|Fight the testosterone, skip the brawl|
By Eric Neel
Page 2 columnist
The fighting has got to stop. Did you see Tino rushing Batista the other day? We can't have anymore of that kind of thing. It's just wrong, I tell you. It's a blight on the game.
Guy gets hit, knows his buddies are watching from the dugout and a bunch of beer-belly warriors are watching from home, and he thinks, I will NOT be disrespected like that. That kind of aggression will not stand. I'm gonna open me up a can of whupass, that's what I'm gonna do. Next thing you know, there's a Bugs-and-the-Tasmanian-Devil scrum on the hill and players pouring out of both dugouts like lemmings over a cliff. Grown men fighting like Ed Grimley in oven mitts and heels, with their knickers and faces all in a twist? Pathetic.
It's got to stop.
It's not just that it sets a bad example for the kids (though, sure, we're all worried about the kids). And it's not that guys who otherwise look strong, graceful and brilliant in uniform suddenly remind people of the Jerry Lewis of the buckteeth and tube-socks pictures. And it's not even that some of the very players you've come to see, the very players you've laid down your hard-earned dollars to get a glimpse of, end up ejected, humiliated and sometimes pummeled.
No, you know what it really is? It's lame. It lacks even a hint of creativity. It makes players look cromagnon. And worst of all, it's incredibly predictable and boring.
So, show me a little something new. Show me some fresh thinking, some crafty bolweevilin'-in-the-other-guy's-brain retaliation, or some creative conflict resolution. Show me some of this baker's dozen, or something like it:
1. The next time a hitter gets plunked, let me see him do a little fake rush, a little stunt. He flies toward the mound like a bat out of hell, and then he stops, smiles and laughs it off. He turns to walk away and then wheels like a mad man, only to stop at the foot of the mound, like, What, you thought I was coming after you? Don't be so paranoid, man.
He carries on with red light-green light in the tunnel after the game, and then comes barreling across the parking lot in his Beemer and stops, like Marcia with the egg on the orange cone, just inches short of the poor sap's knees.
Forget haymakers and roundhouse punches, let me see a guy wage a campaign of fear, let me see him draw it out, hang the threat over his opponent's head for six, seven, eight ... I don't know ... years.
2. The next time they're about to get into it, show me two guys who drop the bats, drop the gloves, relax the fists, and settle their differences the "8 Mile" way, with mics and rhymes.
If you don't consider yourself a lyrical genius, or if you find yourself at Wrigley, worried you'll get shown up by Jerry Stiller guesting on "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," no sweat -- alternatives include tap-dance throw-downs, dueling banjos, "What Democracy Means to Me" debates, chili cook-offs, a game of speed-chess, arm wrestling.
3. If you're a pitcher who's just let one get away and a burly man with a bat is coming your way, play possum. Just fall to the dirt. He's going to sniff and kick you a little, but beyond that he'll have no idea what to do with you.
(Variations on this theme include the civil disobedience rag-doll routine, which makes the hitter look like Bull Connor with dogs and hoses, and puts the court of public opinion on your side; the lotus-position, ohm-chanting yoga posture, which frustrates the hell out of hard-charging, not-at-all-in-touch-with-their-chi batters; and an arms-wide-open hug, which reminds the hitters that they're daddies never showed them any affection, and reduces them to blubbering masses heaving in the dirt.)
4A. One word for payback: Voodoo.
4B. Nine words for payback: Anonymous call to the Homeland Security Office tip line.
5. Start referring to your opponent by a derogatory nickname he's never actually had before. Pedro comes in too high and too tight, don't charge the hill, just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, take your base and wait for the postgame interview.
Beat reporter says, "Tell me about the brush-back pitch from Pedro in the fifth." You say, easy as you please, like it's been rolling off your tongue for years, like it's what everybody in the know calls him, "That's just Scrawny. I know Scrawny going way back. Scrawny's gonna be Scrawny and I respect that."
By morning -- by the end of the week, tops -- he's Pedro "Scrawny" Martinez for the rest of his career, for the rest of his life.
(Other good names: Skanky, Stinky, Fatty, Pinhead, Mutt, Sally, Jenny, Trixie and Shirley.)
6. Your teammate gets popped in the top half of the seventh, and it's your bound duty to lay a leather stinger on the first batter you see in the bottom of the inning. Them's the rules.
So, you go to the windup with cruel intentions in your heart. The batter steels himself for what's coming. You haul off and let fly with a nasty, send-a-message, payback pitch.
That's right -- you throw the eephus.
The poor corkscrew bum in the box just waves at it -- you think you haven't robbed him of his manhood and established your supremacy?
In addition to which, I mean, come on, you get to say you threw the eephus. Hell, you get to say "eephus" out loud, and proudly. That's good stuff.
7. Don't bum-rush him, moon him. That's died-in-the-wool, can't-miss comedy; plus, it will scare the bejeezus out of him.
8. Steamed? Want to get your revenge? Want to show the guy 60-and-6 away who's in charge?
Call him a chump. Don't call him a bastard or an ---hole. Don't imply, as Cosby once put it, that his parents were never married. Call him a chump -- say it loud, let him hear you -- and then sit back and watch the meltdown.
Guys can't handle "chump." It's too basic, too deep in the tradition, too Gas House Gang.
It's a powerful word that's fallen out of favor over the years, and so it still retains its mean spirit and effrontery. Cuss a guy out with modern language, dish out contemporary slams, and he doesn't even hear you. But reach back into the archive of slanderous terms, come up with something so onomatopoetically dismissive as "chump," and you've got some powerful retaliation working.
I saw "chum" work during a 3-on-3 hoops tournament one summer in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The chumpee charged the chumper like a man possessed. Got himself thrown out of the game and the tournament. Sat sideline with a blank stare on his face, drool dripping from his lips, like McMurtry at the end of "Cuckoo's Nest," like his circuits had been fried.
9. Let it go on the field, and then make your way into the opposing team's locker room after the game to let the guy know there are no hard feelings. Tell him you know you know it was just an accident. Get chummy with him. Have a good laugh about it all. Then, as you're leaving, turn and say, "I wouldn't worry about the trade rumor, Buddy."
"Trade?" he'll say.
"Yeah, Detroit. But I'm sure there's nothing to it."
10. Laugh. Something scary. You know, like Vincent Price, or like Chrissy on "Three's Company."
11. Step out of the batter's box, take a little black leather journal and pen out of your back pocket. Write the pitcher's name and the date down in the book. Look him in the eye and say, "You're on my list, smart guy. You are on my list." Put the book and pen away and step back in. Crowd goes wild.
12. A little Kumbaya, a little one love, a little you are not my enemy -- you are my brother. A little Bud Selig, now he's my enemy.
13. Cry. Whether you've been hit or you plunked someone else, let the tears flow a bit. This one's high risk, but if you play it right, if you play it from the heart, the rewards are high, too. If you play it right -- wounded but not blathering, penitent but not groveling -- the crowd will wrap itself around you. You will become one of them. Their enthusiasms will infuse you. Their beliefs will inspire you. Their faith in you will become your faith in you. And their powerful feelings will become your power.
Of course, if you overdo it, or if you come in crying after the other guy's water's been running a while, the crowd will ignore you and the ump will toss your sorry butt. Hey, it's a tough business ... and only the strong survive.
Eric Neel is a regular columnist for Page 2.