Sunday, May 21, 2006

Go Barry!

Sports fandom: A.) refuge for the willfully innocent, B.) asylum for the incorrigibly cynical, C.) haven for the hopelessly addle-pated or D.) all of the above.

We’ve got to go with ‘D’ after watching Friday’s pretty decent 6th game of the Spurs-Mavericks playoff, in which San Antonio’s Michael Finley, who gave the best years of his exemplary career to Dallas, was introduced to loud boos from the Mavs fans, apparently for getting in the way of a below-the-belt jab administered by Dallas’ Jason Terry as the teams wrestled for the ball near the end of Game 5, an indiscretion that resulted in Terry’s one-game suspension and the Mavs' probable loss of the series.

This followed close on the heels of the ovation Astros fans bestowed on Russ Springer for hitting Barry Bonds with a breaking ball, an indiscretion---or maybe an accident!---that resulted in Springer’s four-game suspension. Following the Bonds plunking one local TV station interviewed fans at Minute Maid, including a balding, prosperous-looking white guy who related that his dislike of Bonds was based on “his attitude---just the way he carries himself.”

We switched channels before the guy could add, “We took that uppity nigger down a peg!”

We’re sure he didn’t say that, but it always sounds like that’s an element of the underlying sentiment toward Bonds among the sportswriting clergy and those pious, asterisk-demanding fans, who, despite much evidence to the contrary, strike a pose of suspended disbelief and pretend to view baseball as if it’s the same pure, uncomplicated game it was when they were 7 and The Mick and Maris were battling to break Ruth’s record.

We were that 7-year-old, and we remember that summer, a little---the Maris-Mantle derby being the first prolonged public drama of which we were aware (a year before the Cuban Missile Crisis). And we had the privilege, as a 10-year-old, of seeing Mantle hit the first homer in the Astrodome. We held no one in higher esteem, save for our father and, perhaps, Elvis.

As we got older, and our interests broadened, we of course learned of The Mick’s difficulties with alcohol and women and other people in general, yet we were able to incorporate that knowledge into our view of the man without damning him with boos for eternity, just as the knowledge that Jerry Garcia, Mickey's deathmate on one of those days the music died, was a hopeless junkie can’t dim the pleasure we still get from one of his guitar solos.

We’ve never got much of anything from Barry Bonds, yet the opprobrium that’s greeted his quest makes us want to root for him---715, 756, 800! Then Bonds should refuse to speak publicly about the matter until he passes, and in the meantime continue telling everyone to kiss his large, rich and most-likely chemically enhanced black ass.

Meanwhile, Houston sports fans should consider how one of our former home teams figures in The Sopranos plotline regarding Vito Spatafore, Tony’s gay underling, as played by actor Joseph Gannascoli.* According to what Gannascoli told the New York Observer, a good day for Bud Adams forced him out of the restaurant game and into the acting racket:
One football Sunday in 1990, Mr. Gannascoli lost $60,000 on a game between the Houston Oilers and the Pittsburgh Steelers, when the back-up Oilers quarterback helped upset favored Pittsburgh. “I owe Cody Carlson my career,” he joked.
Not many of us can say that.

In the same piece, Mr. Gannascoli, who in real life is married, to a woman, shows Observer reporter Sara Vilkomerson a picture of his younger and much thinner self and recalls that back in the day, “I got more ass than a toilet seat.”

We can never get enough of that line.

Correction Corner: Reader T.A. recently wrote that our “belief” that John Wayne’s The Green Berets came out in 1966 was incorrect, and that the movie in fact was released in 1968. We double-checked with Leonard Maltin and T.A. is right. As always, Slampo’s Place regrets the error, sort of.

*Due to our cheapness, we have only read about this development and not seen any of the current season’s episodes. Last we saw, the menacing Vito was coming up after apparently going down on a security guard at that construction site where Meadow’s college boyfriend was “working.” On the off-chance that anyone reading this is duplicating these shows and would like to share them with us, we certainly would accept the charity. While you're at it, we'd also like the second season of Deadwood.

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