Penn St. Nightmare

Aquarian Weekly 11/16/11 REALITY CHECK

PENN STATE – INSTITUTION DEFEATS HUMANITY AGAIN

Big Time College Sport is a cesspool, and Big Time College Football is its bilge pump.

It is, among other tawdry depravities, legal child abuse, as “student athletes” earn millions for universities and state schools in exchange for a laughable odicum of “free education”, which a fair portion rarely absorb and many never receive. It is also indentured servitude masked as hero worship and character building and other American fallacies run as cash machines of mass media influence and television ratings. The entire system is the refuge of whores, criminals and bottom-feeding sycophants, whose sole purpose is to prostrate to the highest bidder.

Jerry SanduskyBut, hey, this self-immolation is what funds higher education; and thus the Institution is born. And if there is anything to be learned from civilization, it is that no matter the length and breadth of its most villainous trash, the Institution must be upheld.

Rampant malfeasance to out-right crimes from the abuse of women, extortion, theft, drug dealing, gambling, property destruction and assorted mayhem are tolerated and/or covered up routinely year after year across enormous football factories from Miami through Columbus, all the way to Southern California.

None of this of course compares to the horror show that has gone on at Penn State these past 15 years, as its shamelessly self-promoted pristine Institution casually sanctioned an accused serial child rapist.

Former defensive co-coordinator and architect of the famed Linebacker U, Jerry Sandusky allegedly used his influence, power and Big Time College Sport pedigree to repeatedly commit his unconscionably violent crimes against innocent children. Despite several reports of his rancid activities from 1994 to 2006, no school official, coach, athlete, student, booster, nor the Living God of Happy Valley, the mythic and lauded head coach, Joe Paterno, did a thing to stop it.

According to a two-year Grand Jury investigation, several allegations and even admissions of guilt by Sandusky, garnering 40 counts (21 felonies) of sexual assault on minors were ignored by Penn State, which continued issuing him a parking permit and providing office space after his 1999 retirement. In 2002, a then 28 year-old assistant coach, Mike McQueary told Paterno that he witnessed Sandusky “fondling” and “horsing around” with what looked to him to be a ten-year old boy in the team’s shower.

Merely “fondling”, which remains the unconscionable defense of Penn State for its officials muted concern, was apparently not enough of a crime to warrant further investigation or arrest.

Even now, as I write this, more grotesque details emerge about this heinous abuse of pre-teen boys; four or five reports filed and ignored, (nine alleged victims so far), witness accounts left uninvestigated or blithely shuffled up the academic latter by the all-knowing, micro-managing Paterno, as he hid behind his school board and bogus legal advice. It was with this attitude of complete denial that Paterno issued a statement this week that he would retire and spare the board of trustees the difficult task of sacking him.

This hackneyed attempt to save his ass brought hoards of students and backers to crowd around his home chanting his name in support, singing hymns though candlelight vigils. These people like any of the people over the years who blindly choose an Institution and its founders, caretakers, stalwarts over the odious crimes they cover-up, whether the Catholic Church or the Boy Scouts, can be excused. They prefer living in a fantasy. It helps them erase the bogeymen that patrol the corridors of their beloved nonsense. The rest of us have reality to deal with.

In the wake of this nauseating criminal extravaganza, here are the questions we should be asking: When should Penn State University be bulldozed and the property turned into a state facility for repeat sex offenders? What’s the fastest way Joe Paterno can be hauled away in an animal cage?

Of course, Paterno was eventually fired (although McQueary, who chose to leave the scene of a child rape, remains) inciting his beloved followers to riot — tipping over news vans, smashing cars and store windows and heaving rocks at whoever happened to be in front of the rocks — but prior to that, and maybe the ultimate cause of that, it was as if the press, fans and stunned onlookers had lost all sense of reality.

For days across the airwaves pointed questions abounded on the immediate future of the embattled 84 year-old Paterno, as his friend, confidant, and fellow Penn State “untouchable” was dragged off to prison a feebly aging degenerate. “Should he step down? Where will the once proud football program go from here? Can Penn State survive?”

To answer such preposterously imbecilic drivel, much less ask it, begs a hardcore review of what we’re actually talking about. To do this, one must recall the great George Carlin’s deconstruction of our culture’s pathetic inability to face cold, hard, ugly facts. “American English is loaded with euphemisms, because Americans have a lot of trouble dealing with reality.” Carlin said. “Americans have trouble facing the truth, so they invent a kind of a soft language to protect themselves from it.” To illustrate this collective malady, Carlin listed 70 years of semantic sterilization in describing what happens when soldiers are mentally damaged by the horrors of war: In WWI it was “shell-shocked”, then lightened in WWII to “battle fatigue”, further diluted during the Korean conflict as “operational exhaustion”, and finally in the Viet Nam era, watered down to the almost ambiguous “post-traumatic stress disorder”.

Whilst dissecting the very idea of child rape — not only an Institution’s silence but perpetuation of it — vanilla euphemisms like “inappropriate behavior”, “abuse” or “sexual misconduct”, not to mention the recycled “scandal” are thrown about, which, for reasons of decorum or social niceties tend to understate its cataclysmic level. And so in the interest of Saint George’s quest for facing the truth, and to provide those who curiously find themselves on the fence about what has transpired at Penn State, we go Shell-Shocked for a few painful paragraphs.

Let’s break this down: Assuming the allegations are true, a celebrated high-ranking football coach, a campus and state celebrity with unprecedented access to every privilege Penn State University can offer was routinely ass-fucking ten-year old boys. He merrily and without threat of ceasing brought his child sperm-receptacles to football practices and school events, parading them around the luminaries before heading to the hotel room and threatening to send them home if they didn’t let him jam his wrinkled cock into every orifice. This was allowed to transpire without repercussion for 15 years — not 15 days or 15 weeks or 15 months, mind you, but 15 years of uninterrupted jacking, sucking and fucking of boys; scared, confused and bullied boys.

Still not stark enough a tableau for you? Still want to turn over cars and wonder about the legacy of football or a college’s reputation? How about picturing one of those damaged kids as your son or brother or yourself?

A known predator traded on his respected position within the Institution to procure tickets, press passes, attend practice facilities, frequent charity events, and, if one can believe, operate a wayward boys home; confidently using it all to get a hold of little, innocent, impressionable boys and jam their faces into his crotch.

Not so much as a peep for 15 years.

And unless the people who let it continue, from campus police to board members, athletic directors to the Big Time College Coach, were huge fans of screwing boys, then they were all protecting the Institution.

Institution survival over the safety and welfare of children — Or six million dollars a home football game and a $10 million library trumps a few damaged lives.

Should the program continue?

Should Paterno be fired?

In the wake of this nauseating criminal extravaganza, here are the questions we should be asking: When should Penn State University be bulldozed and the property turned into a state facility for repeat sex offenders? What’s the fastest way Joe Paterno can be hauled away in an animal cage?

There are dozens of Jerry Sandusky clones crawling around the earth, and some will get caught and some will keep on keeping on, but I think we can all agree that not one of them needs the support, protection, and blessing of any goddamned Institution.

 

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

George M. Steinbrenner III – 1930 – 2010

Aquarian Weekly 7/21/10 REALITY CHECK

GEORGE M. STEINBRENNER III – 1930-2010

Winning first, breathing second. -George M. Steinbrenner III

Exaggerated rumors of NY Yankees principle owner George Steinbrenner’s demise abound. Something he has conspicuously failed to retract, due mostly to a predictably undeniable lust for power and an acute sense of timing to steal the big headline; whether it is from low-rent pikers like LeBron James or senseless mid-summer exhibitions made paramount by the demented gargoyle who runs Major League Baseball. No, The Boss is not dead. He has expanded his business to the afterlife; scouring the bars of hell for Billy Martin, so two of earth’s most demented souls could team up once again to wreak havoc for publicity and profit at the Pearly Gates Pavilion.

Jesus, Steinbrenner cannot die. It would be a dark day for the greatest owner of any business enterprise to exit, especially in these broke times and specifically if it is an enterprise located in my hometown, the elevated borough north of Manhattan, where the Mighty Bronx Nine stomp the terra with a voracious appetite for victory unmatched by competition anywhere.

