Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Five: Top Five Characters from the Major League movies

On the eve of the day that pitchers and catchers report to the Brewers spring training camp in Maryvale, Ariz., I thought it would be fun to rank my favorite five characters from the Major League movies (not the third one though, because though it was mildly funny, it is not on the same level of the first two), which are easily my favorite baseball movies of all time.

5. Johnny the fan (according to IMDB, that's his name in Major League 2)

Johnny represents the irrational sports fan in all of us. He's ecstatic when the team does something good: "We signed Parkman!" and will turn on a dime when things go bad: "NO! You rotten bums! You overpaid weenies! Mild thing, you make my butt sting! I *detest* you! You're all garbage! All of ya! Back up the truck! Back it up! " and (much like Brewers fans the past few years) is eternally hopeful "Yeah, they went 3-24 in spring training..." Even with the mood swings, it is obvious that he is a loyal die-hard fan (is there any other kind?) and thus is someone that anyone who is a fan can relate to. The comic relief only helps his case.

Best line/scene: After it is evident that Rick Vaughn and the rest of the team aren't as good as the year before, Johnny displays his disgust by turning his Indians cap inside out and having a big black "X" taped over his Indians t-shirt. That shit gets me every time.

4. Rube Baker (C)

Ah yes, a hillbilly backup catcher obsessed with Playboy who can't make the throw back to the pitcher. Not exactly a stock character if you ask me. Like most characters in a comedy movie, Rube is there for the laughs, but he is also kind of a redneck philosopher: "Women... you can't live with 'em, and they can't pee standing up." and "My momma always said it's better to eat shit than not eat at all," are some of his better thoughts. I also thoroughly enjoy when he finally stands up to his former teammate Jack Parkman: "You're on the train tracks, butthead, and the train is coming through!"

Best line/scene: [Rick Vaughn has been demoted to the bullpen, and he broke up with his girlfriend]
Rube: Hey. Ya know Ricky, breaking up with a girlfriend can be a very painful thing. But it don't have to keep ya down for long. I mean, let me tell ya something from my own personal experience. I've never had a regular girlfriend like you, but I did get kicked in the balls once by a mule. Now, I thought I would be hurting for the rest of my life. But you know what happened the very next week?
Rick: What?
Rube: My momma died. Hell, after that, I didn't care no more about my balls hurtin'. You see what I'm gettin' at?

3. Pedro Cerrano (RF) and Eddie Harris (SP) [tie]

It's hard to pick between the two because they're so intertwined in the first movie, so I just went with them both. You've got Cerrano the voodoo-loving stud home run hitter from Cuba, and Harris the down home wily old veteran who isn't beyond resorting to putting Crisco and Vagisil on his body to gain that extra edge over the young guys. They both play vital parts on their team -- much like any real MLB team -- and their clash of personalities make it that much more enjoyable.

Best line/scene:

Pedro: I'm pissed off now, Jobu. Look, I go to you. I stick up for you. You don't help me now. I say "Fuck you," Jobu, I do it myself.

[Pedro said to Harris that it is very bad to steal Jobu's rum. Harris proceeds to drink the rum after Pedro leaves. Harris walks out to the field.]
Harris: Hey bartender! Jobu needs a refill! *gets hit in the head with a flying bat*

2. Lou Brown (Manager)

Lou Brown doesn't take shit from anyone, and that is what makes him hilarious. Insufferable owner that only wants to see the team fail? He has no problem standing up to her, even if he is naked. Prima donna third baseman or center fielder? Brown tells it like it is: "Don't give me that "ole" bullshit!" or "Every time you pop one up, you owe me 20 push-ups!" I'm pretty sure if I were a professional baseball player, I would want to play for him.

Best line/scene:
Dorn: Lou! Can I have a word with you, here?
Brown: Sure.
Dorn: See, I've got it right here in my contract. It says, "I don't have to do any calisthenics that I don't feel are necessary." So what do you think about that?
Brown: [drops the contract on the ground and urinates on it, then walks off]

1. Harry Doyle (announcer)

Bob Uecker stole the show playing Harry Doyle. From what I understand, the producers had a script in mind, but mostly let Bob be himself. Listening to Brewers games throughout my life, this is completely plausible. Bob is a funny guy by nature, and I think he takes his game up a notch with the Harry Doyle character. I don't think the Major League series would be the same without his comedic --yet honest -- takes on the ins and outs of a bumbling baseball franchise.

