Monday, July 14, 2008

“You Must Be, My Lucky (All-) Star...”

Soooooo Not The Tale Of “The Natural”...But It Does Involve A Shady Lady, Temptation, Faith, and a Hotel Room. Oh Wait...

What with the vicissitudes of the extended rollercoaster of a political season, I haven't had much opportunity to indulge much writing on one of my favorite things in the whole wide world—Baseball.

I fell in love with the game 37 years ago, on a July 13th afternoon. It was a Tuesday. I remember that because Tuesday was always a light work-day at my Dad's job and I knew I could spend that day in particular at his restaurant, running behind him like some annoying little Black “Mini-Me”. It was the afternoon of the mid-summer classic—Baseball's All-Star Game, and my semi-apathy towards the sport was instantly replaced by a sense of awe and wonder when the Oakland A's young superstar Reggie Jackson launched one of the hardest hit, most majestic home runs you've ever seen—off an offering by the Pirates' mercurial All-Star hurler Dock Ellis. Seeing Jackson's Superman-esque blast, as he set the new standard for what a slugger looked like—the boozy-looking, flabby free-swingers of the Ted Kluszewski mold would now become anachronisms—I was hooked. His A's in their gaudy green and gold togs would become my first favorite team—but I could never keep up with their exploits the way I wanted to, as the west coast scores even in the early 1970's would be delayed a day or so in the papers and televised sports reports.

So, I shifted my allegiance eastward, to the team of my father's since he saw their Negro League namesakes play at the same hallowed Bronx ballyard—The New York Yankees.

Yes, I became a Yankee fan when they were at their worst, and you could buy a walk-up ticket at the Stadium into the third inning and by the fifth, have the place so empty you could walk down to the field level and hand Duke Sims his Racing Form in the on-deck circle—no sweat . It was the CBS-owned / about-to-be-handed-off-to Steinbrenner early 1970's. (CBS fucked up EVERYTHING they gobbled up during that wave of 70's super-conglomeratization—Fender Guitars, anyone? Gabriel Toys?) And oh, what an embarrassment they were then. A collection of cast-offs, half-talents, wash-outs and a few gems they got lucky with thanks to the still-sane few in management who were still player-developing amidst all the collected hardball detritus.

I remember those horrible Yankee teams well. Manned by the dazzlingly dull Horace Clarke, and the wannabe slugger Duke Sims, and an aging, partied-the-hell-out Ron Swoboda.

And I remember the nadir of those Yankee years—1973, when crappy Yankee pitchers Fritz Petersen and Mike Kekich got all “Ice Storm-y” and swung harder at home than they ever did at the plate in the pre-Designated Hitter days. They swapped wives and families,'cause was the seventies, ma-a-a-a-a-a-n, and that's what you did, right?

Well...fucking, no, That's what a decided minority in the population played around at doing, but none so publicly and stupidly as these two Yankee fuck-ups. It ended badly of course, as Fritz's wife liked her switch, and Mike's couldn't get-down with the whole funky, bell-bottomed swap-er-oonie, and he was left ass-out when the “arrangement” ended. (Fritz wound up marrying Mike's wife—Um...oh snap?) But it was a dark day for fans of the team, as the ugly bedroom peccadilloes were splashed across the back pages of all the city's tabloids—the Daily News's in-house scold and grump Dick Young had a spittle-flecked day as he went into full-on Archie Bunker mode and used the incident to rail about everything that was wrong in the world at that awful, afro-ed, libertine moment in time. Being a Yankee fan, but thankfully a young one, I kind of pish-poshed the whole thing as silly, and kept on steppin', blindly supporting my pinstripes as the they stumbled around a couple more years as the league's dumping ground for drunks, skunks, and once-talented-but-now-washed-up bums.

I note all of this—right up to the Kekich/Petersen PR bed-shit for my beloved team (My God, if there was sports-talk radio or an ESPN around then....sheeee-iiittt!), because for me over the years as a Yankee fan, that was just about the depth of private bedroom ugly enveloping the team in a public sense. Flat-out dumb-assery played out by a couple of ridiculously naive man-boys in tight double-knits that embarrassed them mainly, and the team second—but no less nastily.