King George & The CaptainThe Big Bad don’t die or fade away or shuffle off the mortal coil; they buy and trade and berate and haggle, and they do it loudly, like bootleg explosives. Pop! Pow! Bam! Steinbrenner, you know, was the original Big Bad; born on the Fourth of July, a real honest-to-goodness Yankee Doodle Do-Or-Die. He stood as a living symbol of American might; loved by the faithful for doing whatever it takes to win, win, win in the most hard-charging, flag-waving style — pure capitalist grit — and, of course, hated by everyone else. Deep down below the pomp and bluster there remains a soft underbelly of empathetic honor; propping up the needy, bankrolling the downtrodden, all the while enduring the slings and arrows of being On Top.

And that is where The Boss finds himself as he runs amok in the afterlife; his team ensconced in first place with the sport’s best record, defending another title.

This just in on the AP wire; Steinbrenner, with Billy Ball in tow, has managed to gain controlling interest in Purgatory and received Mickey Mantle in return for undisclosed monies, which he plans to parlay into a massive take-over of Nirvana.

And why not? This is how things got done in Yankeeland under King George’s watch for nearly half a century. Along the way Steinbrenner’s presence, his mad, impetuous foresight evolved, nay, transformed the profession of baseball from a gang of silver-spooned dullards herding half-witted jocks through a pastoral mind-numb into a veritable high wire circus act; The Boss as its willing and able ringmaster. His cast of characters ranged far and wide from the fringe of the free agency era, which he single-handedly fueled from a queer oddity mostly shunned by his fellow owners to the status quo in every major sport, not to mention the cash cow, team-run sports network — his brainchild, the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network, now a must for every serious franchise, may be worth twice his world-class team.

King George invented modern sports free agency and its mass marketing. He inspired imitators and riled the competition. You think there would be blabbering meddlers like Jerry Jones or a Mark Cuban without The Boss? You think the NY Mets or the Boston Red Sox would have half the payrolls (the second and third highest in the sport) newly renovated or brand new ballparks and their own networks, if not for the NY Yankees? Oh, and don’t piss off a Bosox fan by reminding him that one of George’s disciples used his methods to buy a half-assed bungling club and finally fell the Curse of the Bambino. Let them think it was all a Beantown thing.

Speaking of Beantown, a mad series of tweets are now reporting that Steinbrenner has abandoned his raid on Nirvana and has decided to trade a frozen Ted Williams for St. Peter, while acquiring the rights to Salvation.

Money, Fame, Power: This is Horatio Alger on a John Galt jag worthy of Ulysses, jack.

Here’s what you need to know about George M. Steinbrenner III: In 1973, at age 42, he wrangled nine associates representing 49 percent of his 51 percent ownership bid — a poultry 150 grand of which came from his pocket — to purchase a busted, aging, and debt-ridden symbol of early twentieth-century Americana for $10 million. Today it is worth well over a billion dollars.

Upon his arrival from the shipbuilding business in Cleveland, Ohio, the NY Yankees, once the proudest team in sport, dominating for decades with the biggest names — Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra — had not sniffed a stellar season in nearly ten years. Within five seasons it was champion of baseball, boasting the game’s most dazzling stars — Munson, Hunter, Jackson, Lyle.

Before the reign of King George, Yankee Stadium, once the cathedral of the nation’s pastime, was a dilapidated cavern of empty seats. By 1976, it was a renovated jewel of modern sports, and today, filled annually with league-leading attendance, it sits across famed 161st street as a state-of-the-art tribute to the excess of winning.

Steinbrenner, shrewd, hard, and aggressive, with a manic ambition set alight by an unyielding father whose will to win was only outdone by a paralyzing fear of losing, knew so little about the nuances and framework of baseball — a game of patience run in a long-distance style — he drove an entire city, its press, and the sport crazy. “One-hundred and sixty-two game sevens,” is how his most successful manager, Joe Torre once described a season under George Steinbrenner.

The legend of The Boss hiring and firing everyone and anyone in sight on a whim — the first 24 seasons of Steinbrenner rule bore 20 managerial changes — was born on two brilliantly bizarre moves that everyone who had the slightest inkling about baseball thought mad: Spending Thanksgiving waiting out the free agency of star, Reggie Jackson in an O’Hare hotel lobby for seven hours until the slugger agreed to take his millions and the next summer firing an insubordinately violent drunkard manager, his team trailing the division by double-digits, to hire a more subdued boozer. Both decisions brought his Yankees back-to-back titles in 1977 and’78.

Thus was born the Bronx Zoo, so completely ingrained in New York sports lore that over two decades later after the 1999 Yankees pulled off its own repeat, I asked Steinbrenner to compare it. “Oh, now, it’s hard to compare anything to those days,” he said, eyebrows pitched. “Those teams had…well, they had some big things to overcome. Namely me.”

Twenty years between champagne sips for the Yankees is a lifetime; in fact, the longest run of non-dominance in the team’s illustrious history, and most of the wilderness stemmed from Steinbrenner’s belief that his two “big moves”, wooing the high-priced superstar and sacking a manager in mid-stream, would always bring the brass ring. Instead it brought everything imaginable — outrage, embarrassment, tumult, and lunacy — but no titles.

During this time whenever anyone would ask me to write or comment negatively about The Boss’ almost daily asinine behavior, I would pass. Hell, I told them, when it really mattered for me, as a kid, when you really live and die with the game, the guy gave me a collection of crazed banshees who conquered all comers. Sports are a distraction at best when you’re 30, at 14, its pretty much Armageddon.

Apparently it never stops being Armageddon for some, and for King George, it was daily.

Still, it was a much mellower, almost humbled Steinbrenner that emerged from his second suspension from baseball, the first in the early seventies resulting from a fallout from illegal campaign contributions to the same Nixon CREEP fund that eventually sank the 37th president, the second, a series of weird events that drove the most famous owner in sport to employ a slimy New York bookie to sandbag his multi-million dollar all-star.

Soon the aging titan was being parodied on a sitcom and weeping during trophy ceremonies, a raging idiosyncratic caricature of indomitable impatience now the doting patriarch — his team on top, his franchise the richest, and its brand second to none.

So of course he would expand his interests to the unknown quantities of the afterlife, with its infinite eternities and boundless potential to mine for big gains and bigger headlines.

This just in: THE BOSS BUYS HEAVEN, FORCES THURMAN MUNSON TO FINALLY SHAVE BEARD.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

Labron James Play Basketball

Aquarian Weekly 7/14/10 REALITY CHECK

LEBRON JAMES PLAYS BASKETBALL

Tell me, Britney, why did the chicken cross the road? Because he wanted to be seen. The chicken is smart, he is cool. He is making a sound investment in himself — unless he is drunk, and then he has no future. But he wins either way. If the chicken is Flamboyant as he crosses the road, he will soon be rich and famous. If he is bitchy and neurotic, he will be eliminated. This is the Law of the Road.

– Hunter S. Thompson Stadium Living In A New Age

It is 3:25 pm on the eighth day of a brutally hot first week of July in NYC, and by all accounts among many of the sporting, national and celebrity press, LeBron James is the most famous man on planet earth. The pro basketball star’s brief but much ballyhooed free agency from the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers has pushed him into the Babe Ruth/Muhammad Ali realm of sport celebrity with hardly the resume or the personality to warrant such lofty comparisons. Although the league’s reigning MVP, displaying an almost blithe afterthought to his glimpses of magnificence (this space once described him less athlete than artist, his performances more akin to Jimi Hendrix than Pistol Pete Maravich), James’ greatest gift may lie in simply being famous.

The KingMore than mere fame, James is the ultimate capitalist in a socialist construct.

The National Basketball Association aka the Magic/Bird/MJ Enterprise is one of three major American pro sports which utilize a salary cap, putting a limit on otherwise free market organizations to what they can pay their employees, who also uniquely double as the product. Worse still, the NBA enforces a “hard cap” that is practically impossible to circumvent, as say the more laissez fare National Football League cap, which is mostly a joke considering the pathetic lack of a player’s union and no guarantee of payment should a player get brutally injured and can no longer produce to the agreed-upon salary’s level of performance.

