It has been a while since we've had any real controversy in the World Series — frankly, it has been a while since we had a competitive World Series, though it looks like we've headed for one right now — so we are suspicious of the rampant hooting and/or hollering this morning about what pretty plainly seems to be pine tar on the hand of Tigers pitcher Kenny Rogers. It's not that Rogers wasn't cheating; ESPN did a nice comparison of the other games in the series that Rogers has pitched and noticed the same "dirt" on Rogers hand. (That's some stubborn grime; it's like a sticky film that just won't rinse away!) It's just that ... well ... the "dirt" only lasted one inning, and he then shut down the Cardinals anyway to even the World Series at one game. If he's been doing it the whole postseason, and somehow escaping detection from HD sets that make every female sideline reporter look like a phantom ... honestly, more power to him. We appreciate people who try to cheat in old fashioned ways, like pine tar and cork, rather than, you know, muscle relaxers meant for cattle. We were actually more surprised that Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa didn't make a larger deal out of this and demand Rogers be ejected in the first inning; he lives for that type of stuff. If that had been Dusty Baker in the other dugout rather than Jim Leyland, we suspect it might have been different.
So Kenny Rogers was probably cheating; can you say you are in any way surprised? And this is the point when we mention that we absolutely cannot stand Kenny Rogers. We've never been particularly fond of him, but this postseason, we've officially labeled him the most loathsome character on an otherwise entirely likable team. We think what bothers us most is this sudden "emotional" Kenny Rogers. Announcers keep telling us that this New Kenny Rogers is no longer bottling up his emotions, he's "letting them fly out there." After years of trying to control himself, Rogers now screams and hollers and does that dopey white guy fist pump that Jeff Weaver's starting to get the hang of as well.
But here's the problem with this: Emotions are not something that are "bottled" or "released." Emotions just are. If during one particular game — like, say, the Yankees game — if emotions are intense at a level decidedly higher than even a buttoned-up fellow can handle, there will be an outburst, and it will be a release, a blowing off of steam, an explosion of joy/relief after stressed intensity. (See here for details.) It is not something sustainable without artifice. Moments like that cannot be repeated on demand. Kenny Rogers can not just decide he's a better pitcher when he releases his emotions; at that point, he is not "releasing emotion" as much as he is "yelling as a superstitious tic." In other words: He is starting to look silly out there. He is yelling because he thinks it makes him a better pitcher, rather than because he is actually emotional about something. And that's strange to watch.
So enough about the New Kenny Rogers. You know what the New Kenny Rogers does? He cheats and causes his teammates to roll their eyes at the old guy who won't stop barking. And yes: He also doesn't allow anyone to score. That should probably be mentioned.