Well, helloooooooo 2008! Thirty-five years later, and sordid tales of “big sticks”, “bounding balls”, and...“yick!”...messy slides-in dominate the news again team. Not quite wife-swapping. Just sloppy, public wife-dissing in favor of...what? Not the mysterious, murderous “Harriet Bird” from Bernard Malamud's “The Natural”, but a corny, ersatz digital era version of the same. With a lot more mileage, and a boatload less mystery about her. Not that I'd expect the mega-talented, but tragically head-cased Yankee star Alex Rodriguez to be savvy enough to pick up on that sort of thing.

'Cause this is about more than just “Physical Attraction” here.

“Borderline” behavior such as this, that is.

You see, for all his macho, there's a bit of the naif in him...which is what's gotten his ass in Yes, we know he's not “Like A Virgin” stumbling headlong into the arms of some “Beautiful Stranger” or something., but still...'s fun “Everybody”. Let's get “Into The Groove” here and look at this tabloid-y mess.

With “Madge” holding our hand or course...'cause we're all soaking in it now...and it ain't diswashing liquid, kids. Bleah.

Everything about an élite pro athlete's life — the nine-figure contract, the 20,000-sq.-ft. home, the beauteous gluteus maximus and, yes, sometimes even the 12-lawyer divorce — is a brawny spectacle. But the breakup of New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez and his wife Cynthia is surely one for the record books, with its allegations of a starry love pentagon and brainwashing via a rabbi. The relationship that appears to have helped unravel the six-year Rodriguez marriage involves no mere Vegas stripper or D-list country star. This couple is fighting about the only woman on earth who can top A-Rod in both net worth and push-ups — Madonna.

Cynthia Rodriguez filed for divorce Monday, with her lawyers claiming that "Alex has emotionally abandoned his wife and children" and that the marriage "is irretrievably broken because of the husband's extramarital affairs and marital misconduct." While Madonna's name isn't mentioned in the petition, Earle Lilly, Cynthia's divorce attorney, told TMZ, "Madonna was the last straw."

Lilly later clarified to PEOPLE magazine that he was not claiming sexual infidelity by the Material Girl and Major League boy, but rather "an affair of the heart." Dodd Romero, Rodriguez's former trainer and godfather to his children, told Good Morning America that Madonna has "brainwashed" the ballplayer with teachings of Kabbalah, the form of Jewish mysticism she practices. "Something has pulled him away from his strong family values and has caused him to search and look for something that really isn't out there," Romero said. (For pro athletes, chatty former trainers pose the same threat that chatty ex-nannies do to actors: they often see their bosses at their worst, and share it.)

Come on, man. Madonna?


I mean, Goddamn...that is sooooooooo 1998. Shit, it's damn near sooooooooo 1988.


Yes, somewhere in the great orange and blue box seats in the sky, I know Steve is laughing his ass off over this All-Star calibre of Yankee drama stupid. As well he should. Beyond his “F' the effing Yankees” mantra (and you should see how he and I used to go at it in our back-channel baseball e-mails—hooooo boy!), this is one of local baseball's most juicy little scandal-ismos to come down the pike in a a while. It isn't quite as kooky-fuck as the Kekich/Petersen “Freaky Friday” bit, but it ranks up there with some of the others. Like the recent shitty, 3:11 a.m. trash-canning of Mets manager (And New York's first Black MLB manager) Willie Randolph last month that re-exposed the long-known and creepy fissures in the team from Flushing, or the infamous Howie Spira spying-on-Dave-Winfield incident the got George Steinbrenner a well-deserved, forced time-out in the eighties.

