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Of cats and ballplayers and stairs and stories and radio

Tuesday 7/13/21

I read an article about a guy in Somerville who was all about how cops are pigs and Black Lives Matter and into saving cats. A neighborhood hero for rescuing cats that had been abused. Finding them, that is, and returning them to their owners. Had everything on social media that you'd expect. The hateful anti-cop rhetoric, racist drivel about how whitey was keeping him down, and accounts of his exploits as a cat rescuer. Well--turns out he was capturing cats, pouring acid on them, shooting them in the eyes with pellet guns, torturing some, killing some. Had a huge Google search list of some of the most disturbing, specific things you can imagine. He was busted by a plumber who saw the air riffle, cat food, and no cat. This guy was a student.


What percent of people do I think are now mentally ill? I would say mid-nineties. Conservatively. Most people are crazy, and you can identify it right away, if you're smart. It's like peering over the line and recognizing what scheme the defense is in. It takes so little time for me, with just about anyone, to go, "there it is!"


Then I just move on, or as far away as I can, depending upon the nature of the relationship.


Stephen A. Smith makes twelve million dollars a year. What a world this is, what a country this is. If you want to get rich, what I would say to you is have no ability, no knowledge, no character.


Though I intend to be the ultimate exception to the furthest possible degrees.


The Ohtani talk is ridiculous. He hits home runs. That's pretty much it. This one year he hits home runs. He's a good pitcher. Right now, this year, he's a B+ pitcher. People think because someone throws over 100 mph they're a great pitcher, when this can have nothing to do with anything. Outs are outs. Get the outs. What they look like, what form they take, does not matter. And a three pitch inning with three grounders to the second baseman is always better than striking out the side in this age of the pitch count.


Batting average still does mean something. And he doesn't drive in a lot of runs for all of that home run power. Yes, I know, you can't control who is on in front of you. But it's funny that some guys, no matter what, have always managed to have a high RBI total. If you wanted to make a counter argument to what I'm saying, you'd cite Mickey Mantle (no one actually would, because no one knows anything). Mantle only had four 100 RBI seasons. But that's odd, fluky, and kind of difficult to explain. For a lot of his career, Hank Aaron didn't exactly have the members of the 1927 Yankees and 2003 Red Sox filling up the bases in front of him, and yet, his RBI numbers were always there. People want to label others racist if they actually know the game of baseball and the history of baseball. (True, they just want to label people racist, plain and simple, given that they are weak-minded, ethically feeble human-slugs of projection and hypocrisy.) The guy hits home runs and pitches pretty well. He's certainly not an ace. And he is nowhere close to being the MVP of the league. You should have to play for a non-lousy team. MVP does not mean "best" or "highest WAR." Those can be very different things. But hey, in this world, why bother to have language, right? Nothing means anything, and no one understands anything, let alone the precise meaning of words.


As for Stephen A. Smith and his Ohtani comments, for which he had to apologize: I have no respect for Smith. To me, his chief talent is coming across as an over-loud cartoon character, but what did he say? I don't think it really matters that Ohtani doesn't speak English. His play speaks for him. That's what is interesting. When has it ever mattered what a baseball player said? Okay, Yogi Berra had his quirky remarks (mostly after he retired). And Reggie Jackson was good for a quote. David Ortiz. Who else? Ted Williams. Does anyone know anything Cal Ripken said?


What I would say, though, is that while it's fine, and a non-story that this player doesn't speak the language of the country he is in, it's not ideal. It's not ideal, I would think, for him, with his teammates. Obviously that's no knock on him. If I went to Japan to play ball, I'd rather be able to speak Japanese than not speak it. Wouldn't you? Wouldn't anyone? That would make life easier.


