How hard does God laugh at us when we fail? I’d wager he’d laugh all the harder if we fail, for instance, at trying to recreate the Millenium Falcon out of a decade old set of legos and fell three critical pieces shy – and they were predictably those versatile pieces that could be used for anything while a myriad of bulgy, useless lumps surrounded you on your parents’ basement floor. Certainly anyone experiencing this situation should expect a hearty guffaw from the almighty. But the game of baseball, or any professional sport for that matter, seems hardly less trivial, even at the highest rungs. When Rick Ankiel inexplicably and disastrously failed at this high level, on a national stage after displaying once-in-a-generation promise, it was briefly a national fascination. His slow and dogged comeback at a completely different position was documented on and off in the pages of Sports Illustrated. And when he finally broke back into the majors, now a prodigal outfielder as opposed to a pitching prodigy. And yet it was described as storybook when in his first game back in the majors, he belted a three-run home run evoking Hollywood’s own natural. One couldn’t help raise a Sapporo to Rick Ankiel.
Ankiel pitched his first, and truthfully only, season in 2000 suffering a meltdown in the playoffs. That was roughly seven years ago. It was before George W. Bush was president; the Twin Towers were still standing; Saddam Hussein was alive and well; I was still in high school; Jack Lemmon was still alive; the Red Sox and White Sox still hadn’t won World Series in 80 some odd years; Enron was at the top of Forbes’ list of “most innovative companies”; Lindsay Lohan was 14 years old and Britney Spears was still hot; few people knew who Osama bin-Laden was; even fewer knew who the hell Tom Brady was; Napster was at its height; YouTube wouldn’t exist for five more years; Michael Vick entered the NFL as possibly the most exciting player ever and exited in one of the most bizarre ways possible within the span of time that Ankiel first entered the league and made his comeback. Empires rise and fall in seven years (just ask the Third Reich).
I suppose Ankiel’s plight brings me back to early youth and his return, triumphant or not, relives a childhood moment where the dawn of a Cardinals’ dynasty seemed quite possible. To hear the phrase “Rick Ankiel in the Cardinals’ lineup” today is to command to the forefront what has been given and what has been taken away in the seven years since the first time that was heard. Sad? Truly. But then think about when you hear somebody mention a grade school classmate you hadn’t thought of in several years. The name alone may call up hundreds of memories pushed to the wayside – does the person’s inconsequentiality cheapen those memories?
In the word’s of jovial God: yes.
Seriously, what is more disturbing: that a return on the level of Ankiel’s causes many of us to think about was has transpired in the interim or that it takes something so trivial to cause us to remember? Is it the mere fact or the implication of the mere fact?
Fuck it. This Bud’s for you, Rick.
Similar to this metaphysics via pop culture, there is the annual celebration of being a hoosier conducted by one of my siblings and his friends each year of the past five. This atypical bacchanal provides opportunity to (1) act like a tard, (2) become exceedingly drunk, and (3) spank a girl on the ass with less the usual repercussion (i.e., no jail time…that I know of). This night of nights allows those who have since sloughed off the gentle bosom of undergraduate college for the harsh reality of the world, whether it be work, grad school or some sort of semi-hobo-ish existence on the fringes of society. And in this revelry, we hark back to a time probably unequalled in the lives of humans for all the years of the species where for four years there is a strange sense of freedom and discovery mixed with inhibition mixed with lazy boredom, and for most, alcohol. To be such unproductive members of society in the interim and yet well supported remains a foible of a decadent culture upon which the modern finds itself. So many are denied such an experience. To relieve it even for an eve is truly a remarkable feat.
