Finding someone to take the hit is as American as apple pie
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Famous people apologize constantly these days.
They apologize for everything they ever did, said or virtually thought if it was controversial and comes to light and doesn’t pass muster with the political-correctness police or the morals of society.
So we have Hall of Fame wide receiver and ESPN NFL analyst Cris Carter apologizing profusely for his remarks at the 2014 NFL Rookie Symposium, where he “advised’’ rookies to have a “fall guy in your crew’’ in case a player got into trouble.
On ESPN’s “Monday Night Countdown’’ before the Bengals-Buccaneers game, Carter looked like a supplicant begging forgiveness from the pope as he somberly declared, “I would never tell young people to break the law to avoid prosecution.’’
My response? My a–!
Carter said what every mobster, politician, big shot, drug dealer and — hate to say it — rich, frisky, party-hearty professional athlete knows or should know: Have someone to take the fall in case there’s trouble.
You think Barry Bonds didn’t work some kind of quid pro quo with his trainer, Greg Anderson, who did prison time rather than sell out his wealthy and famous pal?
In beer ads, they’re called wingmen — the guys who take on the ugly girls so you can score with the hottie. In mob movies, they’re called muscle or “pals.’’ In politics, they’re called assistants or interns or Scooter.
The role became institutionalized in “The Maltese Falcon’’ when Humphrey Bogart talks about the need for a “fall guy’’ to take the heat for a murder. He found one, too, and it worked.
So Carter wants to reel this nugget back in, saying on the show, “It was bad advice. I really, really regret my words when I heard them come back to me.’’
If those words hadn’t come back to him, and the public — via former player Chris Borland, who heard Carter and co-speaker Warren Sapp explain how to get out of a jam and then was interviewed for ESPN the Magazine — Carter would not be apologizing.
Because deep down that dirty little secret he laid out — always have a way to beat the system — is part of the pro-athlete code, something the shrewd dudes know intuitively.
Hell, it’s part of America.
Just ask the Wall Street CEOs and super-bankers who’ve been fined billions of dollars for fueling the recent Great Recession but have never spent a day in jail.
Fall guys rule.
Can these young Cubs avoid SI cover jinx?
Yes, the Cubs are on the cover of this week’s regional Sports Illustrated.
And, yes, there is a curse that destroys any human, building, machine, concept, hope or team that appears on the cover of SI.
This is fact because the Cubs have been on the cover before, and they haven’t won a World Series since 46 years before SI began as a magazine, in 1954.
Plus, Tim Couch, Akili Smith, Scottie Pippen (as a Houston Rocket), Sebastian Telfair and two dachshunds named Jewel and Adele have appeared on the cover of SI. Oh, and Tony Mandarich and Lance Armstrong (with a trio of kids). Plus Kenyon Martin of the Nets. And Marion Jones. And, yep, Sammy Sosa.
The headline says, “Wrigleyville Is Winnerville,’’ and the cover shows Kris Bryant heading toward a greeting party at home plate after hitting a home run.
When I first saw the headline, I thought it said, “Wrigleyville Is Wienerville.’’ That’s my fault because I am beyond jaded to ossified.
I still have the “It’s Gonna Happen’’ SI cover from May 5, 2008 (showing Kosuke Fukudome at bat), and the “Hell Freezes Over’’ cover from the 2004 baseball preview issue (showing Kerry Wood glaring in from the mound).
The Cubs have been on other covers, but so what? They may be 21 games over .500, but they are more cursed than a haunted house. This SI cover is but an extraneous nail in the comfy coffin.
Or is it?
Golly, Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Joe Montana, LeBron James, Peyton Manning, Shaun White, the Blackhawks, the Steelers, the Bulls, the Lakers and every World Series-winning team — plus Kate Upton — have been on the cover of SI before their greatest successes.
So, which way does it turn for these Cubs?
I scan the articles from that “It’s Gonna Happen’’ issue from seven years ago. How was it gonna happen then?
The Cubs were walking more, they were patient at the plate, they led the league in doubles. And manager “Lou Piniella seems to be doling out playing time based on OBP; Felix Pie lost the starting center-field job to Reed Johnson after failing to draw a walk in his first 40 plate appearances.’’
Ah, Reed Johnson!
Ah, Felix Pie!
Pie should have kept his job just for the name part. “Pie Gets Pie in Face!’’ Never happened. Nor did a playoff win.
So rally ’round this cover, Cubbies!
Nothing can curse you more than you’ve already been cursed.
Cubs’ bullpen guys play a game within the game
While we’re on the Cubs, let’s remember once again how boring and oftentimes dumber than several boxes of rocks the existence is for bullpen pitchers.
You sit there for most of each game, lined up on a bench, scratching yourself and spitting seeds, knowing nobody’s going to call on you until the starting pitcher blows up. Even then, it might not be your day, or you’re a resting starter or you’re a righty, and Skip needs a lefty.
So what do you do?
You play a game within the game. Nobody gives “hot-foots’’ anymore (fire is politically incorrect) or puts frogs in caps (cruelty to animals).
But the Cubs’ bullpen plays “chicken’’ with foul balls that come whistling toward their little enclave along the third-base wall at Wrigley Field.
Most parks have their bullpens beyond the outfield wall, and soon enough, Wrigley likely will have its bullpen behind a new wall. But for now, the gang is pretty much in the field of play like a row of ducks at a shooting gallery.
And they embrace that. Bullpen catcher Chad Noble has started a contest for his pals wherein the loser is the person who flinches the most when a ball comes screaming at him. The winner, apparently, is that guy who gets KO’d by a ball, but never moves.
On Monday against the Indians, a rocket hit reliever Zac Rosscup in the hand. Rosscup sat motionless, stoic, as if he were on his couch at home.
This is a dumb game. Pitiful. Juvenile. Risky. Ludicrous.
But, in my book, it’s perfect for baseball.
Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.