The scale of the tragedies that posterity will commemorate on December 7 has progressively diminished over the years, to the point that the most recent falls well short of even the loosest definitions of tragedy. It may not even qualify as bad news. We wish we could pretend that we’re exercised and wrought over Clemens’ probable departure from the hometeam, but we aren’t. For starters, we’re a fair-weather fan, at best, and long ago shed any sentimentality we once harbored in regard to professional sport (it was about 1967). And on a merely personal level, we never much cared for Clemens before he signed with the Astros, believing him to be the prickish sort, although we of course admired his competitive drive and the way he tried to drill Mike Piazza with the broken bat, etc. We’ve also found his shill-ery for the San Antonio-based supermarket chain to be bothersome, in a strictly aesthetic sense (i.e., “not pretty”).
Public opinion seems mixed, at least the public opinion of poor Richard Justice, the Houston Chronicle’s usually astute sports columnist, who was so torn by the Astros’ non-move that he wended his way through many inches of newsprint coming down firmly on both sides of the issue. His point, we think, was that while there were sound reasons for tightwad McLane to relinquish Clemens, the Astros owner should have made the effort to come to terms with possibly broke-down pitcher (as his last two starts would suggest) because … he should have. Justice had already secured his credentials as a world-class sentimentalist with his heartfelt brief on behalf of oldster Jeff Bagwell’s insertion into the line-up as designated hitter for the World Series. That worked out well, you’ll recall (at least Justice refrained from padding out his Clemens column with the revelation that he had recently learned the meaning of the word ambit.)
Another small tragedy befell Houston on this December 7, one that we found more troubling than the probable loss of the seven-time Cy Young winner and noted backyard grill-ist. It happened near our neck of the metropolis, on the campus of Westbury High School, where 27 students were arrested after what was variously described by the media as a brawl or a mini-riot that reportedly pitted students from Houston and against evacuee students from New Orleans (we use the word “students” simply for lack of a better shorthand description, because you can safely bet the mortgage that none of those involved have done any studying for years, if ever).
While this unfortunate episode (unfortunate for the school, the school district, and the great majority of Westbury students who were trying to keep their heads down and escape into the larger world with a high school diploma), has deservedly received extensive media attention, we’d like to point out something that is perhaps so obvious that it goes without saying: that at bottom this incident was about absolutely nothing, nothing except the ongoing infantilization of a too-large portion of our African-American youth, another sorry example of what the comedian Dave Chappelle has called “When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong.”
As summed up by one Anthony Brassey, identified as a Westbury alumnus, for Channel 2:
“As for the Houston kids, they are taking it like, ‘This is my home. You can’t take over my home.' New Orleans kids are like, ‘They put us over here, so since we’re over here, we’re going to take over.' ”Which, in its sheer incomprehensibility, just about explains it all.