Despite some Uncle Tom’s in our society, there are those who do not recognize the transformation of select 7-11s into Kwik-e-marts as “a promotion for The Simpsons movie exploits a crude racist stereotype that insults South Asians living in the United States“! It’s unclear whether or not the author of this particular diatribe is against the stereotype in general or because it’s being used by a corporation. He seems to attack it on both ends but the argument against as it is used in the show has distinctly less footing. As some of the commenters point out, Apu does not really speak “fractured English” but rather utilizes a sort of overly formal English that well-educated foreigners tend to speak. Apu is a successful, well kept, extremely hard-working businessman though prone to “price-gouging” and cheating customers (though that almost appears to be more of a comment about convenience stores in general rather than Apu’s in particular). He is decidedly better portrayed than fellow entrepreneur Moe, who is decidedly more uncaring of his patrons and a much more opprobrious individual. Again, that is not so much a comment on the character’s race (Moe is white) but on the profession of a bartender. Suffice to say that Apu is hardly the worst portrayed business owner – even Dr. Hibbert (and certainly Dr. Nick Riviera), not to mention Mr. Burns, seems to be overpriced and condescending.
More importantly, the show is fairly merciless with its use of stereotypes but they are often directed at Caucasians. I, as the son of an Italian-American, should be horribly offended that the two prominent Italian-Americans on the show are Luigi Risotto, the pasta chef (who admitted that he can only speak broken English and not even Italian because “that’s what his parents spoke”) and a gangster, Fat Tony, who tried to frame a ten year old kid (i.e., Bart) among other indiscretions. According to wikipedia, the animators admitted copying Luigi directly from a pizza box, indicating some commercial connection. Then there’s Groundskeeper Willie, a Scottish stereotype of an illiterate, crude and barely understandable drunkard who lives in a shed. Not to mention that the writers unload on the French, “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” all lest we forget, more or less every chance they opportune. This is not to mention Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel, a character meant to encompass pretty much all poor white Americans, and whose wife, Brandine, is much more fertile (and considerably more uncaring) than Apu’s wife with 39 some odd children and possible careers as a stripper and Dairy Queen employee. Thus, it seems that when it comes stereotypes, the Simpsons itself leaves no one out. I suppose if you leave Apu out, the others must go with him. I always viewed the Simpsons as a parody of the nuclear family but also American life in general. With all the different people in American society, the stereotypes so overdone by the Simpsons sometimes expose how we often think of those different even though those differences are largely superficial.
A exemplary moment comes when Homer visits Apu and Apu asks him if he wants to listen to some Indian music. As Homer hesitates, possibly thinking about how weird that must be, Apu pushes headlong, taking out a record and announcing it’s one of India’s most popular bands. As he puts on the record, horrible screeching voices cause Homer to cringe. Apu apologizes, turning down the speed on the record player to reveal the music is something quite like Frank Sinatra, which Homer immediately enjoys. The mainstream American audience came in with the same preconception as Homer and were probably similarly unsurprised and uncomfortable at the initial sounds emitted by the record player. But as is often the case, the audience’s own stereotype of what to expect turned out to be wrong (whether it was an actual example of Indian music is besides the point, which was to expose our own stereotype of what Indian should sound like).
So I think everyone needs to jump on the anti-Mike Vick bandwagon because dog fighting IS JUST WRONG. Which makes one wonder, if dogs are property, but you can’t fight them, are there animals you can have fight? Say, for instance, there’s a little kid who has a spider fight some army ants. Or have a dog try to kill as many rats as possible inside of a minute (I put the over-under at 20 unless its Baxter from Anchorman, then it bounces to 30 plus a wheel of cheese). Most people would find it utterly reprehensible for a child to pull the wings off a fly–others might see it as decidedly strange but somewhat unimportant. Even a dog killing rats, with some risk to the dog, might be regarded as more pathological but still hardly something to be protesting. Two dogs fighting each other, however, becomes titanically worse. Why? Because dogs have personality; and, as Sam Jackson has pointed out to us, personality goes a long way.
Indeed from this perspective, many of those supposed dog lovers (excluding the nutjobs who believe that even trees are to be accorded rights) are really just narcissistic individuals who couldn’t stand to see a creature that has some “personality” (i.e., traits reminiscent or mimicking those of humans) be forced to fight to the death while other such creatures, whether insects or rodents, could fill the rivers and streams with their blood with nary a murmur from the canine worshipping class. No one wants to see this little bastard in the octagon:
Number One in the google image search for “dog”
But there probably isn’t going to be a lot of public outrage if this ever becomes the next big sport:
Number Two in the google image search for “rat”. Apparently the poster child for rathunter.com
The lesson: personality goes a long way. Just ask the dolphins.