James pisses on this.

The King will not only get his somehow, either through sweetened deals that involve part ownership or piggy-backed marketing deals and merchandizing sweeteners, but also, as has never before been seen in sport — the balls to broker deals with players from other teams, like-minded free agents, and hungry general managers, who have and will restructure their previous plans for one guy’s personal and professional happiness.

Atlas shrugs and we cannot get enough.

This is why it is fitting James waltzes around in a NY Yankees cap, the most successful and powerful franchise in the only pro sport not completely communistic in formation, despite its mostly unconstitutional and laughably irrational anti-trust exemption and the dipshits who own the Red Sox whining like bitches every year. This has allowed baseball to be run as a drunken land baron haven for decades — denying civil rights and promoting every form of cheating known to the art of gaming. The Yankees, who are forced to pay an exceedingly un-America luxury tax as a consequence of running the most outlandishly fantastic competitive business model ever conceived by the most brilliant titans of industry, continue to buck every system and traverse every era with unprecedented domination.

But again comparing LeBron James to the NY Yankees would be like putting your sixth grade science project up against the Atomic Bomb.

Having said that, not even the world’s greatest sports franchise with 27 titles, a billion dollar price tag, and a brand spanking new grandiose stadium can best the self-promotion machine whose very nickname, King James only hints at the spectacular level of narcissism he has achieved in a remarkably short time. Some seven years removed from his High School senior prom in a nowhere town in Ohio, James has parlayed his extraordinary skills into something akin to the Age of Vaudeville meets the Kennedys.

Money, Fame, Power: This is Horatio Alger on a John Galt jag worthy of Ulysses, jack.

For the past week, the nation’s, and in some cases, the world’s major newspapers, web sites, blogs and television programs from the Today Show to Nightline has either lead, plugged or speculated about his every move, mood, and machinations. And have there ever been machinations; from clandestine entourage meetings and strangely devised leaks to stock spikes (Cablevision shares — owners of the NY Knicks — exploded on a vague rumor he might choose Madison Square Garden to ply his trade).

Five or six franchises, the chosen few that could hope to afford him monetarily or accommodate him with the best plan for winning, wheeled their entire operations — owners, front office personnel, marketing firms, public relations departments, former players and in some cases jock-sniffing celebrities — to Ohio to woo his services.

Throughout the proceedings major stars of every major sport commented, tweeted, and weighed in on his “Decision”, which coincidently became the name of a one-hour “live network special” on ESPN later tonight. The James’ camp pitched the idea to the more than eager all-sports network to eat up 60 minutes of airtime smack in the middle of Major League Baseball season and days from the World Cup Finals on the whim of one man.

Money, Fame, Power: This is Horatio Alger on a John Galt jag worthy of Ulysses, jack.

No one denies James is a fine pro basketball player; perhaps casual fans would consider him the best in the game. Closer inspection by more astute followers of the sport would rank him considerably below former league MVP and five-time world champion, Kobe Bryant, after his pedestrian performance in key moments in an unceremonious ousting by the Boston Celtics in this year’s play-offs. At times it looked as if James had already begun his exit from the poor win-starved hamlet of Cleveland, as he walked around half stunned on the periphery as far less famous and powerful types chucked up an agonizing series of putrid shots to doom his season. At one point the cameras caught him on the bench during a time out with his eyes closed, as if in a Zen-like state of centering his chi on grander notions.

Those notions, it appears to all in the know, ended up in Miami to play in one of the worst sports towns in America for the Heat simply because his two favorite Olympic teammates, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, the latter of which is currently a contracted member of another team, held the league and their teams hostage to form an unholy bond. By the time the words “take my talents to South Beach” left his mouth, James’ jerseys and parts of downtown Cleveland burned, the Westside of Manhattan began to formulate interesting ways to chant “pussy” and the south side of Chicago sighed with relief they wouldn’t have to be pissed at him for not being Michael Jordan.

It was all part of a monumental plan hatched by the most famous capitalist in the world.

This week.

 

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

Why We Care About Tiger Woods

Aquarian Weekly 12/9/09 REALITY CHECK

WHY WE CARE ABOUT TIGER WOODS

Salad DaysI was sitting sipping Bahamian beer with my wife at Rum Runners and listening to an ominous storm front move across Pelican Bay when I first heard the news of Tiger Woods’ “car accident”. I had my back to a dusty television jammed precariously between what looked to me like a 1950s loud speaker and an over-sized pool cue rack, but the sound of my wife bellowing over the charmingly bad seventies rock and a tall ebony barkeep racing for the jukebox volume hushed the revelry for a moment. Suddenly the tinny echo of the CNN reporter’s solemn announcement filled the void. It was “serious”; he said over and over, prompting a corpulent woman from Tampa to gasp, “He’s dead!” Her companion, a gangly, mustachioed hippie with a cheap Hawaiian shirt removed the ragged straw hat from his sweaty head and sighed, “First Michael Jackson, now this.”

Indeed, my wife agreed, Jackson was dead, murdered by a quack with nerve gas and a secret celebrity code; his whereabouts unknown, because apparently no one cares anymore who or what killed the King of Pop, and soon, when they dredged Tiger’s remains from the Florida everglades, likely masticated beyond recognition from a surge of ravenous crocodiles, there will be little anyone will care about — troop levels in Afghanistan, National Health Care Reform, or the all-important Black Friday retail numbers, which would doubtless decide the immediate economic future of the Western world.

No, everyone within earshot agreed: even the slightest injury to Tiger Woods would be beyond devastating news.

Why?

For starters, Woods, as the skinny brunette twenty-something from Nashville reminded us, easily rates in the top five of planet earth’s most famous people; certainly its most recognized athlete. He is this generation’s Babe Ruth or Muhammad Ali, transcending his sport, his race, his culture, his very humanity. Hell, as the panting barkeep offered, “Anyone that has a goddamned logo with his initials on every type of clothing and has the balls to constantly wear the thing in public is like some kind of Superman.”

Yes, Tiger, the man for whom only one name may suffice, does wear a logo of his initials upon his head and emblazoned on his form-fitting golf shirts, making him without debate our latest Nietchzian Ubermensch; an almost pristine caricature of the modern American Adonis; a multi-racial, youth-driven, handsomely slender master performer of his craft, obsessed with victory and perfection and cashing in. Tiger, with his $100 million a year endorsements, his gorgeous blonde Viking wife and two adorable kids, GQ cover style and jet-setter decorum, seems so likable he can comfortably straddle the most difficult of dualities: Lovably unapproachable.

It was beginning to look like a feeding frenzy would not only be unleashed, but this time, for a change, merited.

Could a rare profitable commodity so utterly indestructible truly be dead? Could he actually be unable to continue to set impossible standards of performance in the highbrow, country-club caste-crazy game he dominates with apparent ease?

The entire episode and its barely decipherable details seemed to set a pall on the whole island for the entire next day, which would have kept any normal couple from setting aside a three-day marathon of substance abuse, but I am happy to report, hardly curtailed us. My wife despises golf, which she has more than once dubbed “an elitist self-flagellation” in sober moments and far lengthier and even less comprehensible mockery under the influence. I have little use for the sport, as I have not played since high school, but do recall more than a decade ago predicting on a local television panel of sports journalists run by my friend Michael Miner, now a major player in almost every New York area sports media outlet, along with the gentleman currently running Westchester County, that Tiger would be the most celebrated athlete of his time. My esteemed colleagues differed on their prognostications since at the time Woods had not yet hit a golf ball for a dime.

Needless to say Woods eclipsed even my loftiest expectations, as he did for everyone else paying attention, as we all were on Saturday morning; the wife and I, half-asleep and ornery from an extended stopover at Miami International Airport. Every television and newspaper was busy arousing suspicions and offering half-cocked commentary. Now it seemed the Thanksgiving 2:30 am “car accident” happened between his driveway and the adjacent curbside, with smashed windows and his wife “hovering” over his “barely conscious” body with (gulp!) a golf club.