(But of course, a “head” like me can go back to antics like the juvenile David Cone Mets bullpen “Onanism” bit, or the Yanks' Luis Polonia fucking up with an underage girl who lied to him about her actual “yout”. And of course, the one that freaked me out as a child of the Civil Rights era—Met great Cleon Jones getting busted en flagranté de-fucking-lecto by the cops in a “love” van down south with an jailbait White girl (very “Black Snake Moan”, dontchaknow...), a stash of drugs, and being summarily bounced from the team for said indiscretion. I always imagined the van's doors being flung open, and a cloud of reefer smoke pouring out along with the gutteral strains of The Chakachas' “Jungle Fever”)

What makes A-Rod's incident so head-shakingly dumb is how it only serves to bake hard into people's minds what a grasping, insecure goofball he is. Especially when you look fifty feet to his left and see his peer and evil twin in super-stardom, one Derek Sanderson Jeter playing shortstop.

If you spend any time out in New York City once the sun goes down, and maybe get to know a party person or two, you eventually come to know that Mr. Jeter is one of the town's greatest Lotharios since the days of a sober Joe Willie Namath, his panty hose and his infamous men's club “Bachelor's III”. Jeter has been linked over the years to a veritable “Who's Who” of bodacious babe-a-licious-ness , spanning the likes of Mariah Carey (whose ill-conceived attempt to publicly play off the relationship's still going on after it had ended led to the unfortunate coining of the phrase “Jetering”, the process by which one openly dispels an ended relationship's faked continuance at a public gathering), Jordana Brewster, Both voluptuous Jessicas—Alba and Biel, Scarlett Johanssen, Miss Universe Lara Dutta, Brazilian supermodel Adriana Lima and a favorite chocolate kiss of mine, actress Gabrielle Union, amongst a raft of others, less famous but off-the-chain “hawt” (as the kids say) nonetheless.

The most you've probably heard about these relationships is that they existed (save for the Carey end-game drama which she inanely prompted). You don't hear about wild canoodling, or stripper bars, slap-fights or other embarrassing peccadilloes involving him and the various women in his life. Why is that? It's because for all of his tom-catting about, he's remarkably discreet and un-messy in the way he conducts his life. They don't go to Page Six about him, and he doesn't give 'em cause to. When you're comfortable in your own skin and operate from a base of confidence, you tend to run your ship with an even keel. That's a manifestation of his whole personality, which flows through his whole “game”—on-field and off. I get the feeling that A-Rod cuts his eye those fifty feet leftward these days and probably hates/respects/is awed by him more than ever.


You see...for all his mighty ability—and make no mistake, Alex Rodriguez is one of the seven or eight best all-around players in baseball today (including Tampa Bay's B.J. Upton, the Marlins' Henley Ramirez, Philly's Jimmy Rollins, the M's Ichiro, Detroit's Miguel Cabrera, and a few others), he is a flat-out mess of a person in his head.

In an ironic, but not unheard of twist, either the Gods, the Fates (or maybe even...Satan?) smiled down and gave Alex Emmanuel Rodriguez an otherworldly combination of positives to build a life from—stunning physical looks, off-the-charts marketable talent, a ridiculously affable personality and a nimble, cognitive mind. With all of that, he is still an emotional basket-case, unlike other like-gifted big-name personalities like George Clooney, Tom Brady and the aforementioned Jeter. Rodriguez' infield mate isn't a perfect person by any means, but what demons may haunt him do so well beyond our view. A-Rod's psyche-spawned spectres however, tear at him before our very eyes. For example, the man's got Daddy/abandonent issues to beat the band. His father Victor, a talented ballplayer in the Dominican Republic booked back to New York when Alex was nine years old and the marital split-up was kept from young Alex ostensibly to shield him from heartbreak, but he went on for years deluded, thinking that Daddy was merely “away” for a while. You can imagine how that kind of over-kid gloving can addle a person, no matter how talented. It's the sort of thing that when eventually discovered by a child, can easily trigger the obvious approval / validation junkie issues Rodriguez exhibits today. With all he has going for him, there's a Cecil Fielder-sized hole in his soul. Coming up with such fanfare with the Mariners in 1994, the young star dazzled everyone—until he came up for free agency six years later and signed a salary-structure busting contract with Texas that vociferously pissed off the mellow, and seemingly betrayed Pacific Northwesterners unexpectedly to no end. It also engendered ill will from baseball fans in many small-market cities as he became the poster child (rightly or wrongly) for excess in the game. Quite a blow for an “approval / validation junkie”. He's been a superficial statistical wunderkind and a grasping, mind-fucked enigma ever since.

