This is a weekly column from Leitch.
It has words, and pictures. It's called Ten Humans Of The Week.
As some of you might know, I write a regular column for Sporting News magazine (they dropped the "The" because definite articles are unhip). I find this more enjoyable than I thought I would going in, because, as you would probably guess, the readers of Sporting News make up a different audience than I'm used to writing for. I sometimes worry I'll freak them out if I make a reference to Facebook, or that whippersnapper long hair Jimi Hendrix. It's fun to try out tricks on new people. It has been great. It's a better magazine than you probably think it is.
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, after writing a column making fun of the two New York baseball stadiums, I invited SN readers to email me their pitches as to why their stadium was unappreciated. I would "reward" the best pitch by buying them and me a ticket to a game this year. I received some impassioned pitches for Detroit, Arlington, Philadelphia, Toronto, even Tampa. But the contest was kind of rigged: I really wanted to go to Pittsburgh.
This was for two reasons. First, I've heard from numerous people that PNC Park is a gorgeous stadium where it's easy to procure great cheap seats because the Pirates play there. But mostly: I had slated May 12, today, as my travel day for the game, and the Cardinals happened to be in town that day. That's cheating, but whatever, it's the Cardinals.
Anyway, I was primed to proclaim the first person to email me about PNC Park the "winner," but, because the Pirates have no fans left, nobody sent me a thing. Then, they day before I had to make a decision, I received an email from some guy, whom we'll call "Robert." His note was not inspiring — "The reason that PNC Park is different is that it's the most beautiful stadium of any sport in the entire world and it's parking lot is located near our pre-Forbes stadium, Exposition Park" — but who cares? I had my Pittsburgh resident! I emailed him posthaste, told him he won and asked if he could make it May 12. "I'll buy the tickets," I told him. "We can just meet there. My hotel will just be a few blocks away. I'll buy the booze too!"
I was on deadline, so I began to worry when I didn't hear back from Robert for a few hours. I kept needling him, saying I needed him to confirm so I could file my next column and buy the plane tickets. I kept offering him plenty of booze in Pittsburgh: Nobody fails to act when booze is on the line, I figured. And nothing. So I finally gave up. I chose Minnesota, because I've always wanted to see the Metrodome, which is in its last season, and because I thought I would seriously try to talk the Twins into making me their general manager because that would be HILARIOUS. And then I didn't think that much more about it.
Three days later, I received an email from a woman named "Barbara." She informed me that she was the mother of ... Robert. Who was 13 years old. Who had told her that "the man from the magazine" had invited him to "meet" him at the Pirates game, that his hotel was right by the stadium, that he would buy his ticket and buy him lots of booze.
"He was a bit overwhelmed by your kind invite," she said, and I really, really hoped she'd seen the magazine, the column and the "contest." Because I had just invited her 13-year-old son to come meet a stranger with alcohol at a baseball game. With my hotel "just a quick walk away."
I'm pretty lucky that I gave up and booked the Minnesota tickets. Because if I had shown up at PNC Park and Chris Hansen had been there ... I'm not sure explaining the facts of the situation would have gotten me out of it.
Dusty Baker. The rivalry between Tony La Russa and Dusty Baker has always been an entertaining one, and having just watched the full series between the Cardinals and Reds last weekend, I can attest that the Reds are a lot better than anyone realizes. It would be kind of an amusing irony if Baker ends up taking the Reds to the World Series, something he could never make happen with the Cubs. The only thing that would be better? If Jim Essian came back. I loved that guy. Anyway, yeah: I'm officially terrified of the Reds. And I don't even think Dusty's going to shred all those pitchers' arms this time either.
Murray Chass. The erstwhile Times columnist garnered some attention last week with his detailed takedown of Selena Roberts' book. Whether you agree with him or not — and though I enjoyed the book and don't think Roberts is is some terrible person out to hurt poor little A-Rod, he does make a solid case and, frankly, it appears I'm on the wrong side of history on this one — I was mostly just relieved that, finally, someone is paying attention to Murray Chass. Ever since Chass launched his Protest Blog — a site that makes a big deal out of being "columns" rather than "blogs" — he's just been typing away in the nether, a lonely guy typing away tons of opinions, blissfully unaware that no one's actually reading any of them. I had been feeling kind of bad for old Murray: I feared his attempts to, at last, finally bring some class to that wretched Internet were, you know, failing. But Murray found some new online friends with his Roberts column. Congrats, Murray. Perhaps the striking originality of his recent Steroids Are Hurting Baseball's Image column will push you over the top. "The Hall of Shame will be an invisible wing of the Hall of Fame." Well played, sir. Well played.
Alfred Luckerbauer. You might have missed this over the weekend, but Daulerio and I both received emails Friday night from a man named Alfred Luckerbauer, who apparently is the email attack dog for Freddie Mitchell. I'm not sure why Mitchell would need a protector from Deadspin — which is literally the only place that ever writes about Freddie Mitchell — but I love how much information Daulerio found out about him, including his awesome personal Web site. Money quote: "Would YOU like to improve anything in your life ? More Money? Better Health and more Energy? Maybe spend more time with friends and family or have time and money for your favorite activity........YOUR DREAMS ?" Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! To all those questions! I would love to have time and money for my favorite activity with is MY DREAMS. I would love to subscribe to your newsletter.