It was beginning to look like a feeding frenzy would not only be unleashed, but this time, for a change, merited. This was no imaginary boy in a balloon or anonymous kid trapped down a well or sold into slavery by dog-fighting trainers, or rich gargoyles suckering other rich gargoyles out of their land-raping money, or the delicate nuances of drunken teenage pop stars exposing their genitalia. No. This was serious business, and it would not be ending soon.

Before long back in the States and at the control center here at The Desk, the information poured in fast and furious, some refuting and contradicting the earlier ones, others expounding on what could best be described as the most mishandled philandering and subsequent publicity fallout in recent memory.

Not one, but two major stories in the National Enquirer and Us Magazine surfaced with hardcore dates and voicemails and text messages between our beloved Tiger and some Las Vegas floozy. Then another sex kitten emerged, then retracted, then re-emerged, and all the while nothing from Tiger or his considerable “camp”. Soon the police would downplay the case as a “weird mishap” and voices from the other side of reason began defending the poor guy’s right to privacy, which by all measures of logic is usually sold down the proverbial river with the type of ridiculous celebrity attributed to the few and the brave and the stack of cash accompanying it.

My favorite comments came from athletes who claim that somehow explaining oneself to the press or to the fans is a “professional courtesy” and not an impetrative, as my long-lost sportswriter pal, Barry Stanton once mused to a coked-out Lawrence Taylor during a charity golf event, “No one pays top dollar to see you play football in the park with your pals.” Ironically, this exchange of intellectual lobbing was met with the wielding of a golf club fairly close to Stanton’s head. He escaped unharmed, but his point hit home.

Humans tend to be attracted to the subtext of almost every innocuous and banal subject, especially when it contains salacious details or dark secrets of the famous. But this is far different. And although Tiger eventually released a “statement of apology” and had come to accept his “transgressions” there is something infinitely intriguing about the indestructible reduced to indefensible. That is not just an American phenomenon, but mostly a human one.

I believe Tiger would have a better “Leave me alone, this is a private matter” defense if he didn’t revel in his Master Of The Universe persona and didn’t profit immensely from it, just as the case could not be defended seriously when the president of the United States used the people’s property and time to diddle on his spouse.

But no president, not even the current Super Cool one — also a multi-racial handsome, youth figure, who is constantly on public as well as political trial — has been as popular as Tiger Woods for the past decade-plus. Only he, perhaps the amiable Peyton Manning in football and certainly the smooth Derek Jeter in baseball approach his level of sports persona earning power. In another ironic twist the multi-racial Jeter, fresh from a renaissance season and a fifth World Series title, was named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year this week.

Hey, if Jeter’s teammate, the enigmatic Alex Rodriguez can go from tar-and-feathered steroid cheat, choker outcast, to World Champion hero class-act teammate in six months, what can Tiger Woods do with this nugget of personal “self-flagellation”? You see, in the end, there will always be someone somewhere who will offer the argument that we just love to build ’em up and knock ’em down, but then they ignore the fundamental beauty of a free society; that it provides a platform to which those can build themselves up with the always thorny opportunity to come down easy or hard.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Articles | Books | Bio | Press | Sound Off | Recommended | Contact jc jamescampion.com is a proud member of the BLAZO!! network BLAZE inter.NET Designed & Hosted by BLAZE inter.NET

Read More

Phelps/A-Rod Railroaded

Aquarian Weekly 2/18/09 REALITY CHECK

WHERE HAVE YOU GONE MUHAMMAD ALI?

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. – Aldous Huxley

A-Rod shamed the game. – Bud Selig, Commissioner of Baseball and architect of the shutting down of the entire sport and eventual cancellation of the World Series in 1994

Breakfast of ChampionsWhenever the shit hits the fan in the arena of sport, I miss Muhammad Ali. I miss his defiance, elegance and grit. Mostly, I miss his balls, those massive steel things he would wave in the face of opponents, the press, Howard Cosell, or the United States government, as in 1966 when Ali refused what was likely to be a pathetic dog-and-pony sideshow for the Pentagon in South East Asia, tantamount to an Elvis tour of American celebrity. That’s how Ali saw his 1960 Gold Medal. It was how he shed his Christian moniker for queer religious fervor. Ali told the U.S. Army and its soon-to-be disastrous Viet Nam campaign to walk. It cost him his title, four years of his prime, and what all ego-mad jocks crave, mass love and admiration.

What do you think Ali would think now of the vilification of Alex Rodriquez and Michael Phelps in the shadow of so much corruption, greed and hyperbole? These incoherent rambling apologies for drug use; one to enhance performance in a sport drenched in chemical experimentation for more than thirty years, the other to get high like nearly every other twenty-something kid. You think maybe Ali would have pointed out the hypocrisy of it all, more than half a century of drug use in every professional and amateur sport both diminishing and enhancing performances. You think Ali may have pointed out that the drug laws in this country are wrong-headed and atavistic? Or you think maybe he might have shed light on the millions of dollars earned on the blood and sweat of young men, many of whom never asked to be gods?

My guess is yes to all of the above. Ali would not have gone down quietly, like a docile performing seal bowing to the disingenuous moral outrage from a braying fan base, which cares only about winning no matter how it gets done. He certainly wouldn’t take it from those who clamor for Herculean athletic achievement even when its fabrications are patently obvious. And then there is the predictably brain numbing sports media that loves to shake the collective head and wag an accusing finger while enticing us with images of savage violence, self-promoting theatrics and juvenile behavior over and over and over and over again. And of course there is, as always, the sometimes faceless but always bottom line bankrollers of these fiascos who dare to engender sympathy for being “duped”.

I think Ali would have found the ironical humor in words like “cheat”, “fraud”, “behavior”, and “besmirching” tumbling forth from the holier-than-thou keepers of high-tech showbiz that has long been tarnished by decades of illegal and unconscionable activities. How in the world does the Olympic Committee, one of the most corrupt and disastrously run institutions in the world, get off suspending a kid for smoking pot? Where does anyone from Major League Baseball, proud abusers of civil rights and openly celebrated indentured servitude for half a century, get off judging its players for steroid use?

You would think these guys raped puppies or planned the overthrow of the free world.

Ali would have been thrilled to tell you that the ones who cry the loudest are the guiltiest. They are all too willing to cast shame as far as they can to avoid the collateral damage. This is how things go in the American sport landscape, where boys become millionaires playing a goofy sport we’re all supposed to worship as religion, hand over our money and attention to as if robots so we can claim dominion over its history and ownership of its participants.

You would think these guys raped puppies or planned the overthrow of the free world. It’s goddamned jocks doing jockey things like bending rules to get an edge or blowing off steam: Gaylord Perry spit-balling his way into the Hall of Fame or the 1951 N.Y. Giants using telescopes to spy on opposing team’s signs or Doc Gooden and Lawrence Taylor jacked up on mountains of blow. Many wonder what a keg of beer and a pound of bratwurst could have done to assist the Bambino’s home run orgy in 1927 or if Doc Ellis’ famous acid-drenched no-hitter would add to the annals of baseball lore.

You know if Ali had been any of those guys, let alone Michael Phelps, he would have said, “Shit yeah, I smoke dope, and guess what? I have more gold medals than any human. Fuck Weaties, get a hold of some Master Afghani Kush and you too can achieve greatness!”

Lord knows Ali would not have let the powers that be trample all over his civil rights, leaking anonymous tests used by the most powerful union in the nation to keep the richest sport on the planet from its lab rats. He may have been inclined to look one of those locker room groupies with a pen and pad right in the eye and ask them, “What would you do without me and the New York fucking Yankees sad sack? My guess is you’d be bagging groceries in a beer fog wishing your parents would add a separate heat zone to the basement.”