He saw his best buddy (and talent lesser—let's be honest) Jeter rack up World Series ring, after ring, after ring, after ring, and while hated for his NY success, be acknowledged as the intangible-stuffed baseball magician of the age. Hated but respected, alá Michael Jordan, while A-Rod himself was just...well, fucking hated. So, he overplayed the affability card to get the love he craved from fans and the media and it never worked. He marketed himself on the outside package of perfection, and took a wife to buttress that palatable, “Joe-Perfect”, “I-can-sell-whatever” image—even though he was clearly not ready for that level of commitment or personal responsibility. He shtupped about like so many of his baseball brethren—on the road eighty-one plus days a season with chickies galore, all too willing to serve it up to even hundred-thousand-aire bench-riders—imagine the amount of ego-swelling (and everything else-swelling) ass a mega-star stud like him could bag?

But was never about the sex, really. It was all about that gaping hole in his soul. Let's keep it real fellas...when we fuck around illicitly, it's due to a combination of three things really:

1.) Validation of self-worth—“I need to know they still want me!”

2.) Because we can—“It's nice to know I can still do it!”

3.) The thrill of the risk / danger involved—“Real men can get away with this—I wanna be a real man!”

Sex itself is easy to get. Gift of gab, a bit of personality, and lacking that—money to spare'll get you your share. Validation and a settling of internal turmoil are harder things to procure, and A-Rod's quest has clearly been dominated by those latter vesperous grails. But anyone who's watched Alex Rodriguez over the years with any kind of closeness could also see there was a deeper searching in this strangely yearning, superficial “man with it all”. A searching for the self-satisfied, seeming completeness constantly on display by the placid, settled, actual “man with it all” standing fifty feet to his left—one-hundred and sixty two times every year with that shit-eating semi-smirk permanently pasted on his mug. Goddammit to hell, how do I get me some...of...that?

Doesn't know how—the poor schmuck. So he fills his life beyond the ballpark with messy grab-assery. A cocktail waitress here, a stripper there. Nothin' classy. Just “empty calories” for a hungry soul.

Enter the relationship equivalent of Olestra, good ol' “Madge” Ciccone.

Madonna's made a career of collecting and discarding a string of men—a lot of them emotionally boys, actually—who've either had a certain something to offer to enhance her image or career. To further her music career (Jellybean Benitez), to secure Hollywood cred (Sean Penn and Warren Beatty), to get her the desired “exotic” baby (Carlos León), or to simply burnish her vaunted “I can get 'em while they're hot” status as a man-catcher par excellence (Jose Canséco and Dennis Rodman at their 90's supernova-fame hottest ). As the years have worn on and her desire has shifted towards a quest for stability and centered-ness, she settled down with director Guy Ritchie and had her second child Rocco, semi-scandalously adopted what some would call a “boutique” baby with little David from Malawi, and perhaps most interestingly, threw over her Catholicism for the Judaic mysticism of Kabbalah for added gravitas.

Mama got peace. Mama got soul. Mama's got it all, now. Family, success, her own odd version of that beatific Jeter-esque look of completeness, and she was willing to share that “secret” (“Lose insecurity now—Ask me how!”) with anyone willing to ask.

Except...unknown to the myopic, questing slugger, time was also passing Mama by on the front she'd staked out from her just ripened-fruit days as a “Material Girl” to her cougar-ish “Beautiful Stranger” December bloom. And it just so also happens that—oh yeah—it can't do anything but help to put a sort-of fading one-time sexpot back on the “Hoochie-Mama” front burner than to snag a hard-to-get dude of the minute. Or at least, appear to have.

