NEW YORK, NY– So my 83-year-old Father-in Law comes by the house on Sunday for a little Fathers’ Day celebration and BOOM! All hell breaks loose. I’m in the bathroom for maybe 3 minutes and when I emerge from my sanctuary, what do I find? My kids sitting in the den with their hands up… incredulous. Their grandfather has commandeered the remote away from them.
My boys and I were watching our wretched Mets, and though they are sickly and morose, we nevertheless enjoy the bonding experience that can only come from watching awful baseball together. This was how my own sense of sarcasm and self-loathing was developed with my Dad, and I’m passing on this same defeatist wit to my own. My father-in-law though, has other things on his mind. He’s got the US Open on TV and he’s flipping between that and World Cup Soccer. It’s bad enough that he never bothered to give me a heads-up that his daughter’s personality would one day turn into the same “sunny” disposition that his ex-wife (my mother-in-law) drags around with her. This though, is torture.
I’m told that this US Open thing has something to do with golf? Am I spelling that correctly? It may be a “soft J” but I’m not sure. And this World Cup Soccer thing is some tournament that the local kids in the neighborhood drew up to amuse themselves? But it’s on as soon as I head upstairs to watch my baseball, and my kids follow. My father in law’s voice bellows as we leave the den…”What the hell’s the matter with you? Don’t you want to watch the Open?” The only “Open” I’m ever interested in watching is the Hot Open Turkey sandwich from the Blue Bay Diner on Francis Lewis Boulevard. That’s an “open” that interests me. Our dialogue quickly escalates, and now we’re back to the old argument that Golf isn’t really a sport and that Baseball is the most difficult of all sports blah blah blah. Being as old school as Sam Krichinsky in Avalon, (“Jules…cut ze tohykee”) he believes Golf is a sport of gentlemen and precise strokes and great concentration. I on the other hand, believe there is no challenge to hitting a stationary ball off of a tee no less-with absolute quiet enforced. I get it. It’s a challenging game. It’s fun to go out, drink a few beers, and play once in a while with your buddies, but that’s it.
This whole soccer thing is at least challenging to the extent that you must be in phenomenal aerobic shape to keep up and run the length of the field back and forth while no one scores. Green cards, red cards, green jackets whatever. It’s all BS jingoistic nationalism-driven hysteria for a bunch of guys using only their feet and stamina to play while 6 billion people swear this is the greatest game on earth. I’ve got news for you, 6 billion people–you’re all wrong. I imagine cavemen probably played a form of soccer using rocks to amuse themselves. The game has not evolved much since then. “Come for the soccer…stay for the execution style killing afterward!” Same thing-exchanging Lions and Christians for drug lords and impoverished national heroes. FSA was once asked to fill in as interim coach for my kids’ soccer team when they were 7 years old. I arranged my players in symmetrical baseball formation covering the field-I had a second basement, right fielder, etc. I was lauded as a soccer savant. And I’m an idiot! I can’t wait for this whole soccer stuff to be over. I’m sick of everyone pretending to be into the damn thing and acting like they’ve heard of any single player besides Ronaldo. All of the transplants from Columbus, Ohio and Champaign, Illinois who’ve quickly morphed into obnoxious and douchy Williamsburg residents who love soccer, but have no idea that their streets were once hardscrabble and nurtured Francie Nolan. Whatever. Golf, Soccer, it’s all the same. Hold the letters.
Having recently finished reading Leigh Montville’s “Ted Williams” biography, I immediately recalled the 1999 All Star Game in Boston. The great Ted Williams was in and out of a wheelchair that night but was nevertheless determined to talk “hitting” with the game’s best hitter at that time-Tony Gwynn. Ted sought out Gwynn, a player he had spoken of often, and a hitter whom the Splendid Splinter really admired. It was a touching sight, as two geniuses embraced and talked hitting philosophies. When Gwynn passed away this week, I was reminded of this embrace, and of the enormous respect that the King of all hitters had for Tony Gwynn. It gave me goose bumps. Having had the privilege of watching Gwynn’s entire career from 1982 to 2001, he was the best hitter of his generation. Remarkable-when considering that it was during these years that the biggest “numbers” were produced mostly by artificial means. There was nothing artificial about Tony Gwynn. He was the real deal.
Come back tomorrow for our Meet The Matts Radio broadcast… or snippet.