People always ask me why I name Ali and Joe Namath as my lasting sports heroes. Ali is well documented, and Namath will forever have a place in my heart for all he accomplished on and off the field evolving the landscape of pro sport, its celebrity and its transcendence in pop culture, but also because he refused to eat shit. After almost single-handedly achieving the merger of two gigantic money-printing leagues by his sheer greatness and unmatched star power, the newly forged conglomerate demanded he sell his bar on the Upper East Side of Manhattan because known mobsters allegedly frequented it. Namath told the National Football League to go fuck itself and retired at the pinnacle of his career. Of course the league came begging for his return, because like A-Rod, it was nothing but a bunch of slobbering brutes ramming themselves together in Neanderthal scrums without him.

I guess it is too much to ask for titans like Ali and Namath to be around when the next round of petty bullshit is blown up to symbolize the end of civilization, but the saddest part of it all is this slave-like mentality to trade truth for the almighty buck and another fifteen minutes of fame.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

The Total Eclipse Of McCain

Aquarian Weekly 9/24/08 REALITY CHECK

ADDIO STADIABronx Boy Bids Farewell To The Haunts Of Youth

One need not be a chamber to be haunted; One need not be a house; The brain has corridors surpassing Material place. – Emily DickinsonTime and Eternity

Maybe, if you’re lucky, there are a few places you can say you’ve frequented for a lifetime; places experienced through the eyes of a child to young adult to adulthood and so on. For someone, such as myself, who has called numerous and Yankee Stadiumvaried locales home and lived several lives throughout, those places are fleeting. When pressed, I could always recall two: Radio City Music Hall and two stadiums – Yankee and Shea. In a few weeks the latter two will go dark and be torn down to make way for new state-of-the-art 21st Century models. One in Queens and one in the Bronx, one closes 44 years and the other 84. One a symbol of the modern metropolis, erected in the wake of America’s excessive post-war boom, the other a monolithic outpost at the dawn of the Jazz age; both institutions going where most institutions in the greatest city in the world go, into the past to make way for profit of progress.

Yankee Stadium is hallowed sports ground. It has been called a cathedral, the home office for the most successful and renowned franchise in the history of team competition, whose prominent members have one time or another held or currently hold every pertinent regular season, post season, or career baseball record known. It has also hosted Popes, championship bouts, and what is still called The Greatest Game Ever Played by pro football historians, the 1958 NFL Championship.

Shea Stadium is the home of miracles, begun by Joe Willie Namath and the upstart AFL Jets in the winter of 1968 and completed by the unbelievable summer of ’69 when the lovable loser Mets became lovable champions. Then again seventeen years later when one of the most improbable victories in World Series history rolled through the legs of a hobbled firstbagger from Beantown. Oh, and along the way, there were the Beatles, the Stones, The Who, and most recently, Long Islander, Billy Joel.

But all of that means little for me. I humbly wish to bid farewell to the structures that housed those magical days and nights spent beside my dad, my family, my friends, and my media colleagues. I bid farewell to the wonders of youthful revelry at the end of those long trips of anticipation and drudgery into the realm of pressured deadlines and effusive ovations – the psychic manifestation of collective memory born in the shadow of brick and mortar surrounding a few hundred yards of dirt and grass. I bid farewell to a measure of my identity.

The first time I entered Yankee Stadium, I am told, it was in the belly of my mother; who is always happy to recount in one of the many stories used to illustrate my father’s obsession with what she dubs People Running Around With Numbers On Their Backs, a tale of sitting in the bleachers six-months pregnant. By then my father had been twenty years into a love affair with the place, begun in late afternoons when his school chum, the Yankees batboy, would sneak them into games after the sixth inning.

I was born soon thereafter in Northern Manhattan during a Red Sox/Yankees double-header in the Bronx, the same year New York got their National League team back; the year the Mets were simultaneously the most putrid and beloved team of a generation. Two years after that they christened their own stadium near Flushing Meadows during the World’s Fair, which I proudly attended by way of stroller. Two years after the Beatles showed up too.

By the time I was old enough to breath, eat, and even walk on my own, I entered both places during two disparate seasons; one awash in the glow of summer, the other beneath the frigid gale of winter. Through the imposing Yankee Stadium gates I strode, clutching eagerly to my father’s hand, up the dark tunnel into an explosion of greens, blues and the incredible white of the famed façade. For a city kid, it had the pastoral grandeur of Dorothy emerging from her black and white farmhouse into the glaringly multihued trip of Oz. Then it was onto the clamor and pomp of an AFL Sunday in the windswept cavern dressed as a miniature Nanook sweating with the anticipation of seeing the great Namath warm up.

There were the raucous Yankee Stadium trips of my pre-teen years when my family moved from the Bronx to New Jersey, Bat Day and Cap Day and sitting up in the left field upper deck sort-of near my idol Roy White. Then behind the dugout the time my Uncle Johnny scored the rare box seat and my cousin Michelle dumped a beverage on an unsuspecting patron who was merrily doused during a key Thurman Munson late-inning double to beat Boston.

The two Campion boys, just a couple of neighborhood kids visiting the Grand Old Lady one last time. We scored the game. Shared some stories. Cheered the home team. Said good-bye.

Onto my teenaged years with my friends, Roland, Bob, Chris and my little brother PJ sitting in the Stadium bleachers getting ripped on watered down beer and screeching obscenities at multi-million dollar athletes as we endured the squelching heat of endless double-headers. Across town we hatched the bright idea to parade around the entirety of Shea, a community replete with banners of all shapes and sizes, with a blank one. There is something abjectly satisfying in proudly displaying a completely stark sign to scores of dumbfounded fans as Dave Kingman uncorks one of his patented moonshots.

And then into my twenties and early thirties when I worked the stadia press boxes and clubhouses culling interviews for rat-faced producers, penning columns for fun loving sports editors, and phoning in reports to Westchester radio stations. I met my journalistic and broadcasting heroes, smoked my first cigar, picked the brains of grizzled pen-jockeys and veteran photogs, and stomped the terra with my pal, Mike, the best cameraman I have ever known.

From balmy late-summer evenings amidst eight thousand disgruntled fans to crisp autumn nights basking in the din of 56 thousand bellowing hordes cheering pennant winners. Waltzing through the grumpy army of press geeks with my dear friend and colleague, Rob during the World Series, fending off the jeers of beat lifers as we wrestled over boxed dinners during stifling press conferences. I watched from the main press box as the ball settled into the left fielder’s glove to win the last game of the 20th century and give the Yanks the 25th of their incredible 26 titles, jotting into my scorecard “For Vinnie” my great uncle, who had seen the Babe and Gehrig and DiMaggio there, before passing away only a few months before. Later, squeezing among the showering champagne celebrants, I was accosted into a bear hug by the general manager of the best team on the planet, who’d become my friend during the summer of my marriage.

The last time I saw Shea, it was from the darkened parking lot on a misty autumn evening during the late innings of Game 4 of the Subway Series in 2000; the roar of the crowd causing me to turn my head and peer through the opening in right-centerfield. The lights of October illuminated my solitary stroll to file my report.

I would spend only one more day at Yankee Stadium as a reporter; opening day 2001. Soon after I left sports reporting as a profession, but not as a passion. I had before, during since spent many games in the company of cherished friends during countless games and finally an annual trip with my wife, who last season sat next to me with my daughter in her belly.

Earlier this month I took her grandpa, returning a 40-plus year favor. The two Campion boys, just a couple of neighborhood kids visiting the Grand Old Lady one last time. We scored the game. Shared some stories. Cheered the home team. Said good-bye.

There’s always Radio City.

 

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

Truth On Mitchell Report

Aquarian Weekly 12/17/07 REALITY CHECK

BASEBALL THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS Hypocrisy & Incongruities In The Mitchell Report

After twenty years of reportedly ten percent of its players’ steroid, speed, drug, and hormone abuse, Major League Baseball’s $40 to 60 million non-legally-binding, no-retribution band-aid to keep the United States government from removing its atavistic, monopolistic Anti-Trust Exemption came down today (12/13/07). Named for its author and lead investigative council, former Maine Senator George Mitchell, who was hired by the commissioner’s office (on the payroll of the collective ownership of baseball) and Puppet Manwho currently sits on the board of directors of the Boston Red Sox, and did not include the co-operation of the Players Association, including having no subpoena power or, incredibly, access to positive drug tests, is one of the most extraordinarily useless endeavors undertaken by a business policing itself.