Marley The Dog. I find hilarious the depths movie marketers will go to to sell their films. I was watching the Cardinals game on Fox Sports Cincinnati on Sunday, and I saw repeated ads for the DVD release of Marley and Me. When this was in theaters, it was a romantic comedy with a cute dog. Now, it's a brodawg dude's movie, scored to "Bad To The Bone," with Owen Wilson at a baseball game while his big badass Man Dog roams through the stands. Though the scene at the baseball game in the film is only a minute or two, the commercial plays it up like the whole movie is Owen Wilson chilling with his dog at a ballgame while Jennifer Aniston lies around in a bikini. I love it when marketers completely lie about what a movie actually is when DVD/video comes around. My favorite is Six Degrees Of Separation, which put the famous play's title in Fresh Prince Of Bel Air font and featured Stockard Channing and Donald Sutherland with cartoonishly shocked O-faces while Will Smith, that rappin' wiseacre, smiled into the camera. This, for a film, in the official description, about "a con artist who, out of the blue, prevails upon the good graces of a New York City couple in the wake of his supposed mugging in Central Park, claiming to be Sidney Poitier's son and masquerading flamboyantly as a close friend & classmate of their Harvard-enrolled kids, and in the process upsetting their shallow upper crust world."A crowd pleasing hip-hop dope hit!
Barack Obama. How popular is our President right now? Usually, after the White House Correspondent's Dinner — which, considering the state of newspapers, is going to be only celebrities in a couple of years — everyone is offended or bored or whatever by the comedian who ended up roasting the president. (Stephen Colbert good, Rich Little bad, Ray Romano inexplicably asked. I can't believe Norm McDonald once did this.) This year it was Wanda Sykes, who was perfectly fine and not all that offensive, unless you think jokes about Rush Limbaugh being addicted to Oxycotin gasp-worthy. But no one's talking about her at all: They're talking about Obama's jokes. Which, as it turns out, really were funnier. (I love the riff about Sasha and Malia taking Air Force One over Manhattan.) At this point, Barack Obama is perceived by the press corps and many of his advocates (of which I am one) as the best President, the funniest comedian and the guy who's totally going to figure out cold fusion. It's a crazy time.
Manny Ramirez. No, not that Manny Ramirez. I'm talking about the Manny Ramirez that Daulerio's relentless investigation ultimately took down, the Manny Ramirez from Medford, Massachusetts. Daulerio's pursuit of him has spanned decades and taken down many in its wake. I kind of wish Daulerio would show up at this Manny Ramirez's workplace, like Selena Roberts did with A-Rod, and confronted him with all the evidence, demanding a confession. (For the record, that might be my favorite piece Daulerio has ever written for this Web site. It made me a little embarrassed for all the years I was a hack around here, comparatively.)
Alex Rodriguez. No talking about steroids here, or that "eff you" home run Friday night. No, we're just going to talk about The Sports Hernia's discovery of the overly excited woman who sprinted down to "greet" A-Rod after that first-pitch homer. Who is she? Where did she come from? Why was she so excited? I mean, he kind of has to know her, right? Whether you hate A-Rod or just think he's an alien who was never introduced to Earth's ways and customs, it's stuff like this that makes you appreciate how entertaining it is to have him back.
Jack Shepherd. As a general rule, I tend to think "LOST" — which ends its fifth, penultimate season tomorrow night — is a better show the less it focuses on Matthew Fox's Jack Shephard, who is one of those characters whose a lot less interesting than the actor who plays him probably thinks. Jack is just a drunk surgeon with daddy issues and a serious case of inflated self-importance, and the great joke about his character is that everyone keeps blindly following him into disaster even though his decisions are always, always wrong. Well, the big gimmick for the final episode is that Jack is trying to detonate a hydrogen bomb on the island, with the idea that it will change history and allow the original flight that crashed on the island to land as was initially scheduled. This is a terrible, awful, hilariously stupid idea — he is trying set off a hydrogen bomb! — which, I suspect, is going to turn out to be a brilliant idea. Now that everyone on the island has finally realized Jack is a raging loon, they've all stopped following him. It only stands to reason that now that Jack has lost all his followers and is pursuing the stupidest of all his ideas, this is the one that will turn out to be right. Also? Jack = Jacob. DID I JUST BLOW YOUR MIND? God I freaking love "LOST."
Gordon Shumway Everybody's favorite Melmacian has been relatively quiet on the pop culture radar of late, mostly because all puppet roles are currently being played by Nicolas Cage. Thankfully, the Web is bringing him back to relevance. Witness, then, this hypnotic four-part series of ALF, directed by David Lynch. Never before has Willie Tanner's plight seemed so terrifyingly surreal. I fully expect someone to start remixing all kinds of old television shows as if they were directed by David Lynch. I would love to see what he would do with "WKRP In Cincinnati."
Steven Strasburg. I never like it when baseball has one of those big bonus-baby, CAN'T-MISS draft prospects. It turns the game too much into college basketball or the NFL for my blood, endless obsession on ridiculously young men and all their "tools." This has been going on for a while for Strasburg, who has been called the best prospect ever for months and years now. (Apparently the Chinese team was terrified of him in the Olympics.) He's also supposedly really freaking smart too, which, honestly, translated from baseball terms, means "took more than 85 percents of his college tests all by himself." And he's owned by Scott Boras, which means we're going to read about 50,000 stories over the next two months about Boras' unreasonable demands and the Nationals' attempts to screw over their fanbase, and blah blah blah there really is nothing worse than baseball contract stories. The Nationals should skip out on signing Strasburg and spend their money on fixing their supposedly horrific press box that every sportswriter in America insists on telling us about in every story. Let's fight the real enemy, people.