Forget all the home runs Chipper Jones hit against the Mets – 49 going into Saturday -- or the way Met fans used to chant “Larry….Larry….” as if that could slow him down.
Jones showed his class in 2000 after a teammate, John Rocker, was quoted in Sports Illustrated, spewing vile sentiments about New York plus “gays, people with AIDS, welfare mothers, people who speak foreign languages in the United States, minorities and other urban types,” as I put it.
Plus, the dope denigrated our multi-ethnic No. 7 elevated line that runs from midtown Manhattan to the Mets’ neighborhood in Queens. Anybody who doesn’t like the No. 7 line doesn’t really like America.
Rocker also spotted the writer, Jeff Pearlman, in the Braves’ clubhouse and said, "This isn't over between us.''
The Braves were in the middle of their great run. They did not need this distraction. And their best regular player, Chipper Jones, stood in front of his locker and addressed the problem.
''If there is a chemistry problem on this club, they've always been able to cut out the cancer,'' Jones said. He knew exactly what he was saying. I was there; I can attest that it happened just that way.
I don’t know that I ever heard an active player use that word about a teammate – not in measured tones, to a knot of reporters, on the record, for national consumption.
Jones probably had been assured the Braves were going to unload Rocker. He is a white guy from rural Florida, and he made the point for Brian Jordan, an African-American former N.F.L. player, now a teammate, and everyone else: this is not condoned on this team, in this town.
It took the Braves until June 22, 2001, to trade Rocker, but Jones had reinforced the Braves’ image as a team worthy of being beamed into homes all over America. He earned all the ovations in recent days, and he earned the respect the Mets showed Friday night as they clogged their dugout, attending his farewell ceremony at Turner Field.
Chipper Jones’ legacy is more than home runs: it’s decency.
The National Football League knew it was in trouble when David Letterman mocked the officiating fiasco Tuesday night. A very bedraggled Alan Kalter trudged across the stage wearing a don’t-mess-with-me scowl and striped referee gear. He just had a bleeping day, he said.
Then there was a Top Ten List cataloging the mistakes by the ringers, with sports maven ace writer Bill Scheft from the wings explaining the N.F.L. misery.
Now we read in Judy Battista’s excellent front-page piece in the Times that new, intransigent owners are responsible for the hard stance.
If I read between the lines, some of these new people want to solve the ills of the world right here and now – by stiffing the help.
They are willing to dilute the product for a ridiculously miniscule piece of the action – what the Times says is $3.2 million extra, out of the $9 billion in annual revenue of the N.F.L. In other words, the owners are saying, it’s not the money, it’s the principle.
They could downsize the limos at the Super Bowl and afford real refs by next Sunday.
We haven’t seen such haughtiness toward the working class since…since…since Mitt Romney talked straight from his avaricious little heart to his rich friends in that now-infamous tape.
Mitt can’t worry about poor people; the N.F.L. owners can’t worry about fans. They all have their agendas.
If I read the tea leaves correctly, some new owners are trying to make their points against a society they just joined. In that, they remind me of the 40 or 50 new tea-party types who came to Congress in 2011, with no intention of actually belonging to it. They slept in their offices and rushed home as soon as they could, scorning the institution and, in effect, the country.
By ignoring the expertise of the referees, the nouveau hard-line owners have jeopardized the product they recently bought into. They have their own tapes proliferating – the botched calls, the yowling fans, the twittering players, and the laughter on the late-night shows -- contempt, rocketing around the world.
This league is already in trouble because generations of ignored brain damage are catching up with it. Now the owners are showing us who’s boss.
Like a comet on one of her science-oriented songs, Christine Lavin is subbing for John Platt on Sunday, 23 September, on WFUV-FM, 90.7, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.
John is a treat every Sunday. Chris doesn't fly this way as much now that she is living upstate.
Yes, she will do a section about Pete Fornatale, who starred as the Male Foil on her guest rendition of Sensitive New Age Guys years ago.
The only drawback is that Chris doesn't seem to plan any Christine Lavin songs. That can't be right, can it? I said I would boycott unless she does Yonder Blue. But really, she should do something.
Because he’s an artist.
In his relative old age, Clint has made films that forced me to think and feel; given the male-slacker crap I see advertised as fall films, I would say that is quite an accomplishment.
It’s true, Clint made a fool of himself in public, on cue, during the Republican convention. Apparently, he was put in that slot because Mitt Romney likes his make-my-day message. We should not be surprised after watching Romney sneer at half the country in front of his own people, the entitled rich. So Clint was no accident.