Known for its unabashed mismanagement by power-mad greedheads and ridiculously paid pampered athletes, MLB took what the Mitchell Report decried as a widespread drug frenzy on all 30 teams and narrowed it down to the already exhausted BALCO investigation results and the hazy recollections of highly motivated middlemen into a mere, to quote Mitchell himself, “tip of the iceberg”.

If baseball fans thought they were getting the full story on two decades of steroid and human growth hormone use they were sadly mistaken. Mitchell’s hands were tied. Evidence was spotty. The Union stonewalled him. The league had to protect itself. He was left to grab and claw for scraps, and scraps are what we got.

The report accuses, primarily on the strength of testimony provided by a convicted criminal and an FBI-threatened drug dealer, some 90 players of using illegal substances to enhance their performances. Some of the claims are arbitrary and the evidence flat out circumstantial. Most remarkably its results levees no penalty beyond salacious rendering of mostly player names that have been more or less celebrated as world-class juicers for a decade anyway. It also omits players who have not only already failed drug tests but have all but admitted through their actions, after displaying as much through off-the-charts performance, that they are guilty.

If there is such a thing as guilt, since many of these players juiced before it was banned, enforced, or even acknowledged as technically cheating.

So in the end, this expensive exercise in innuendo and he said/he said is at best incomplete and at worse a sloppy exaggeration or outright fabrication. Begun with the best of intentions: Clean up the game, like the Kenneth Starr investigation once attempted to “nail” Bill Clinton on illegal land deals but ended with cum stains, the Mitchell fiasco ends with half-assed insinuations by two guys who worked in only two clubhouses in one city.

By all accounts inside and outside the game, the list’s compilation of infractions is something like one to two percent of a sport that only four years ago reported the failure of nearly 300 of 1,500 players tested for some kind of illegal substance. There were still around 2,000 players not tested. And these tests were previously announced! These guys knew it was coming and still failed!

Oh, and none of the guys who failed were allowed to be included in this “thorough” investigation.

Ninety players fingered for steroid and HGH use in modern baseball is like saying a couple of hundred people died in the Civil War.

If baseball fans thought they were getting the full story on two decades of steroid and human growth hormone use they were sadly mistaken. Mitchell’s hands were tied. Evidence was spotty. The Union stonewalled him. The league had to protect itself. He was left to grab and claw for scraps, and scraps are what we got.

The wounded integrity of MLB takes another hit when it was revealed that its offices were allowed to peruse the report three days prior to its release, leaving more doubts as to whether a sport that turned its back on years of performance enhancement mania, and in any sane observation even encouraged it, has the balls to come clean on its product.

And by the way, the player’s union did not have the same courtesy. Player’s Association head, Donald Fehr, who tried to block what he deemed a disregard for fair disclosure, claimed later that day he had less than an hour before the report was made public to skim it.

Anyone who even cares about baseball has to admit this was not a big deal. If anything, this charade by Selig and the league, conducted unilaterally and beyond the parameters of the collective bargaining agreement with the Player’s Association, could actually damage the bottom line: Ending the Steroid Era. Lord knows it is not concentrated over 90 players in a few cities unlucky enough to be subjected to the hearsay of jock-sniffers, but endemic of the national sports scene and a mockery on the history of the game’s records and legacy.

This would be like paying someone a shitload of money to build you a boat with no tools or materials and being surprised when it sinks.

A band-aid.

As covered in this space two years ago (Everything You Wanted To Know About Steroids But Were Afraid To Ask 2/23/05) the problem was well known by everyone associated with baseball, and really, all sports, including players, owners, front office personnel, journalists, and networks covering the sport for a long time. Occasionally, articles in prominent periodicals like Sport Illustrated and other scattered journalistic investigations shed light on a culture of steroid abuse from high school through professional sports. But in 1994 when the issue came up in the collective bargaining farce run by commissioner Bud Selig, (much of which is covered in my second book, Fear No Art), after the owners, under the direction of Selig, staged a lock-out and closed down the sport, canceling the World Series, it was not only ignored but thrown out as a possible deterrent to “figuring financial concerns”.

Those concerns were again addressed in the late nineties as players jacked on steroids and other forms of doping began to obliterate records and enthrall the nation with home run chases. Yet glowing books were written. Sonnets of heroism were penned. Statues of immortals were erected.

Baseball, prior in 1994, went from a distant third in popularity among professional sports and probably fifth or sixth overall. Its resurgence in what is now reported to be a $6 billion industry is not because of integrity, jack, but players doing amazing things. A preponderance of which were enhanced by some kind of substance.

Now the sport, its questionably credible commissioner, and a private council paid for by the owners, who have a $6 billion interest invested in this business, ask us to look to the future and put it all behind us?

Fuck that.

Aside from burying that jackass Roger Clemens, all this report did was give you the smallest glimpse into an impregnable landscape of sordid details and complicated mazes of systematic paranoia that exists in the modern professional athlete. A manic rage to achieve greatness no matter the consequence, no matter the cost is reviewed nicely.

By day’s end there were rumblings of more names coming from further investigations and new evidence on the horizon. And Roger Clemens, the era’s greatest pitcher joining the era’s greatest hitter, Barry Bonds in infamy is now calling the report “slanderous”.

Name calling. Vague recommendations. Wasted time. Money pissed away. Just to get down on paper the smallest percentage of the ultimate goal, a goal that is ambiguous and self-serving, leaving room to continue business as usual.

Yes, well, a congressman was in charge and a multi-billion dollar industry bankrolled it. That’s sounds about right.

Carry on.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

End Of The Remarkable Joe Torre Era

Aquarian Weekly 10/24/07 REALITY CHECK

END OF AN ERA Joe Torre Concludes The Most Successful Tenure In New York Sports

Joe TorreFor nearly ten consecutive days the biggest story in the biggest city on the planet involved the most celebrated and popular sports franchise in the world, the New York Yankees, and their long-time manager, Joe Torre. Would he stay or would he go? Fired? Retired? Retained? Replaced? It went on for long days of nationwide speculation, dwarfing what is left of baseball’s snooze-fest post season. Everyone weighed in from politicians to celebrities to figures from every sport: Great or overrated? Irreplaceable or a product of talent and payroll? Focal point of success or recipient of it?

Torre eventually decided to go, turning down the Yankees’ low-ball offer after his team, with the biggest stars and the largest payroll in the game, was bounced from the first round of the play-offs for a third consecutive year. I say lowball with tongue jammed firmly in cheek since the Yankees insanely paid Torre $7 million a year for the previous three when the next highest paid manager was getting 3.5 mil, and then after that good luck if you get one mil.

Then again, this is the big bad New York Yankees, richest, most famous team with the richest most famous players. When they play home they are the toast of the town, the hottest ticket and the best story. When they go on the road it is the Rolling Stones, as teams averaging just around 20,000 a game watch their attendance nearly triple. They have their own television network, posh Manhattan stores, and scouting battalions in countries all over the globe.

So maybe the Yankees never needed Joe Torre, despite the fact that only two teams owning the top 10 payrolls over his 12-year tenor, the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox, have won a title, with the exception, of course, of Torre’s Yankees.

But before Joe Torre managed the Yankees he was a mediocre skipper with mostly mediocre records for three different franchises. Despite being a baseball lifer and a damned good player, Torre had gone decades in all kinds of jobs without ever participating in a World Series, while the Yankees pretty much invented the thing. Now, after reaching the Fall Classic half the time he was here, Torre has become the wealthiest man to ever manage baseball, a shoo-in Hall Of Famer, and a beloved New York icon with nationwide respect. Recently a Newsweek poll listed him number two behind Michael Jordan as the sports figure most capable to be president of the United States.