And then, for what it's worth, yes, he could give the quote that everyone could understand. That would be ideal, I guess, but how much is that quote worth? When it comes to baseball players, how they play is the language. NBA and NFL players run their mouths. That's the culture of those leagues, to a larger degree. Especially the NBA. It's more of a cornerback thing in the NFL. Or a defensive side of the ball thing. I suppose a receivers thing, too. The NBA, meanwhile, has the whole "beef" culture. "Kevin Durant has a Twitter beef with so and so." High school idiocy.


People say that Mike Trout doesn't say anything interesting, so he's not marketed a certain way. That's not what is happening with him. He's on the west coast, on a bad team, and he plays a very Tim Duncan kind of way, if that makes sense. He's not flashy.


Ohtani is flashier. His brand of play will stand out more to the average person or the average baseball fan, who also does not know much about baseball. Look, Alan Trammell was a better ballplayer than Ozzie Smith, but who does everyone know and remember? It's Smith. He was super flashy. Do you remember anything he said? He barked at the end of his career about playing time, I guess. Does anyone remember anything Derek Jeter said? Was it ever a topic while he played? Pretty much wasn't.


I don't think a few token quotes mean anything one way or the other. It's really just a thing for Ohtani. Not for anyone else. It's his life. He came here to do this, and that took courage. If he could also speak English, my guess is he'd like that, his teammates would like it, and the league would like it. But it doesn't change his appeal or marketability. Or not to any significant degree.


Today I returned to running stairs, and merely did a quick 2000. My legs, though in excellent condition, obviously, have hurt since Sunday, but a good hurt. That's what you want--when you push yourself that far that the pain is satisfactory, not compromising. Though I will say, Sunday was quite a challenge. At once point I was laying on my back on that island at the base of the stairs--I'm sure it will be there for a long time, and can be part of the walking tour--just utterly wrecked. That was like five hours of running stairs.


People are always like, "Big C, you are a fat, lazy load," and I'm like, huh, I don't know, man, I don't think so.


Of far greater significance is that I have written three more short stories this week, and I feel excellent about all of them, which are so different from each other. They are "Late for the Game," "Dogs Deep," and "Coffee Streaks."


Regarding that last one--I worked on it a lot today, and it's a good bit longer, and quite a bit different. I had excerpted it on here, but that's changed so much now. I leave up the excerpts when they change. It's like, "hey, here's take 1 of 'Strawberry Fields Forever,' have that, too."


I don't like to do the this is better than that thing. I think there's virtually no point to it given the nature and consistency of my work. But this story, "Coffee Streaks," from this week, and that second version of "The Last Slip" from last week, are what we here call "'Fitty' good." There is no stronger fiction.


The Atlantic lost twenty million dollars last year and has lost ten million dollars so far this year.


Baseball is now a boring sport, but to me, the Patriots being in the playoffs, and the Bruins being in the playoffs, does not compare to the Red Sox being in the playoffs.


Sometime in the new future--conceivably next week--I will discuss what I rate as two of the three finest episodes of the radio program Suspense. I have my things I'm working on, the big back list of things I'm working on, the things that I create while I'm working on the things I'm working on--I never know what they might be--and when I'm working on the things I'm working on, the old things, and also on the new things that I come up with, I'm always working on what are going to be the things that I'm officially working on at some point. Like this book about radio art in which I argue that some of the best art--and entertainment--ever produced in this country was done in the medium of radio, with that art and entertainment being better than anything on offer right now. I don't think anyone can listen, for instance, to the best episodes of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, and come away thinking, "I'd rather be watching The Sopranos." I just don't believe that. Not if you know it, not if you actually sit down with it.


Lucille Fletcher's radio play, Sorry, Wrong Number, is commonly cited as the best the medium has to offer. I think that's silly. It's not even her best. "The Hitch-Hiker" is better. Orson Welles starred in the drama four times. This is the Suspense version, from September 2, 1942. It's perfect. Not a bum note. Welles also sets it up well. He's so comfortable as a speaker on the radio, so aware of everything his voice is doing. The piece is frightening enough to be legitimately upsetting.