However, if Chris Christie can pine for respect from Bruce Springsteen, (ignoring the messages in the man’s songs), then I reserve the right to respect Clint the film-maker, Clint the actor.
I never had any interest in Clint’s first decades, the inarticulate avenger riding across the west or the urban landscape. But he got interesting in his old age.
Somehow I sought out The Unforgiven in 1992, knowing I would like it. It’s about an aging gunslinger who expects he will not be forgiven for the murders and robberies he has committed. Raising two children in poverty, his wife dead, he has acquired a sense of mortality along with morality -- an emergence of conscience, rarely encountered in American films,
When he is pulled back in through his need to care for his children, Clint now lives by a code. Killing makes him sick. He can no longer sleep with a woman, even when that offer is made from tender appreciation of his protection. His gravel Clint voice says, I aint like that no more. It’s not a bad code to tuck in our wallets.
Ultimately, he shoots up the bad guys. It is, after all, a Clint movie. He walks into the saloon and asks: Who’s the fellow owns this shithole? (How many times have I muttered this line in some crummy restaurant or motel? Without ensuing damage, of course.)
After the carnage, Clint rides out of town, warning people to bury his murdered pal (Morgan Freeman) and addressing the entire citizenry: “Better not cut up nor otherwise harm no whores or I’ll come back and kill every one of you sons of bitches….” He is still threatening what he will do as he vanishes into the rainy night. We understand the gunslinger is a parable; it’s only a movie; but still.
In 2008, Clint issued Gran Torino, about an aging autoworker in fading Detroit, now being populated by Hmong refugees from the hill country of Laos. The film could have been called Unforgiven II because it is about a man who knows he can never escape what he did during the Korean war.
My favorite part is where Clint advises his young Hmong protégé how to carry himself like an American, including ethnic insults to friends. I also like when Clint is charmed by the young man’s college-going sister, who slyly persists in calling him Wally, causing him to grunt that his name is Walt. It would not be a Clint movie if he didn’t menace a few punks and bring about justice through a hail of bullets.
Of course, Clint could have used some of that tolerance when he addressed an empty chair that represented the President of the United States. We have known all along, watching the resentful ‘50’s redneck pusses on McConnell, Boehner and Cantor, that these last four years have really been about race. Now we watch Mitt Romney address his own kind. For the first time in this campaign, expressing scorn for collective modern society, the man comes alive; he’s the guy who brought in Clint, undoubtedly knowing of the contempt within.
Still, Clint has grown to make movies about conscience, about the potential for growth.He’s an artist. I hold him to a different standard.
Happy New Year. I can say that, having been pronounced an honorary Jew by our departed friend, the rabbi.
Happy New Year. We all need new years, new beginnings, days of atonement. They purify us, even by osmosis.
Happy New Year. I remember a lovely young woman telling me with great enthusiasm about the spiritual glow from her family's fast at Yom Kippur.
Happy New Year to friends all over the world, and particularly Jen and Sam in Tarn-et-Garonne. We stayed with them once at Yom Kippur; their home was still, the weather hauntingly gorgeous in France, just as in New York.
Happy New Year.
Jürgen Klinsmann has had his ugly moments on the road. I once saw him take a 50-lira coin on the head at Atalanta, while he was playing for Inter, around 1989 or 1990.
Those things were nearly an inch in diameter and weighed two ounces, and a few of them in your pocket could slow you down. The coin that clanged off his head undoubtedly felt like a manhole cover.
Klinsi returned with a mesh wrap over the bloody bandage, and staggered to the end of the match. Welcome to the road.
Now Klinsmann is coaching the United States in its quadrennial adventure in the Concacaf region, which is nothing like what he experienced on the road with the West German and German national teams.
The mood swings of the U.S. team were evident in the last week when the U.S. lost in Jamaica, 2-1, and then beat Jamaica four days later in Columbus, Ohio, winning by a 1-0 score after overwhelming Jamaica in the first half.
It was obvious from watching Wednesday’s match that U.S. is not the same squad without Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley, who were injured for both matches. The rare home-and-home format is an inequity in the qualifying round because it penalizes a team twice if its star player, or players, cannot make it against a formidable opponent. Although, in Concacaf, all road games are formidable.
The U.S. survived at home without the practiced explosiveness of Donovan and the intense control of Bradley at midfield.