Maybe Torre just had good timing and fit the mold, much like another successful Yankees manager, Casey Stengel, who also went from mediocre to Hall of Famer by donning the pinstripes. But then maybe in an age of wild free agency, revenue sharing, luxury tax, three-tier play-off series, and increased competitiveness (no World Series Champion since Torre’s 2000 club has even won a post season game the following year, much less repeated) there is something remarkable about this guy. Simply put, for the 12 years Joe Torre held sway over the Yankees fortunes, no one in any business or holding any position of authority anywhere had a better run.

And don’t give me Bill Gates after that Vista disaster.

While presidents were lying under oath and presiding over an attack on our soil and then feeding us into Middle Eastern meat grinders, and doomed Fortune 500 companies were being run into financial oblivion by carney grifters, Joe Torre was presiding over an unprecedented streak of success, as the product he helmed soared into one of the most lucrative and unstoppable cash machines known to modern capitalism.

While presidents were lying under oath and presiding over an attack on our soil and then feeding us into Middle Eastern meat grinders, and doomed Fortune 500 companies were being run into financial oblivion by carney grifters, Joe Torre was presiding over an unprecedented streak of success, as the product he helmed soared into one of the most lucrative and unstoppable cash machines known to modern capitalism.

There has never been a better stretch of dominance in my lifetime, not in New York sports, and I dare say the likes of which will never be repeated.

Since the day Torre took command of the Yankees, who at that time had not won a division title in 15 seasons or a World Series for 18 – the longest such stretch for a franchise with 26 titles – the team reached the play-offs each season. Of those 12 winning campaigns Torre compiled 10 Division titles, including nine consecutive, six American League pennants, and four World Championships, including a three-peat from 1998 to 2000.

Pretty good, huh?

Just getting warmed up.

From 1996 through 2001 the Yankees won a ridiculous 54 post season games and lost only 19, including going 22-3 in ’98 and ’99, capping off the last decade of a century in which the franchise ended up winning a quarter of the World Series played. In 2000 the team won the first Subway Series in a generation and in 1998 posted an astounding 125-50 a record that will doubtless stand the test of time as the greatest ever.

Not bad, right? Hold on a second.

When Torre showed up in 1996 the Yankees had hired 13 different managers over a 23 year period, some of them twice and the famously soused Billy Martin five times. Most of those men were canned by loose-cannon owner, George Steinbrenner after mere weeks on the job. Torre lasted 12 seasons.

Despite decades of unrivaled success with some of the most legendary names to ever play the sport, by ’96 the team had never drawn three million fans during a season. The last eight seasons the Yankees have lead the entire league in attendance averaging well over three million and the last two well over four million.

And in the spring of 1996, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera were highly prized prospects, which meant they were likely to languish in the minors behind high-priced has-beens before being traded for more over-priced dead weight. Now they are both multi-millionaires going to the Hall Of Fame possessing nearly half the post-season records worthy of owning.

But this is New York and these are the Yankees, and the glory days always seem so far away. The team still wins and occasionally challenges for a title, but there has not been one in seven years, and that apparently is enough to lose the most cherished on-field general gig in a city where the other head coaches and managers have had a much tougher decade. In fact, no other New York team has won a championship since Torre hit town.

In the end though, beyond the winning and money, for the past 12 years the Yankees achieved a level of admiration never reached before. Maybe in the past they were respected and feared and envied and definitely hated, but during the Torre Era the franchise became a brand again, a symbol of professionalism and grandeur, mystique and class, in victory and defeat. Beyond those who will always just hate the Yanks for being the Yanks, the previous smugness, rancor, condescension, and occasional turmoil of the Yankees turned almost lovably corporate, if there is such an animal.

So in the end both team and manager needed each other, because neither is likely to see this kind of crazy winning and cash windfall again.

It was an unlikely fairytale ride for Torre and the Yankees, and I will recall it fondly as a fan and a reporter, from inside the clubhouse to the upper deck, to late night champagne celebrations to dogged defeats, and my dad will always have the photograph Joe signed to him when they were both battling cancer at the same time. My father sure didn’t forget. Last week when I asked James V., a Bronx native and longtime rooter, to weigh in on the Torre proceedings, he said with no hesitation, “If the Yankees offer him a dime less he should walk.”

Thus, the end of an era.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

Trouble With The North County News

Aquarian Weekly 9/6/06 REALITY CHECK

HOOLIGANS IN THE PRESS ROOM The Systematic Assassination of a Westchester Institution

Disturbing news trickled into the Reality Check News & Information Desk last week. A good friend and colleague of mine, and one of my sports editors during the early 90s, Ray Gallagher was unceremoniously sacked from the North County News. After 17 years of tireless efforts over countless hours of shedding significant light on athletes, coaches, programs, and schools in the Westchester, NY area, he was asked to leave with no warning or vacation or sick time earned.

The company reason?

The conflict of a second job working for the Putnam Valley Parks & Recreation Department, a post Gallagher has held with pride and care for the past five years. A job he takes seriously to help the kids he will cover in the coming years achieve their dreams in athletics, and one, let’s face it, he had to get to supplement the atrociously low compensation accompanying a hard-working local sports editor.

The real reason?

Perhaps the ultimate demise of the small town weekly to save a buck or sate an ego.

Whatever the reason, seems the razing of the staff with little-to-no compensation is more the norm than the exception at the North County News these days.

Be that as it may, this unconscionable crime against not only quality sports journalism, (NY State award winner for best weekly sports section 15 of the 17 years Gallagher helmed it) but the toil and sweat of a dedicated community hero cannot stand. In my many years in sports journalism – a despicable trade inhabited by sub-mental sops and sad-sack gambling addicts – I never met a writer with more integrity and guts than Ray. I was proud to work for him, know him, and most importantly, read him.

Gallagher’s struggles to help bring high school sports to Putnam County and the selfless campaign to help make the high school a reality and making sure all the area kids were well-equipped and respected in and around the varied sections should have garnered him a statue, instead of this apparent dime-store flim-flammery perpetuated by cheap hacks and scurrilous purveyors of yellow schmaltz.

So if destroying a wonderful newspaper like the North County News is the goal, than the powers that be are accomplishing their mission with dizzying speed. But if the goal is to improve content by stomping out the talent, then these people are even stupider than they appear.

Admittedly, I consider Ray a friend, and I tend to view most publishers and other literary vipers as mutating forms of a bilious disease oozing over the damaged organism known as journalism. So I’m biased. But then I set out to interview another former member of the NCN staff on an unrelated subject. Before resigning from the paper this week, uber-scribe Rita J. King backed up Gallagher’s allegations of megalomaniacal bullying performed by new publisher, Bruce Apar.

“Every publication has room for improvement, and when I found out a publisher had been hired, I looked forward to the changes that would take place,” King recalls. “But Bruce Apar’s treatment of the North County News staff, supported by the company’s management, was dehumanizing, and resulted in a round of immediate terminations and resignations.”

According to other reliable sources within the paper’s staff – many of whom either fear for their jobs or have since abandoned ship – Apar, along with general manager Carla Chase, appear to be systematically, if not clumsily, attempting to “drag the paper into the ground as some kind of write-off.”

“Someone should write about this,” one source told me last week. “Because this is really about the death of the hometown newspaper.”

Okay, so maybe the paper is taking a financial beating and needs to clean house. I understand this. Business is business. Sometimes a fine magazine or newspaper is trashed for the bottom line. I’m a big boy. Ray’s a big boy. But why refuse to pay the man his due or take the low road by not allowing Gallagher to say goodbye to many of his faithful readers or demand he return his laptop and camera equipment as if he were a common thief? And why did they remove his archives from their web site as if he never existed?

We don’t know, because several calls to the paper, and specifically Mr.Apar, have gone unanswered. But Apar is apparently only a symptom of a greater problem inside a once proud local institution. According to several former employees, the spate of staff harassment has been an inherent part of working for the NCN in recent years.

“The PR director relishes firing people,” a high-ranking official at the paper told me this week. “Apar isn’t doing anything they don’t support in Human Resources and at the top levels of the company.”

Does this include dumping employees on flimsy grounds and withholding benefits?

