Thursday, October 18, 2007

In the past, I have found a few occasions to be delighted by strange, but pleasant events where the programming schedule of Turner Classic Movies presented neat parallels with a big defeat for the Boston Red Sox or the Cletics getting a bad draw in the NBA Draft Lottery. I guess sooner or later, I was bound to see an event like that shaping up and have it blow up in my face. I just wish it weren't tonight.

Turner Classic Movies showed the vastly underrated Cliff Robertson Michael Caine film Too Late the Hero. It looked like that would fit very nicely with Josh Beckett taking the hill and the Red Sox facing very long odds in this ALCS. However, Turner Classic Movies has been letting me down lately, with a month of biopics that haven't been all that good and a retrospective on star of the month Henry Fonda featuring Jane Fonda Peter Fonda used as a space filler between movies. I understand that they couldn't really do something like that and leave his kid's out of it, but I really hate Jane Fonda and Peter Fonda.

I also should have known something funny would happen, since In Harm's Way was on deck with Too Late the Hero on the air. In Harm's Way is a very vexing movie for me, since it has John Wayne and Kirk Douglas but also kind of sucks. It's a soap opera masquerading as a war movie. The scenes that dealt with the Solomon Islands campaign have the names of the islands replaced with fugazis as though it were one of those bad made for TV movie of the month "true crime" bits.

Come to think of it, that may have been the case since Admiral Ghormley may have been still alive and the incompetent admiral in In Harm's Way has a lot of his moves, and maybe a little of Admiral Fletcher who lost a lot more cruisers to Japanese forces than I would have thought possible without a court martial or at least a court of inquiry proceeding. But the two main problems with the film are these. First, Patricia Neal, John Wayne's love interest, was not a good looking woman. And most important of all, the movie is literally one hour too long.

I think Turner Classic Movies might have broken that curious, pleasant little power they had by showing the Jazz Singer. It's very rare that it's ever shown, and I always thought it was because of the black face scene. Now I am Caucasian and not as sensitive to that issue as some others might be. But I found one scene where there was a teenager dancing on a stage as though his feet were trapped in drying cement while he was being electrocuted and a piano player who looked as he had been unwittingly part of some half-assed undertaker's half-assed efforts at embalming played a piano with the most macabre attempt at a smile ever far more disturbing. Yikes.

And of course, Joe Torre rejected a one year $5 million contract offer from the New York Yankees today. To be sure, there were incentives in the deal which would, among other things, have triggered another year of employment had Torre accepted the deal and managed the team to a World Series appearance. So our long national nightmare is finally over, as is the 12 year run which saw 12 straight playoff appearances. Or perhaps, as a media frenzy the likes of which one rarely sees outside of election night in a Presidential year and a papal conclave will begin while the search for the next Yankee manager begins.

I am not sure how I feel about this situation. Not the end of the Torre era, per se, for once I was very clear about something when I wanted him fired. But I'm not sure this was the right way to do it. Plenty of people, I am sure are convinced that this was not the right way to do it. Buster Olney is one among many Torre apologists with a premise so nice he wrote it thrice, and while I know I ought to believe what he believes without reservation, I don't. Not even when Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports concurs.

Kevin Kennedy dazzled me by saying something perceptive about this situation. His take was that this deal let Joe Torre go out his way, with some measure of dignity. And in Kennedy's mind it was better than retaining Torre only to fire him unceremoniously should the Yankees stumble out of the gate next season. There is a strange method to his madness, or perhaps a even a blind squirrel finds a nut from time to time.

The problem is that there really was no way for the Yankees to resolve this situation whilst managing to be all things to all people. Based on his track record, as described by Buster Olney in a stunningly good piece for a change, of managing a very difficult assignment with quiet dignity, Joe Torre had so many friends and admirers in the media, particularly the national media, that the Yanks were going to catch hell for severing ties with Torre. Whether they fired him outright, or twisted his arm behind closed doors until Torre reached the point where he came out and quit, no one would believe that Steinbrenner didn't pull the trigger.

And as to whether the offer was disrespectful, how else could it have been done? This was as close to a win-win deal as could have been worked. If the deal had been good enough to accept and Torre took it, then the team would have been stuck with a nightmare situation of having to fire a very well-liked guy and changing horses in midstream next year. And they couldn't just call him in the office and boot him out the door, not after 12 years. But if he did take the deal, maybe it might have lit a fire under him and the team, which could have worked well in the end.

Torre had to go. Not to get any more biblical than I absolutely have to, but he was the guy from the Gospel parable of the talents (the ancient unit for measuring weight, particularly precious metals and not some ephemeral or ethereal skill for Red Sox fans). In the Gospel, a wealthy man gives three of his servants three different sums of money (talents of gold).

As the story goes, one guy invests and doubles his money. He gets to keep it when the master returns because he's so happy his servant did the right thing. The second guy doesn't generate quite as much in return for his initial sum, but he is also rewarded. The third guy digs a hole and buries his sum, so he presents it intact when the master returns. But he's also a jerk about it, so he complains about the master trying to reap where he didn't sow. The master gives him nothing.

To make a long story short, Joe Torre was given $1.2 billion dollars in talent (our sense, not the ancient sense) over the last seven seasons, and he might as well have buried it. A great many things happened, and some were beyond his control, to be fair. But at the end of the day, when George Steinbrenner opens his wallet, he wants a return on his investment. 12 straight playoff appearances isn't enough when the ultimate prizes eludes you for so long. To put it in perspective, Bill Clinton was the last President to host the Yankees at the White House. That's ancient history, if you're George Steinbrenner and it's your money.

Finally, I will conclude tonight with another installment of my impromptu series on the lower order organism that is the Cleveland Indians fan. Tonight, as I watched the game, I spotted a fat dude sporting a rally cap that stood out from the crowd for his vacuous appearance, which is in itself a feat I wouldn't have believed had I not seen it, what with the dismal view I have of the Clevelander's intelligence.

This tool wore a rally cap precariously perched on his massive noggin, which almost, but not quite drew attention away from his double chin. He also wore a terrible pair of glasses, which I initially mistook for Drew Carey glasses, probably because FOX insists on playing that shitty Cleveland Rocks song, which was a Drew Carey Show theme for a while. My friend the Cubs fan, however, shocked the world by noticing something I didn't for the first time in the last 5 years, and correctly identified the hideous glasses on his foolish fat face as Wild Thing glasses from Major League.

Oh yeah, the Red Sox managed to stave off elimination. I didn't want to say it, but I have to I guess.

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