The highlight of the match was Clint Dempsey’s rubbery face as he taunted the Jamaican players, twisting his features into more expressions in a few seconds than an old Vaudeville comic could do. Check out the video at:
I must admit, I had never heard of Graham Zusi, who replaced Bradley on Wednesday and took command. Turns out he is a stalwart with Sporting Kansas City. It is impressive that Major League Soccer can send a home-grown player right into the starting lineup of a must-win qualifying match. The league continues to grow and play a role in the development of U.S. soccer.
Now the U.S. must play at Antigua and Barbuda on Oct. 12 – Columbus Day; supply your own jokes – and then play host to Guatemala on Oct. 16. Klinsmann is no fool. He is learning what Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley knew from experience in the American program – take nothing for granted in Concacaf.
The mood swings from road to home matches are a reminder that U.S. soccer is very much a work in progress. The mood against Antigua and Barbuda will not be as hostile as the receptions in Mexico or Guatemala or Costa Rica, where the fans are intense and some of the calls mysterious and strange objects fly out of the stands, although not necessarily those old 50-lira coins.
The scariest thing I ever saw on a basketball court was the maniacal grin of Art Heyman, 10 feet above the floor, as he wielded a pair of scissors.
He was cutting his segment of the net after Oceanside High won the 1959 Nassau County tournament; I stopped taking notes to make sure he got down off the ladder without inadvertently doing harm to anybody, in his zeal.
Life was always an adventure with Heyman, during a game or during conversation. You never knew wherethings were going.
Artie died two weeks ago at the age of 71 in Florida. He would come and go in life, as he did in his mercurial pro basketball career, which consisted of six seasons, two leagues, and eight hitches with seven different teams, plus a few paper transactions with teams that decided they could not use him.
He had so much talent coming along as a big-beamed 6-foot, 5-inch star at Oceanside and Duke that it was reasonable to envision him as the next big thing to Oscar Robertson. In fact, the award he won as the best college player of 1962-63 is now called the Oscar Robertson Trophy.
Heyman must have had Robertson on the brain. When he was at Duke he used to take little sojourns to the Carolina coast, bringing along a lady friend and registering as Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Robertson. Once he was arrested because the girl was under 18. He was not without his flaws, which he knew as well as anybody.
I found him interesting but then again I didn’t have to coach him, as Frank Januszewski did at Oceanside or Vic Bubas did at Duke. He could taunt opponents, take a punch at somebody for no reason, and toss elbows in practice, just out of meanness. He was big enough to insinuate himself toward the basket, like Robertson, and when the Knicks drafted him first in 1963-64, he scored an average of 13.4 points in 75 games – what turned out to be the best season of his career.
The next year he was sitting a lot after Harry Gallatin, the rugged old forward, was brought back from the Midwest to coach the new breed.
This really happened: I was with the Knicks in a hotel lobby in Providence, when one of the players, rolling his eyes, informed us that crazy Artie had been playing poker after a loss to the Celtics earlier in the night, and Gallatin walked by the open door and, in a gesture of friendship, asked if he could take part.
“If you won’t let me into your game, Coach, I won’t let you into mine,” Artie said, and meant it.
The next season he was at Cincinnati, and after that he was in the American Basketball Association. He had a bad back; the attitude was not so good, either.
One year Heyman was playing for the New Jersey Americans, the forerunners of the new Brooklyn Nets. That is to say, before the Nets had Julius Erving from Roosevelt, L.I., they had Artie Heyman from Oceanside, L.I., a few miles away.
After games Artie would beat it back across the George Washington Bridge to the East Side of Manhattan, where he ran a bar that catered to flight attendants and males.
His career in the singles-bar trade was as disjointed as his basketball career or his persona. It was hard to keep things straight with him. I would diagnose him as having concentration issues; there was something sad about him, an inner lost child.
I ran into him in Manhattan in his various bar cycles, would catch up on the phone when I could track down his number. About 15 years ago I ran into him in North Carolina. He did not look healthy, and he felt under-appreciated. It was a long way from Oceanside High, when he climbed that ladder with the sharp object in his hand and nobody dared turn away.
Corn must be a generational thing. I say this because kids don’t seem to tuck into an ear of corn with the same zest that I do. It is a taste from childhood, from a different age.
Of course, we are all to blame for tolerating contemporary year-round corn with the taste and consistency of those packing chips in shipping boxes.
I am talking about real corn, recently picked, grown for taste. We were in upstate New York recently, and my wife bought a dozen ears from a farm stand (12 for $3, leave the money in the plastic box) and the next day it still tasted fresh.