“I might have better understood their actions if they had been professional about it, but they were just plain mean spirited,” Gallagher told me this week. “My dismissal couldn’t have been on economic grounds; I increased the circulation of that newspaper by the thousands when I decided to expand the coverage area from six high schools to 14 from 1996 to 2000, despite an increased workload for my staff.”

King also felt the flak she endured was of dubious merit.

“Apar didn’t want to run one my columns because he found it too ‘self-referential,’ and he made it clear that all writers will follow his editorial philosophy,” King told me. “Yet the newspaper that week was full of his own self-references, including in the editorial section and in the form of two large photographs. With such contradictions riddling his ‘editorial philosophy’, it was impossible to know what was expected of us.”

After extensive discussions with several present and former employees of the paper a rather odious string of events began to emerge, not the least of which are the alleged demotions from full-time to part-time positions and/or the outright firing of employees to avoid providing their health benefits.

Again, despite numerous inquires on these allegations to the North County News management, nary a response.

But no response is necessary, right? They can do whatever they want. It’s their paper. If anything illegal or unethical has been done, one hopes action will be taken and reparations would be in order. Otherwise you can make up any old reason to drop someone. No one is owed anything. No one is entitled to be treated fairly. Fairness is illusion. Lord knows I’ve earned a living in this miserable vocation long enough to realize that.

But if the business is news, and the enterprise is a media outlet, whether the NY Times or a hometown weekly, than the public needs to know how the business is being run. The public needs to know that the reporters, columnists, and photographers who work the community to the best of their ability are being treated shoddily and that the quality of the coverage and writing is taking a backseat to cutting costs or some base form of insane egomania.

So if destroying a wonderful newspaper like the North County News is the goal, than the powers that be are accomplishing their mission with dizzying speed. But if the goal is to improve content by stomping out the talent, then these people are even stupider than they appear. And that’s the problem with management types, they think they’re the paper because they sign the checks or make the rules. But there isn’t a publishing cretin on this planet that could turn a phrase or cover a story or capture an opinion with all the hissy office tantrums in the world – not without a dedicated staff.

I say let the NCN crumble. It wouldn’t be the first time the ham-fisted wannabees wrecked a good thing, and it won’t be the last.

Ray Gallagher may be out of a gig for now, but he’s still the best damn sportswriter in Westchester County. He just does it now from his new web site, www.yourdirectrays.com or a competing newspaper soon, instead of a doomed rag run by low-rent goons.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

Read More

Asterisk Nation – Dan Bern

Aquarian Weekly 3/15/06 REALITY CHECK Guest Columnist – Dan Bern

ASTERISK NATION Look In The Mirror, It’s Barry Bonds

Barry BondsHaving already beaten this particular lifeless steed into oblivion some 13 months ago, almost to the day, I decided to place a call into the badlands and rile up my brother-in-arms, Dan Bern. The man this space affectionately anointed The Admiral some years ago has become my favorite songwriter, author of a damn fine book I helped fashion to some degree, and an award-winning sports columnist. But I didn’t call on him for any of those reasons. The man loves Barry Bonds. True love. Unconditional amore. Sick. Unwavering. Enviable.

This week Sports Illustrated printed excerpts from a book due later this month by San Francisco Chronicle scribes that details Bonds jacking himself with every known steroid to modern man for some seven years. This has caused a furor among baseball purists who want his miraculous 2001 single-season home run record of 73 to be stricken from the record, or, if possible, place an asterisk next to his name in the all-time list, of which Bonds is fast approaching number two with a bullet.

But for Bern, the SF Giants are his team, and Bonds, his man. He will follow both into the bowels of hell, an offer he once proffered to me after a night of too many in the desert. I might take him up on it some day. For now, he gets the floor.

jc

 

So you want to put an asterisk after his name. Fine. Put an asterisk after his name. As long as his name’s still up there, put anything you want after it. Barry Bonds.* Or is it Barry Bonds*. Asterisk then period, or period then asterisk? I think the last one’s right. Asterisk then period.

Why does it have to be an asterisk? How about an ampersand? Barry Bonds&.

Barry Bonds%.

Barry Bonds@.

That looks pretty good. Barry Bonds@.

What did he do, really? Violate a drug policy that was never in effect? You know he looked at McGwire in ’98, with bovine calves, and figured, man. If that big ox can take whatever he’s taking and hit 70, what would a truly great player hit? Namely me? Barry Bonds^. Not bad.

Barry Bonds^, Rafael Palmeiro^ and Jose Canseco^.

How about the senators who led the grand inquisition? How about the Zoloft, Ativan, Prozac, Levitra in their veins when they’re legislating? Do they get asterisks, too?

John McCain*. Elizabeth Dole*. Tom Delay**:{&!

In fifteen years, when genetic engineering really gets going, steroids are going to look like Chicklets.

Where do we draw the line? What is not a performance-enhancing substance? Contact lenses? Double frappuccino? Viagra? Bee Pollen? Gatorade? One-a-Day? In fifteen years, when genetic engineering really gets going, steroids are going to look like Chicklets. And what about Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi’s kids? Isn’t that genetic engineering? Isn’t that a little unfair? Don’t those kids needs asterisks, too?

Barry Bonds#.

Barry Bonds$. Hmm. Maybe that’s too attractive. Everybody’s gonna want one. From here, the whole thing looks like Smoke Screen Central. War bad, economy bad, popularity numbers bad-how’s about a Steroid Scandal! Let’s get Bonds-no one likes him anyway! Let’s get him before he gets the home run record away from Ruth. What? Ruth doesn’t hold the record anymore? Who? Aaron? Well….at least he was a nice boy….

Barry Bonds+. Yeah. No kidding.

Barry Bonds=. Wow. Wonder what’s on the other side of that.

Barry Bonds;. Kinda cool. A semi-colon. You’re always stopping sentences, making them pause before they can continue. That Bonds;–he always makes you take a breath.

The Steroids Era. I can kinda buy it. Like the Dead Ball Era, the Ruth Era, the War Years.

The Steroids Era. 1986 (Canseco’s* Rookie Year) – 2004 (inclusive). The Steroids Era saw monstrous home run totals and equally monstrous physiques. The Steroids Era saw Brady Anderson* hit 50, Greg Vaughn* hit 50, Luis Gonzalez* hit 50. McGwire* hit 50 four years running, Sosa* hit 60 three out of four years. McGwire* hit 70 and Barry Bonds* hit 73. Ken Caminiti* died.

Maybe if I were trying to get the big guy out, I’d be more worked up about Bonds*. But from what I hear, a lot of the pitchers were juicing, too. The guys who were doing it invariably say, “It just maximizes my workouts. I recover faster.” Which is pretty much what the guys who take Vitamin C say. Of course, the guys who don’t take steroids (or who haven’t gotten caught) say other things: “He’s superhuman. His hat grew three sizes.”

Maximizing my workouts, assuming I’m working out, sounds pretty good to me. Heck, half the stuff, they advertise on the radio late at night. “Human growth hormone.” Wow. That sounds pretty good. Honey, can I get that? And The Cream and The Clear, can I get that too?

The Cream* and The Clear*. It sounds so, well, clear. They aren’t even pills. You just rub it on your skin. That sounds nice. Kind of like a nicotine patch. And how about that? Isn’t that cheating? Shouldn’t you have to quit smoking without artificial enhancements? Shouldn’t nicotine patch people have an asterisk, too?

Or if you’ve had a flu shot? Two hundred years ago they didn’t have flu shots. They just died. Without your flu shot, you’d be dead. Shouldn’t you have an asterisk, too? How are we supposed to compare actuarial tables from 1806 with actuarial tables from 2006*?

All right, kids. Enough. Have a great Cialis* weekend. Enjoy your asterisk-less existence while you can. Today they come for Barry Bonds*. Tomorrow they come for you*.

db

Dan Bern is the author of “World Cup – A Sort of Diary” and “Quitting Science by Cunliffe Merriwether”. Some of his recordings include “New American Language”, “Fifty Eggs” and “Fleeting Days”. He has a new one due out this year and will be performing at Carnegie Hall on 4/22.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

Read More
Page 2 of 6«12345»...Last »