— When I was 11 or 12, it seemed like my school’s social circles were defined by what magazines were passed from desk-to-desk during the slowest parts of homeroom. The Eagle Scouts were either Boys Life or Ranger Rick, depending on which one had a snake on the cover. The girls whose parties I couldn’t go to were into stolen library copies of Sassy. But my favorite? TV Guide.
I analyzed each nightly listing and circled every “special episode”, blacked out at least one tooth in the cover photo, and worked every crossword puzzle. What’s a two-letter word for “Creepo who just memorized the Mr. Belvedere synopsis?” Me.
The best part was the "Cheers and Jeers" section, where they’d hit the highs and lows of the previous week, reminding us of what we’d already know if the internet had been invented. My subscription lapsed years ago, but in their honor I’m handing out Cheers and Jeers to a handful of athletes. Good or bad, I promise not to ink out your teeth.
Cheers to Streaks: The Dodgers' Andre Ethier has gotten a hit in 29 straight games, and has also endured 29,000 reminders that he’s just over halfway to Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game record. Ethier’s streak is also temporarily on hold; he was scratched from L.A.’s Wednesday night lineup due to a sore elbow, possibly because DiMaggio’s ghost poked him with a splintered shard of Louisville Slugger.
As impressive as Ethier’s run has been, I still think that 56-game streak is one of baseball’s untouchables. In the past decade, only seven other players’ streaks have even reached 30. Other games have been cutting away to Ethier’s at-bats, but I’d give it another few days before we’re watching a standing ovation celebrating his valiant attempt and another round of “Good try, buddy” high-fives on the dugout steps. There are some records that are unbreakable, whether it’s Ty Cobb’s career batting average, Cy Young’s win total or DiMaggio’s streak, which is the best ever, and, yes, his ghost is making me type this ... ow ... that's sharp ... ow ...jeez…
Another Cheer for the Cleveland Indians, who have collected seven straight wins, a feat that looks nice on the mantel beside their previous eight-game W-streak. The AL Central leaders currently have baseball’s best record, despite preseason predictions that left them fighting the Royals to see who’d circle the drain first. We’re less than 30 games into the season but I’m glad that the people of Cleveland have something to distract them from The One We Do Not Speak Of. That’s assuming that they’ve been watching; the Indians have baseball’s lowest attendance record, averaging just over 14,000 fans per game.
Cheers to Floppy Hats, the kind you wore during your royal wedding party. Don’t release that thing back into the wild just yet. The Kentucky Derby is coming up this weekend, so it’s OK to spend another day looking like your hair just threw up Lady Gaga. The 137th Derby will be run Saturday, giving us plenty of time to Google “how to muddle mint” before giving up and making a vodka tonic. I’m pulling for Anna “Rosie” Napravnik, who will become just the sixth-ever female jockey to ride in the Derby, and the first since 2003. So raise your glass of smashed up mint clumps to Napravnik. She’ll be riding “Pants on Fire” or — as he’s known to his friends— “Jim Tressel.”
Jeers to MLB’s inconsistent suspension policy. Last week, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was suspended two games (and fined $20,000) for Tweeting his frustration with the umpire who’d just ejected him. I’m not sure how that warranted a stiffer penalty than the zero game suspension, $0 fine facing Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, whose batting average (.241) is only slightly higher than his blood alcohol content (.201) was.
Choo earned baseball’s sixth DUI this season, a scenario that’s happening often enough it might show up on the back of Topps cards, wedged between RBI and OBP. The problem, as Hardball Talk pointed out,is that MLB doesn’t have any type of disciplinary procedure in place for players who are arrested for drunk driving. The league differentiates between Guillen’s tweets and Choo’s shots by filing the former as an on-field issue while the latter is not … but it should be. If a player is knowingly, willingly endangering innocent lives, he should be punished both by the legal system and by the league.
If there’s any sport that should understand the significance of the issue — and the potential for tragedy — it’s baseball, who lost promising Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart to a drunk driver. I think Choo should be suspended, giving him plenty of time to chat with Adenhart’s former teammate Jared Weaver, the one who still writes “NA” in the dirt before every game.
A double helping of Jeers to Rashard Mendenhall, who didn’t even have to open his mouth to end up with a Foot Locker’s worth of shoes in it. The Steelers running back took to Twitter to criticize those celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden and to question bin Laden’s role in 9/11. Mendenhall has since deleted the comments and created a blog called “Clarification” to apologize and further explain what he meant.
“I wasn’t questioning Bin Laden’s evil acts,” Mendenhall (or Mendenhall's ghostwriter) said. “I believe that he will have to face God for what he has done. I was reflecting on our own hypocrisy. During 9/11 we watched in horror as parts of the world celebrated death on our soil. Earlier this week, parts of the world watched us in horror celebrating a man’s death.”
Mendenhall could write the next Franzen novel on his fledgling blog and it wouldn’t matter, especially not to the extra-patriotic citizens of Pittsburgh.
The damage has been done, to the point that Steelers owner Art Rooney II felt compelled to distance himself from Mendenhall’s comments while pointing out that “The entire Steelers' organization is very proud of the job our military personnel have done.”
Being a professional athlete can mean that you’re in the highest percentile when it comes to athletic skill, personal income and being recognized in airport bathrooms. It doesn’t give you any additional "Limitless" - like abilities to dissect international affairs (hear that, Curt Schilling?) and, apparently, it doesn’t give you any Eddie Morra-style self-reflection either.
It does mean that what you say or type or Tweet will be analyzed and criticized more than comments coming from someone without their own Fathead, more than the average citizen, more than the annoyingly vocal conspiracy theorist bagging my bananas at Food Lion.
Athletes have been popular ‘follows’ on Twitter because of their accessibility and because they’re willing to share their unfiltered comments with the fans, but situations like this remind us why teams still hire PR firms. Someone with one of those logos on their business cards may want to remind the players that it’s not always the best idea to share EXACTLY what’s in their brain, especially if it’s been liberally seasoned with Crazy. They need to tell them what topics are off-limits (hint: politics) and to politely point out that sometimes the smartest thing you can say is nothing at all.
Don’t worry, Rashard. The Food Lion guy agrees with you. And, if you continue to give your unfiltered ideas and reluctant apologies there’s always the chance you’ll be working beside him.