The terrible drought in the Midwest has not affected the corn upstate; the only good news from Hurricane Isaac is that there may be some relief for the back end of the Midwest corn crop.
I can get downright Proustian (in emotion, if not writing style) about the memories of fresh corn -- Á la Recherche du Mais Perdu, as Proust might have titled it, boiled corn, doused in butter and salt, the way my mother served it.
We did not have much money – sometimes did not have a car – and my father worked weekends and holidays. So my mom would make a picnic for five kids and we would walk up the glacial hill to Cunningham Park and she would start a fire and prepare a dozen ears of corn, maybe two dozen. I think my kid brother has the dented pot we used.
My wife, after her 13 or 14 trips to India, turns the corn over a flame, daubs it with one spice or another, in homage to picnics with friends in the hills of Pune.
Either way, I get downright sentimental.
In its Labor Day editorial, the Times mentions sweet corn as a rite of the end of summer, like taking kids to college or watching the Open tennis.
The writer must be of a certain age (by definition, editorial writers would tend to be.) Somebody younger might rave about holiday treats somewhat more chi-chi. Corn still makes me happy.
There’s a nice letter in the Sunday Times describing the kind way Andy Roddick reached out to a 13-year-old who had been diagnosed with leukemia in 2002.
The letter, from Andrea H. Ciminello, says her son, Adam Ciminello, is now a leukemia survivor and a Brandeis graduate, and that Roddick “remains a champion” in the family’s eyes.
Roddick is a bit busy this weekend, playing tennis. Then again, Adam Ciminello is a bit busy, making music in his studio. (He plays the piano and sings and writes his own songs.)
But Adam had some time on the phone Saturday to describe how he came to know Roddick, who was only 19 at the time.
Members of Adam’s family made contact with Roddick’s web site in 2002, saying that the 13-year-old tennis player and Roddick fan was undergoing chemotherapy. Blanche Roddick, Andy’s mother, contacted Andrea Ciminello and they talked, as mothers. Then the young professional, traveling all over the world, began getting in touch with Adam.
“For a while, we would talk every few weeks,” Adam said. “This was back in the day when people used answering machines. He would leave a message, and he would call back.
“We didn’t talk about ‘hang in there’ or “stay strong,’ things the hospital social workers might say with me,” said Adam. “I suppose if I had wanted to talk about it, he would have. But we talked about girls and movies and pop culture.”
One time Adam and his family attended a clinic Roddick was giving at Rockefeller Center, and he met Andy and James Blake – “another great guy.”
Another time the Ciminellos, who live in Poughkeepsie, on the Hudson River north of the city, got a call that Andy was playing in a few hours at one of Billie Jean King’s World Team Tennis events in Schenectady. The family raced upstate, not knowing how it would work out, but Roddick spotted them in the crowd and found them box seats.
“He joked with me during the match,” Adam recalled. “He would say, ‘Adam, where should I play this one?’”
A third time, Roddick spotted Adam during a practice at the U.S. Open and talked to him, without interrupting his work.
In 2003, Roddick won the Open, still his only Grand Slam championship. A few weeks later, Adam found a message on the machine, something like “Sorry I haven’t called but things have been a little crazy around here.”
Adam estimates Roddick called 15 times over three years.
“He could have given me a signed poster and I would have been psyched,” Adam said. “He never did anything for personal gain. If anything, we played it up more than he did.”
At some point, they fell out of touch. Adam played high-school tennis and then discovered other pursuits, which is often how college works.
He takes an annual blood test and EKG – “and that’s it.”
At the moment, Adam is working for his parents, Paul and Andrea, who run their own company, Ecosystem Strategies, Inc. Adam is just starting out as a musician at 23; his pal is retiring from the tennis tour at 30.
As part of his farewell press conference, Roddick made a few jokes about his sometimes testy relationship with the media. It’s his thing. I usually smiled when he dropped a sarcastic line on me or somebody else asking a dumb question. (They were always dumb questions.) I got his humor, which sometimes was meant to deflect the thoughtful guy inside.
Adam Ciminello says Roddick did not have to keep in contact. The important thing is that when a kid was lying in a hospital, receiving chemotherapy, and just dreaming of hitting tennis balls again, Andy Roddick was there to chat about all the good stuff.
David Vecsey's sweet tale of distant love before the Web, now NYT Podcast, narrated by Griffin Dunne. Please see:
George Vecsey is Hofstra University's Alumnus of the Month! Read a Q&A with George here.