It's only taken one pitch to make Rivera the best ever
Posted: Wednesday August 10, 2005 3:14PM; Updated: Thursday August 11, 2005 2:17PM
Marinao Rivera has 30 consecutive saves.
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
I saw The Aristocrats the other night. I don't think it has opened outside of New York and L.A., so you may not have heard of it. Here's the premise: About 100 comedians tell the same joke (or rather, they talk about telling the same joke) for 90 minutes. That's it. The joke is incredibly crude and incredibly offensive, but it's also incredibly funny. (Here's how it goes: A guy and his family walk into a talent agent's office. The guy says, "We have an act and we'd like you to represent us." The agent says, "What do you do?" At that point, the comedian launches into a litany of disgusting acts that the family members engage in, not the sort of stuff that can be reprinted in this family-friendly blog. There's no standard telling; each comedian brings his or her own flourishes to it. It's sort of like jazz, with a lot more swearing. When he's done, the agent says, "Hmmm. What do you call yourselves?" And the guy says, "The Aristocrats!" It's ironic, you see -- and the fact that I'm explaining the joke underscores the fact that it's really not a very good punchline, one that would be better if it were punctuated with a well-timed HONK! That's the beauty of it: It's all in the telling.)
It's a cool idea for a movie -- literally a one-joke act, the cinematic equivalent of a one-trick pony. Which brings us to the theme of today's lead blog topic: Mariano Rivera. There's a line in The Great Gatsby in which the narrator, Nick Carraway, says he became "that most limited of all specialists, 'the well-rounded man.'" This has always stuck with me. People often try to master many things, and as a result they end up not really excelling at any one.
Not Rivera, though. I'd argue that never no one in sports does more with only one weapon: in Mo's case, that cut fastball he throws about 98 percent of the time. Fans know it's coming, announcers know it's coming, ushers know it's coming, and you'd better believe hitters know it's coming. But no one can hit it. No one can make an adjustment. He saws off lefties and doesn't let righties hit it off the sweet spot.
Rivera is best closer in the history of the game. (Note to Sox fans: easy with the e-mails reminding me of his troubles with Boston.) And he's gotten there by being a one-trick pony. That's not a slight, either. It's something I find admirable and quite amazing. Along with Ben Stiller (look, I'm angry!), Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell, the Buzzcocks, .38 Special and a handful of other folks we love, Rivera is walking proof that being well-rounded isn't all it's cracked up to be. As Nick Carraway said, "Life is much more successfully looked at from a single window, after all."
Not so fast
Every once in a while something happens during a game that makes you say, "You know what, there's no way my team is going to win." Tuesday night I watched Indians-Royals. The Tribe was down 4-1 and K.C. had men on first and third. Cliff Lee threw a breaking ball in the dirt and Victor Martinez did a great job blocking it with his windpipe. Somehow the ball got lodged inside his chest protector, which results in a dead ball and the runners move up a base. So Martinez's reward for sacrificing his body? The Royals get another run. That pretty much told me everything I needed to know. There was no way the Tribe was going to win.
So I started working on this blog, keeping half an eye on the game. But when Angel Berroa homered in the bottom of the eighth for the Royals -- after Cleveland left 'em loaded in the top of the inning trailing by four -- I gave up. I turned on the tail end of the Yankees game and then flipped to Anchorman, which has replaced Starsky and Hutch in permanent rotation on HBO14. The Indians, natch, then proceeded to score 11 times in the ninth and win. (To add insult to my dismay, Baseball Tonight didn't show any highlights. ESPN airs 143 hours of poker, but they don't show baseball highlights any more? Come on.)
I bring this up only partly because I'm so vain that I think you actually care how I spend my Tuesday nights. The main reason is that I would like to hear your best stories of missing out on a big play/game. Did you miss Aaron Boone's homer to beat that beat the Red Sox in the 2003 ALCS because you accidentally locked yourself in the john? Did you spend an entire day baking in the hot Kentucky sun, only to miss the most exciting two minutes in sports because those 14 mint juleps caught up with you and fell asleep in an Lil E. Tee's paddock? I want to hear about it. Send in a good story and you might get your name in print.
From the Mailbag, regarding Rafael Palmeiro. "Hey Mark, decent article," begins Rich from L.A., who obviously doesn't believe in kissing up and/or doesn't dole out praise lightly. "As good as Palmeiro is, he's only a small fish. My question is, how will it all end for Bonds and McGwire? If both those guys aren't busted, I throw in the towel."
Well, neither one of those guys is going to fail a test. The only way they could conceivably get busted would be if someone ratted them out. And I'm not talking about someone doing so in a book that claims they shot up together in a bathroom stall. I'm talking about someone with evidence. When the BALCO case started picking up steam there was lots of speculation that the government's objective wasn't to bust the dealers, but rather to get the dealers to rat out the users. (As anyone who's ever watched Miami Vice knows, that's the opposite of the way it's usually done.) When the President mentioned steroids in his State of the Union a few years back, the thinking was the government was going to try to out a few big-name athletes to make examples of them. Alas, the BALCO case fell apart. The Feds never really had anything to squeeze Victor Conte with (substantial jail time was never in the picture). And last week the President issued a statement backing Palmeiro, ("He's a friend? and so on), so that kind of makes you wonder if steroids is still something that's on the administration's agenda. So, my advice to Rich is to get ready to toss that towel.
Idiot of the Week
It's certainly not Adam Dolge of the Portsmouth, (N.H.) Herald, who has written one of the finest ledes in newspaper history : "The 'family jewels' of one Brentwood man recently were locked up for two weeks 'literally.'" The idiot, of course, is said man, who, thanks to a friend (and, really, with friends like that who needs enemies) spent a fortnight with a padlock on his privates. If that's not enough, he tried to remove it with a hacksaw. A hacksaw. A HACKSAW. (No truth to the rumor that when the cops asked him what he was doing he said, "Honing my act. It's called The Aristocrats." HONK!)