for his latest book, Fear No Art, jc thought it too much a departure from the flow and subject matter dominant in the original manuscript, and thus left this fertile period out almost entirely. Now exclusively for jamescampion.com, the author has selected some of his favorite pieces from that era and beyond. They appear in public here for the first time since their original release.

A broadcaster and writer during his formative years in high school and college, jc embraced his first love, sports. Fascinated by the raw and unpredictable nature of the athlete in his/her physically and mentally challenging environment, he sought to portray their triumphs and tragedies in a far different slant from the normal fare, without forgetting the voices and craft of the genre’s true giants. As one of the only national columnists for the small, but influential, Westchester newspaper (it won many NY state awards for journalism during his stay and beyond) jc became both celebrity and demon by his rabid readers, balancing his radio and television work as a local talk show host.

jc and cb on Sports Club - 1992His many live sports-talk television programs from Cablevision’s “The Sports Club Live” (1989-1996) to Continental Cablevision’s “Sports Talk Live” (1995-1997) and the award-winning baseball interview show, “X-Tra Inning” (1990-1994) and co-hosting WLNA radio’s “Sports Nite” (1993-1995) provided jc with a wide-ranging and oft times loyal fan base. He was able to meet many prominent sports figures and attend some of the most exciting and important events of the time while extending his reporting talents.

Although there was little sign among his peers at the time that jc would abandon his prominent post at the North County News and head on the road with a New Jersey club band in the summer of ’95 to write his first book, Deep Tank Jersey, many admirers of his later work point to these years covering sports as not only a stepping stone to a promising career, but another vehicle for his unique literary voice. Evidence of this is that during the early 90s’ jc was working extensively on research for what was to be his first book about the legendary Yankees/Red Sox of 1978. A book, mentioned in several interviews, that he plans to finish one day. His last extensive sportswriting work was a one-year stint penning the Sporting Strife column for the New Jersey entertainment weekly, East Coast Rocker in 1996.

jc and Rob Astorino - 1991Today jc remains the voice of local sports in Westchester, recently completing a four-year run with his nightly radio show, “Inside Sports” on WFAS radio out of White Plains, where he and his co-host, Rob Astorino have covered the World Series, the NBA Finals and more. As the television voice of high school football and basketball for MJM. productions, headed by long-time producer/director Mike Miner, and the Cablevision Network, jc continues to give local athletes a chance to shine. His annual Major League Baseball and NFL previews for Genesis magazine are read nationally, and he continues to contribute stories for the North County News.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


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