Best line/scene: There are far too many good ones to pick just one. "Juuuust a bit outside" is understandably a classic. His interactions with broadcast partner Monty are quite good. "The post game is brought you by... Christ, I can't find it. The hell with it!" is right up there. But I'm quite partial to, when, in the second movie while the Indians are playing the second game of a disastrous double-header, and Doyle is drunk: "Well, the Indians have a base runner. I think I'll wet my pants."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mundane Minutiae, Vol. II: Even When I Win I Lose

Anyone reading this knows that I am not a conversationalist. This is perhaps highlighted by when someone asks me how I am doing. My standard response is usually "I'm all right." or "I'm okay." followed by silence. This is my message to the person that the conversation is over and that I'll be moving. Part of the reason I do this is indeed because I'm a prick and I don't care how you're doing. I will not deny this.

I am not completely a sociopath, however, as even though I don't ask, I still hope that everything's going just fine, even if you happen to be a complete stranger, even one that I don't particularly like.

There is a different reason that I don't reciprocate on this particular question, though. It is because, through many years of observation, that no one in the history of the world that, when asked that question, has responded something like: "Fucking shitty! My wife left me, my dog died, and when I went to a hooker to feel better, I caught a case of the crabs!" I'm exaggerating, obviously, but when you're having a bad day people tend not to confide in mere acquaintances in hallway; they bitch to their friends or significant others.

This, mercifully, brings me to my point.

A couple of girls that work upstairs bring me various FedEx packages and Priority Mails throughout the day, and usually they stop to talk to me for a few minutes. This is not because I am so awesome; it is because I think I represent a respite from their dull day and an escape from their boss whom I can say firsthand sucks ass.

This has been going on for a few months. The conversations aren't flirty -- they both have husbands and children from what I gather -- and they aren't particularly interesting. They've asked about my recent furniture shopping and usually query whether or not I got "wasted" on a particular weekend. (I think they think that I am an alcoholic that gets drunk by himself, which I can't technically dispute.) Usually the conversations end not because of an obvious "out" but because I am socially retarded and say things to them while walking away, or while not adding to a particular point I was making. Once, one of them -- upon learning I spent a night drinking in front of my computer -- mentioned that she had a friend that was particular lonely... my response? "I don't need any more friends."

Obviously there are no budding friendships between us.

Today, they came down as usual, and one of them -- let's call her K -- opened with "So when can I apply for the mail room position?"

I replied "I dunno, it'll probably be a long time."

"Aww, I'm about done with [my current position in the company]."

So I asked K against every bone in my body -- and every conversational experience I've ever had with anyone I've ever met that was not close to me -- "Sounds like you're having a bad day, huh?"

The two of them walked away while the other one -- A we'll call her -- said, "yeah, bad career even!"

I was kind of taken aback. I was being a decent fucking human being if only for a few seconds, and I was denied.

Perhaps it's as simple as that they were only supposed to come down and give me their FedEx packages and get upstairs because their boss was cracking the whip. This is entirely possible. But my cynicism (and low self-esteem) says it's something more like "Oh God, creepy dude from the mail room actually wants to talk me, what do I do? Oh yeah, bail!"

Now if this were the 23-year-old me, I would have written a 3000 word story about it and won an award in the process. But this is the 28-year-old me, and though I care enough to write about it, it doesn't bother me as much. I can just brush it off as interesting, and move on.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I'd Be A Horrible Teacher

I am in the process of training my co-worker -- an older gentleman -- on the afternoon duties at my job. I have never really had this responsibility before at any job I've ever had at any time in my life. I am almost certain this has to do with the fact that my social skills are inept at best, and downright retarded at the worst. But it is now my duty to make sure this guy can fill in for me when I go on vacation. He's picking up the afternoon stuff just fine thus far, but that's not what this post is about.

