Sunday Bloody NYT Sunday: Special Guys and Balls Edition
Are you ready for some baseball? Opening Day is upon us, which means the Gray Lady, the Paper of Record, will spend the next six months recording every up and down (mostly down) in the annual tatbir undertaken by Yankees and Mets fans. On Opening Day, though, hope springs eternal, even in the Bronx and Queens. So the Times has given us a looooong profile of Masahiro Tanaka, the latest superstar pitcher imported from Japan to help out a Yankees rotation that is pretty much the fat dude who ate C.C. Sabathia and whatever the coaches can wring out of Hiroki Kuroda before his arm falls off sometime around early August. Tanaka was an enormous presence in the insanely regimented world of professional baseball in Japan, where he also became a highly sought-after product pitchman and married Mai Satoda, a minor o-baka tarrento (“literally a stupid talent”). O-bakas in Japan are ditsy celebrities who do things like go on quiz shows and give tremendously wrong answers to questions, such as saying that Africa is the largest country in Europe. The Times tells us that “so-called stupid girls were seen by some as nonthreatening and adorable.” In America that type of girl gets nominated to be Vice President!
The Yankees handed Tanaka $155 million for seven years of throwing a tiny ball sixty-six feet over and over and over again, which is nice for him and his apparently stupid wife, who has gone from being a minor celebrity to being a good little homemaker who cooks her husband sea urchin cream pasta. Perhaps stories like this will distract the ever-intense Yankees fans from worrying over their middle infield defense, which lost Robinson Cano but kept the hobbling corpse of Derek Jeter, and their aging outfield that has tied up a couple of hundred million dollars in Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran…wait, Beltran? He’s still alive? Huh.
Never fear for Mets fans, though. The team in Flushing signed its own Japanese star, Daisuke Matsuzaka, the onetime ace who spent six seasons first winning over and then scaring the crap out of Red Sox fans every time he took the mound. He’s starting the season in Triple-A even though he actually had a pretty good spring. Ah, the Mets, always the bridesmaids of New York sportsball.
Elsewhere, the Times examines the concern of Broadway producers that fewer and fewer men are coming to see their shows, possibly because men prefer to stay home and cheer on whatever Japanese guy is pitching for the Yankees, or maybe because half the musicals mentioned in this piece seem to be adaptations of movies that are either forty years old (“Rocky”) or romantic melodramas that men had to be dragged to even when they starred Clint Eastwood (“The Bridges of Madison County”). Producers have tried attracting the bros with sports-themed material like the aforementioned “Rocky” or recent, quieter shows about the friendship of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird or the life of the legendary football coach Vince Lombardi, but both of those closed quickly and “Rocky” is struggling. This comes at a time when Broadway attendance overall has been declining for the same reasons that movies and television and music struggle to attract audiences: the fragmentation of media into a zillion other options, high-tech home theater systems, the price of tickets, and people generally having less leisure time. It probably doesn’t help that Broadway producers are just recycling old books and movies into musicals, though. Fellas, no one, not even dudes, wants to see John Grisham’s “A Time to Kill” set to music. If you want to attract more men, try “Animal House” or “Caddyshack.”
Yuck, the thought of a show chorus dancing around shouting “Noonan!” accompanied by a full orchestra has just given us the willies. Let’s move on to the Opinion page. Perhaps due to an accident involving a large-bore knitting needle and a Bill Clinton voodoo doll that has left her unable to type, Maureen Dowd has the day off today. But the rest of the page is the usual slog. Let’s race through it before despair sets in and eternal darkness overtakes us.
Every time we think we have hit peak Thomas Friedman, the master of inanity comes up with a headline like today’s “Parallel Parking in the Arctic Circle.” Sweet merciful Jesus, did Thomas Friedman trick some Bangladeshi cabbie into driving him across the pack ice at the top of the world so he could see if he could get a signal on his iPhone up there? No, but someone in the United States Navy thought it would be fun to let the pornstache of the Opinion page spend a night on one of its attack submarines. We suppose we should be grateful none of the sailors was driven so mad after hearing Friedman opine on the lack of wifi-enabled Pizza Huts at the North Pole that he scuttled the USS New Mexico, sending it to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean. We toured an attack sub on a field trip in high school some twenty-two years ago and trust us, it is some tight quarters down there.
Anyway, Thomas Friedman toured a submarine. Did you know “how crucial acoustics are when operating deep under ice with no vision and no GPS satellite to guide you”? Well, in case you have never seen Das Boot or every other submarine movie ever made, you can thank Thomas Friedman for bringing you this insight. Also, that submarines are self-contained and the crews are excellent and efficient as they carry out their duties of tracking the melting ice that will open up the Arctic to shipping and resource exploitation by the end of the century. Ugh. We grew up in a Navy town and have great respect for those who spend months at a time at sea, but we’re a little less comfortable with the New York Times turning over its valuable opinion page real estate to a blatant piece of jingoistic pro-military propaganda that ends with
“Whenever you board this submarine in port, that American flag is flying and you salute that flag,” said (junior officer Jeremy) Ball. “And every time I salute that flag, I remember the reason I joined the Navy: service to country, being part of something bigger than myself and in memory for the attacks of 9/11.”
Remind me again what we’re doing in Washington these days to deserve such young people?
We’re proud of you too, Jeremy. We just think a few fewer attack subs and a little more health care for poor people who do not have access to affordable insurance might be a nice trade-off. Otherwise you’re doing this all to protect a bunch of walking cholesterol bombs who won’t be able to outrun the zombies when they rise for the apocalypse.
For our sins we now turn to Ross Douthat, to see what little flakes of 15th-century wisdom have settled in his brain this week like ashes from nuclear winter. Ross has recently learned a new word — “penumbra,” which here apparently is the swath of the country that grew up in the shadow of some church or other but is not heavily under any religious sway — and figured out a way to work it into his column, along with the genius insight that secularism and religion are locked in battle for the soul of America. Because for Ross Douthat, it’s always time for the Crusaders to strap on their armor and defend themselves from the heathens besieging them on all sides.
But it’s better to regard these problems as a partial indictment of America’s churches: Not only because their failure to reach the working class and the younger generation is making the penumbra steadily bigger, but because a truly healthy religious community should be capable of influencing even the loosely attached somewhat for the better.
A survey recently found that one-third of all millennials who have left their religions did so because of said religions’ hostility to gay rights. Does anyone think Ross Douthat sees a connection between the above quote and his own well-known implacable hostility towards gay marriage? Why, it’s almost as if some churches have become hidebound institutions unresponsive to the needs and desires of a younger generation, and might have to become a little more flexible with the old dogma. Or that some folks don’t want self-loathing neckbeards shoving their inflexible religious morals down their throats.
These arguments turn on constitutional issues, competing visions of freedom, the scope of pluralism versus the rights of gays and women.
Yep, it’s 2014 and the rights of gays and women in our society still exist in tension with Ross’s vision of pluralism. Silly us, we thought gays and women having equal rights was the whole fucking point of pluralism in the first place. Let’s help Ross out with our two-step plan to settle this issue:
- Read what Jesus said about spiritual exhibitionism in the Gospel of Matthew.
- Shut the fuck up.
You’re welcome, neckbeard.