Take A-Rod's searching stupid, mix with Madonna's crafty sense of timing and ability to exploit—garnish with the 21st century / 24-hour paparazzi age and you have a silly, exploding scandal that works in favor of a master of media manipulation (Madge) and tarnishes the clutchy dope. (Guess the hell who?)

It's a cocktail of sordidness served alongside a heaping plate of “What-the-fuck?” in Ms. Alex Rodriguez—his wife Cynthia. And Ms. Cynthia is not the typical “baseball wife” in that she is not defined by or is subservient to the relationship to her famous ballplaying husband. That's a thing that's expected from an MLB significant other, and I can speak from a level of intimacy on this—as I dated a woman who I would remain friends with for years after she married an MLB All-Star and one-time free agent superstar. The shit she was supposed to just “deal with” (and hubby damn sure pressed the envelope famously in NY—no further comment...) was unconscionable. Cynthia Rodriguez is not that kind of baseball wife. She's a daughter of a supremely prominent South Florida family, went to the best schools there and nabbed a Master's Degree in Psychology—she would also teach said subject in schools, and use her expertise to help the grasping A-Rod through a slew of issues in his life—actually brokering the desperately craved reunion between he and his dad, and mackadociously enough, stepping in to fix the negotiations the slugger's agent Scott Boras broke between he and the Yankees when they nearly let him walk in a fit of pique. She's one smart, tough and connected cookie...and it seems that A-Rod in his emotional “walkabout” of an adulthood ultimately craves that kind of woman.

Trouble is, he apparently craved more than one of 'em as evidenced by his open sniffing around the equally no-bullshit Madonna.

But Cynthia Rodriguez is no Goddamn piker and A-Rod picked the wrong woman to dick over publicly.

So of course the woman who helped negotiate your quarter-of-a-billion-dollar contract isn't gonna take your overactive, high school-jock libido bullshit lying down.

She's gonna jet her ass over to Paris and crash at Lenny Kravitz's villa, 'cause you see...she knows people too.

And yes, she's gonna melt that fucking AmEx card down to its base petroleum elements with a $100,000 spree—which is an ass-whippin' you'll just have to take.

Because for all of your bicep-flexing, longball-bashing might A-Rod? It's clear you're kind of weak in the ol' security / confidence arenas.

And I say this as the BIGGEST of Yankee fans ever. I can love the team, and cheer like a madman when you fire off a mortar like you did against Toronto off the foul pole up at Rogers Centre Saturday, but as a guy...a REAL GUY? You leave some shit to be desired on the personal tip. And you were messy, silly and stupid in mucking around with a stone, self-interested operator like Madonna. How in the hell did you expect that to turn out? Her “E” Inside Story's on once a month, knucklehead. And did you notice we're not talking about her husband Guy Ritchie in all of this? Wanna know why? Because when it comes to Madonna and a some dude, that's what it's always going to be about—Madonna...and some dude. You're in her orbit, man. Be you a flash-in-the-pan director husband, or a quarter billion-dollar compensated sports super-duper-star.

Get it?'s time for you to start growing the fuck up, and start handling your business tidy-like. You've probably scuttled the marriage irreparably, and guess what? You don't have Madonna, either. Lose-lose, brother. That quest for peace or completeness? Yeah, well...there are ways of going about getting to that—but the hope here is that you've learned that dipping your wick in allegedly mystical, magical punanny will not get your ass “clear”.


Now, I fully grasp that this transgression will not stop the ladies from loving you. Mrs. LM and my softball team-mate “Y” will fight off all comers for the loins of the chiseled A-Rod. But you need to get a bit more experience in the maturity department in dealing with the ladies, Alex. Date as many as you want like your “buddy” Jeet, but least try to be a touch more discreet, and here's a thought—maybe classier in terms of who you choose, and how you comport yourself. Okay? Great. Do it.

And lastly, for God's sake...will you once and for all stop trying to pull that Goddamned outside breaking ball? It ends up a weak grounder to short nine times out of ten!