This little training session reminded me of a question I get every single time, without fail, any time I reveal that I have a degree in English. That question, of course, is "What did you want to do with that, be an English teacher?"

The answer every time, of course, is a resounding "no."

If I wanted to be an English teacher, I would have become one. I imagine getting a license to teach isn't all that difficult, and finding a job isn't too much harder... if you don't care where you teach.

But my reasons are a little deeper than that. Namely, I would be horrible at it. Let's look at the reasons why.

I'll start at the beginning by saying that I coasted through grade school -- a private one no less, so no blaming the public school systems! -- and high school. I didn't have to study for anything. People in my classes always asked me, the awkward, quiet kid if they could copy my work. Naturally, I obliged because I didn't really care. (And maybe because I secretly wanted more friends.) The reason I had it so easy is not because I'm really smart (this would be disproved in college) but because I'm apparently really good at remembering shit. With years of reflection, I still believe this to be the key to succeeding in school, at least through 12th grade: rote memorization. With standardized testing being the norm in our great country, I don't think this has changed any since I was in school.

This would not be a good way to be a teacher, as my solution to the problem of someone not knowing something is usually to just give them the answer. Even when I was school, concepts were of no importance to me. I was told 6+4=10, and I couldn't care less why it equaled that; I just remembered it was 10 so I could move on to the next one. This is obviously not a good way to teach anyone anything, and would only be setting those poor kids up for failure, even if the little bastards would score highly on state tests under my tutelage.

I mentioned my lack of social skills before, and they would also come into play here. I was explaining to my co-worker how to use the mail metering machine and FedEx online, and during the course of the conversation, I could feel my voice getting hoarse. It occurred to me that my throat and vocal cords hadn't been used like that in some time. Hell, my own girlfriend hasn't heard me talk that much, but I'm supposed to get up in front of a bunch of kids for 50 minutes at a time, 6 times a day for 180 days? But it's not even the physical limitation that bothers me; my body would get used to it.

The real problem is that I very rarely have anything of substance to say to anyone, much less a bunch of strangers. And even when I do, I have a whole hell of a lot of trouble actually saying it. Isn't that kind of what teaching is? Let's not even get into my impatience for stupidity or my ability to get bent out of shape over the most trivial things. I would be fired in the first week after some smart-assed punk mouthed off to me about how "boring" Shakespeare is.

Shakespeare brings me to the final point, which is curriculum. If I were to take a job at a local high school, I would have to "teach" what the state wanted me to teach. Most of the shit you read in high school is boring as hell. I thought it was then, and if I were to revisit it now I would probably feel the same way. This, not-so-coincidentally, is the same reason you don't find me being a copywriter or technical writer or writing for any publication that will have me: when it comes to writing, I am not a whore. I won't write whatever you tell me just to get my name out there. Nor can I bring my heart and soul -- which I think is the strength of my writing -- to soulless renditions of procedural manuals or reviews of bands that I couldn't give a shit about. Fuck that.

It is no secret that when I didn't care about something when I was in school, whether grade or high school or college, that I didn't apply myself. This is why I nearly failed my final math class in high school, or my foray into the Spanish language in college. This is also why I would fail as a teacher, because if I think "Romeo and Juliet" is a piece of shit (I don't, but stay with me) it will come across to my students. I could never fake interest in a subject.

Not that you are, but if you were wondering what my syllabus would be for a high school English class, it might start with these books: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Cash: The Autobiography by Johnny Cash, High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, and Leaving Las Vegas by John O'Brien.

Essentially I think I would be the Craig Counsell of teachers. He's been a member of two World Series-winning teams; I got mostly good grades in school, specifically in English. He is thought of as someone that just knows how to play the game the right way, without any flash; I may not have a good understanding of the human condition, but I know that it is the force that drives good literature. But in the end he's more than likely going to take his walks and play adequate defense, but will end up hitting .230 and drive in 20 runs. Not someone you want to put out there every day -- last season excepted -- but a decent backup.

I should not be a teacher of any sort, not even a substitute.