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Replacing the Cream and the Clear with Vicks’ Vap-O-Rub September 29, 2006

Posted by doctorolove in Sports.
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When you’re sick, it’s what you hope for. It’s known as that one great cough. You know, the one of which I speak. You’ve got something rattling around in the center of your chest that makes your breathing sound like the pinging on a used car you never bothered to tune up. It turns your breathing into a Darth Vader wheeze and every word you try to force out gives you the feel of a Jimmy Durante sing along in the Catskills. You try to force out some little coughs that succeed in doing nothing more than turning your chest into a California forest and sending waves of fiery pain that first grip your chest and ripple out to your extremities like some macabre pain pebble thrown into your chest pond. You know, if you can just force out that one great hacking cough and set free the large mass of gunk squatting in your esophagus, then all would be well. It’s like the reset button. You cough, the chunk frees itself and you deposit it somewhere sanitary (toilet, trash, the drink of the annoying guy next to you who insists on claiming that the words to the song are ‘Excuse me while I kiss this guy…).

Baseball is sick. The games are longer and more specialized. What was once a three hour joy in the park is now like peering over somebody’s shoulder while they play World of Warcraft. The players are all bigger, faster, stronger and it’s hardly because of new techniques in weightlifting (a science that has no real room for improvement…how many different ways can you improve moving weights up and down in a repeated manner, save for varying size and number.) Numbers are inflated, TV viewers are down and if a family wants to hit the ballpark, they need to take out a mortgage and show three forms of ID to get extra cheese on their nachos. Steroids, scandals, and Barry Bonds. It’s kind of like the gladiators of Rome before the fall: a great show (that is tainted), run by a few great people who make too much money. Baseball is sick.

Yet, for those of you who have strayed, something is brewing. The St. Louis Cardinals, a pre-season pick of many a guy whose job it is to predict things that are imminently unpredictable, are in the midst of a collapse of historical proportions. To put it simply, a week and a half ago, they were so far ahead of the teams in their division that they were trying to figure out what championship banner defined them as a person. They were figuring out what young players they can placate by giving them a few major league at bats just to justify keeping them in Hell, sorry, the minors for a few more years. Albert Pujols, their best player, was viewed with such awe that he was plotting just how he could parlay his fame into that most lucrative of businesses: a chain of do-it-yourself lipo clinics (called No-Phat Alberts). They had to win five games with 14 to play. Heck, the other teams losses could even count as wins for them. It was as sure as a date with that girl in your office who hangs out by the copy room and required just as much work.

Their collapse was quick. They haven’t won. The other teams haven’t lost. And suddenly, we are staring at a scenario where this team will have undergone the biggest choke in modern sports history. The team chasing them, the Astros, are quickly becoming media darlings. They are loaded with older guys who are all itching for one last ride into the spotlight. And the Cardinals are playing the Washington Generals to everybody they face: nameless, lackluster uncoordinated guys who just lose every night. The collapse isn’t totally complete yet..as of today, the Cards still hold a lead so slim, it’s making Nicole Ritchie jealous…but I’m here to ask one thing of this team. Choke.

I am not an Astros fan. I am not a Cardinals fan. I am a fan of baseball. And what this game needs is one good choke to free all the gook off of its’ lungs. A choke like the Cardinals are trying to create will be legendary. We can all say we watched it, much like a car wreck. And baseball always needs a good story to vault itself front and center into our nation’s consciousness. Take 1991 when the last place teams arose from futility (Braves/Twins) to take on each other in a World Series for the ages. The nation watched, the fringes watched…heck, my mother watched that one with me. Yes, it was probably to see that guy her idol Jane Fonda was shacking up with now, but still it made the game accessible to people who can’t tell a fastball from a gumball. And, St. Louis, you owe it to the game to take your choke to its’ full extent for several reasons. Nobody likes it when Hulk Hogan was crushed, beaten and driven into the mat and at the last second catches a gust of wind and emerges powerful and huffing mad to win his match. It’s just silly and annoying. And for the game you are a part of, you need to choke to save it. The negative stories surrounding it are strong and your limping into the postseason are not powerful enough to defeat them. But a scrappy group of guys from Texas, filled with cowboys about to sail into the sunset, that can actually win the whole thing, may just negate the negatives.

You need to choke, Cardinals. The story is much bigger than your pride. It’s much bigger than the 12 or so at bats your best player will get on TV. The choke is already making its’ way into the national consciousness and to deny a shot at taking baseball to everybody is just plain stupid. Plus, you reap the benefits of next year when people will watch you closely, wondering if you can do it again (Choke, that is.) Now, I’m not asking you to do it next year too…still, too early and I think we’ll have a couple of new goats to pick on by then…but now, for the game, you need to complete the collapse. Baseball is a game of history and stories told by old men to younger men about the past. You will ensure yourself of your place in history, no matter how dubious. And even though nobody talks about second place, they always discuss the horrible loser. It may take time before you’re not pointed at and mocked openly (A few years of saying somebody pulled “a Cardinal” is painful, but it fades) but years from now, ask yourself this: Would you rather be the martyr that saved the game by bringing it through the dark steroid years or the beaten fighter who won by the skin of his teeth and had nothing to show for it?

Please choke. For the future of baseball. Unlodge the loogie of negativity and make us care about baseball again. And don’t even try to make it interesting. A good cough is painful, quick and never tries too hard. So this weekend, if you can, please continue your freefall, St. Louis. Because this nation needs the game back in its’ collective conscious. The stories are only just beginning. Write them; don’t try to negate them. Your game is sick. And it needs you more than ever.

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Comments»

1. Matt - December 16, 2006

My beloved Cardinals didn’t choke!

I found this by searching for “Vicks Vap-O-Rub” on Google.

2. doctorolove - December 16, 2006

In hindsight, I think they posted this on a wall somewhere in Tony laRussa’s office…Hey, Jocketty, my ring size is 8 3/4 and my words of inspiration were like the tenth man on the field!


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