Friday, April 20, 2007

Eric Neel v. English

Because I have a not-so-secret desire to be like Ken Tremendous, Eric Neel's one-man war against the language I speak is my new favorite thing. Just look at how grand he makes an April baseball series look!

I have to say, I'm pretty excited for this weekend's (and next weekend's) Yankees-Red Sox series. This is an unfamiliar feeling (I usually ignore and sometimes revile the 800-pound gorillas).

1. If it's unfamiliar, how can you usually do anything? 2. revile: "n. To assail with abusive language." So you usually ignore and sometimes insult metaphors for large, powerful things. What?

At least for the weekend, I'm just like seemingly everyone else in the world of sports journalism -- endlessly fascinated by the Yanks and Sox.

You can't be endlessly anything for a weekend.

Eric goes on with some stuff about Dice-K that is unoffensively nonsensical. But then...

Matsuzaka's no stranger to pressure. The hopes and dreams of Japan ride on his every pitch, and he knows it.

Because everyone knows that Japan is a country full of simple folk who only care about how baseball players do in America. And bow a lot.

But I wonder, will this atmosphere -- with all its bilious history -- register as some other order of weirdness for him? Will he think, even for a moment, "What the hell have I gotten myself into?" Will there be some step-back, deep-breath, go-to-the-rosin-bag stroll behind the hill during which you can literally see the scene press down on him?

Literally? Eric Neel thinks that some type of physical manifestation of a baseball game will descend and start pressing on a Japanese pitcher? Will it be Don Zimmer's body lowered out of a helicopter or something?

And how will he respond to it?

I'd be pretty fucking scared. But then, I'm not Japanese.

Will we get a glimpse of what's already become his trademark shy, sly smile?

There is nothing shy about Dice-K. And if you start talking about his prepubescent hips, I swear to God...

Will he step back up to the rubber with a sense of purpose and fearlessness and proceed to make the Yankees' hitters look silly just for showing up? Or will he press and sweat and hang sliders and get rung like a bell?

We have reached a point where I am happy that only bad writing awaited me in those sentences.

Chapter 1 in the Matsuzaka story was the posting and the signing. Chapter 2 was the first few "show us what you got" starts against teams the Sox were expected to beat. Sunday is the beginning of Chapter 3 -- the heart of the story, the true outlay of character, the start of the action.

Every dictionary on lists this as the definition of outlay: "n. - an expending or spending, as of money."

So Eric Neel either a.) thinks Dice-K will reveal that is some type of artificial life form composed entirely of dollar bills and credit card receipts or b.) understands not what this thing is that you call the English language. Votes?

Ditto that for A-Rod. His first couple weeks have been comic-book-hero spectacular. With 10 swings he's moved the intractable Alex Rodriguez story lines -- off his no-love affair with Derek Jeter, off his jittery play at third, off the glossy lips and frosted tips, off what he can't do and who he isn't, and onto discussions of 70 home runs, another MVP award, and the return of Yankee greatness. It's been the most radical transformation -- every one of his grimaces from last year finding its counterpoint in a smile and a shout these past two weeks.

I just checked You can, in fact, use "counterpoint" to mean something other than a musical syncopation, according to two of their four sources, if you get down to the fifth or sixth definitions. Then it can mean "any element that is juxtaposed and contrasted with another." I'm still trying to figure out how a grimace can find its juxtaposed element, but I guess it's not completely impossible that Eric Neel knew the meaning and just wrote badly...

The conventional wisdom is that Rodriguez's fate in New York hinges on what he can and will do in October -- which is true -- but it's also true that October really begins this Friday night in April, against the Red Sox. No matter how hot he's been, no matter what thunder he brought down on Cleveland, he's vulnerable right now, his new reputation minted in glass.

Sorry, I was wrong. There's no chance. He got lucky on the definition. In other news, Alex Rodriguez is going to retire as one of the 3 best hitters ever, maybe the best player in history. Good thing you can't mint reputations, or glass, or he'd be vulnerable.

The fates of Matsuzaka and Rodriguez clashing like Godzilla and Mothra -- with smoky, miniature-scale buildings and crushed little plastic cars scattered beneath them -- is drama enough to make me watch.

I'm trying to decide if he made this reference because Dice-K is from Japan. Especially since the Yankees have a different player whose nickname is "Godzilla."

It's not just that I enjoy watching the mighty Yankees scrape and bow a bit (though I must confess …).

That stupid parenthetical notwithstanding, I just spent way too long researching the meaning of "scrape and bow" which means "kowtow," or "act obsequious." So are the Yankees surrendering?

It's that, in the scraping and bowing, they start to take on a little bit of an underdog look, going heads-up with a potent Schilling-Josh Beckett-Matsuzaka hydra.

Well, I guess showing deference would make one appear like an underdog. I guess.

The underdog look doesn't suit them, of course. But that's what I like about it -- its awkwardness, its freshness.

It also doesn't suit them because their lineup will score eleventy billion runs. Even if they are pitching against a potent three-headed hydra.

If they succeed in the six games they have with the Red Sox in the next 10 days, it most likely will be because the Yankees' young punks, who have no business doing so, stepped up and pitched with a kind of moxie the moment demands.

Or it could be because they scored 45,278,347,392 runs this weekend, and only allowed 45,278,346,355. this stretch, early in the season, the job of going toe-to-toe with hated Boston falls to far greener, far shakier, trees.

Jobs fall to green, shaky trees? Am I reading a poem by a high school student on mescaline?

Clearly, I need help.

Help can be yours, Eric Neel! For free! At

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