SAN FRANCISCO, CA – With due respect to Sid Farkas, I always preferred the Bro to the Manzier. But enough about US Open runner-up Phil Mickelson, who clearly could use additional under-wire support for the back 9. I’ve always wondered rather derisively if golfers should be considered athletes? Should golf commentators use words like courageous and valiant in describing the play of a golfer? Look, it’s not an easy game and it does require some level of strategy I suppose but when a 74-year-old guy is capable of winning a Major and a guy with bona fide breasts is one of the top 3 players in the world—can we really call them athletes? If your resting heart rate stays below 80 while you “compete” are you really an athlete? If psoriatic arthritis is your primary cross to bear and your top button is closed on every friggin shirt you own, are you really an athlete? To wit…
When I was 14 years old, I played in the Eastern Queens Hebrew Basketball League, (the EQHBL) representing Young Israel of New Hyde Park; which incidentally is located in Queens. I was an OK player but I was nearly 6 feet tall by that time and I recall going on a veritable barnstorming tour of the area synagogues in which I was hailed as the Bob McAdoo of the Hebrew Circuit. I could dribble and shoot a little and I could do both without falling down or vomiting in my mouth. This brought me mad nachas and I was celebrated as the next great Jewish athlete to come out of the hardscrabble streets of Glen Oaks, Queens. I was neither great, nor an athlete either. My ceiling was Kutscher’s.
As the 1 page leaflet in Airplane taught us, the list of Great Jewish Sports Stars is a short one. As a kid, there was Ron Blomberg, the 1st DH. There was Ken Holtzman, Mike Epstein of the California Angels and Art Shamsky of the ’69 Mets. And that was pretty much it. Of course the greatest Jewish slugger of all was Hank Greenberg, and the greatest pitcher period – Jew or not a Jew – was the great Sandy Koufax.
That brings me to tonight’s debut of the ballyhooed Zach Wheeler for the Mets in the nightcap of today’s Braves doubleheader. Sandy Alderson had better hope that Zach Wheeler is in fact the next Sandy Koufax, because the sum total of Sandy’s “plan” IS Zach Wheeler. If the kid falls short of being Koufax, then Sandy Alderson will finally be exposed as the emperor without clothes, the incompetent detached fool tasked with building a team without a real plan.
“Wheeler and Harvey but we ain’t got no Garvey?” “ It’s the Era of Harvey And Wheeler?”
John Stearns gave t-shirts to his teammates in ’78 that read “We can Win,” when the Mets played in “Grant’s Tomb.” We were told “Bring Your Kids to Watch Our Kids.” When Jerry Della Famina was hired in the early 80s, suddenly we were told to “Catch the Rising Stars” and “The Magic is Back!” When the Mets finally broke through in the mid 80s, we got “Baseball like it oughta be.” The sign on the overpass on the Grand Central read 1986 World Champs for about 11 years until it started to become a bit embarrassing. Since then, the slogans have been slow in coming. Like the Wins. And the Honesty. And the Transparency. And the Accountability.
Like Swoboda, Vail, Strawberry, Jeffries, and Reyes before him, Wheeler is being looked at to save the franchise. Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
Angry Ward, or a facsimile thereof, tomorrow.