*because I have to get a post up quick before David Simon Cowell turns this into a Mommy Blog*
Joe Posnanski, esteemed maybe of the Kansas City Sabermetric Mafia, is widely acclaimed as one of the best sportswriters in the business. I understand why. He’s accepting of analytics and new statistics while still paying heed to the more romantic aspects of sports fandom.
Lately, though, Ol’ Pos seems to be taking that romantic stuff a little too much to heart. It’s as if he’s trying to reinvent purple prose with more economical verbiage, but the most flowery, crocodile-tear-soaked emotions known to sport. As Posnanski has wandered from SI to Sports on Earth to NBC in recent months, he’s left behind a trail of heartwarming metaphors that would make Rick Reilly proud.
See if you can pick out the real quotes from Posnanski and which ones we made up.
On Dreams and Children and Such
1) The great thing about being a super hero is that you get to disappear into a secret identity after you save the world. You can put your hands on your hips, stick out your chest, and announce: “My work here is done.”…This is the story about a boy [Theo Epstin] who keeps trying to save the baseball world. He didn’t know that would be his fate. He only knew he loved baseball. He wasn’t especially good at baseball. He just loved it.
2) Eric Hosmer’s earliest memory is watching Field of Dreams with his father. “Someday,” little Eric told his Dad, “I’m gonna be a baseball player just like those guy.” His father laughed it off, as you do with small children and their fantasies. Now, Kauffman Stadium is Hosmer’s Field of Dreams, and that fantasy is a brilliant reality.
3) His youngest son was 10 and ready to play baseball. Friends wanted Matheny to manage the team. There was no way Matheny was going to do that. No way. No chance. He had watched his older children play sports, and he could barely stand it. He watched parents screaming at their kids. He watched parents screaming at the umpires. He watched parents screaming at the coaches. He watched coaches who sucked the joy out of the game, so they could win a stupid trophy. He watched coaches who missed their chance to teach life lessons about character and values, and this was the worst thing of all.
On Fallen Stars
4) Being on a bicycle is about as close to pure freedom as human beings can get. Nothing ahead of you but open road, nothing behind you but the memories you want to escape for a little while, and wind flush against your face. That’s freedom. For Lance Armstrong, his bicycle is a prison.
5) Alex Rodriguez was a 17-year-old kid with otherworldly talent, a killer smile, a great story and a seemingly perfect personality for baseball superstardom. What did he want? He wanted to be famous. He became famous. He wanted to date movie stars. He dated movie stars. He wanted to hit a lot of home runs. He hit a lot of home runs. He wanted to make more money than anyone who ever played the game. He did that. He wanted to be the best player. He was a three-time MVP. He wanted to be a star in New York. He became a star in New York. These are not sinister motives. They are the dreams of a lot of 17-year-olds. “Whatever he has done since then,” Baird says, “it does not take away from what he was at that particular time when he was 17 years old in Miami … if you could freeze those moments …”
6) Somewhere inside we know that even the greatest ever, even Dr. J., even Hogan, even Sampras and Aaron and Musial and Palmer, even Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson and Jack Nicklaus, all of them get old. And when you get old you don’t get young again. It’s the unbreakable rule. And we all understand it: Nobody goes back in time. Except … we keep thinking Tiger Woods will go back in time.
On Cities and Their Teams
7) “They almost came all the way back, didn’t they?”
That last one was a father talking to his son. Both of them wore matching Blackhawks jerseys. Look: It’s just the regular season. The Blackhawks will define themselves by what they do in the playoffs. Everybody knows that. But there is no doubt that the city is ready to fall in love with the Blackhawks. They’re falling already.
8) Some people argue that cities don’t have souls. That cities are just random collections of structures and people that evolve over time. But try telling that to the good people of Cleveland after Art Modell took the Browns away from them. Cleveland without the Browns was a zombie — a lost, soulless wanderer, feeling no joy, no pain, and no love.
9) The Red Sox probably have a little bit more of the town’s heart because of the deep and emotional history and because of the way people in New England pronounce “Sox.”
On Dead People
10) Sabol, it seemed to me, wasn’t talk about how “people” saw pro football. He was talking about how he himself saw pro football all his life. By the end, though, there really was no difference. It started with Steve Sabol seeing football through the ingenious eyes of a child, and it ended with America seeing football through those same eyes.
11) Musial grew up an immigrant’s son in a town where the sky was blackened by the zinc mill. He signed to play baseball. He became a star. He went to war. He hit the ball so hard that in Brooklyn they called him The Man. He raised a family. He got 1,815 hits at home, 1,815 on the road, became friends with the president, inspired Brooks Robinson and Bill Clinton and countless others. Also, it’s true, he played “Happy Birthday” on the harmonica for a lot of kids and adults in a lot of restaurants. See, Stan Musial always carried his harmonica.
12) Derrick Thomas died by the side of I-435 where his body hit the ground after being thrown from his car. Derrick Thomas will live forever. How can both of these be true? Ask the thousands of children who clutch Thomas’s autograph at this very moment, signatures on footballs and programs and scraps of paper, signatures Thomas always gave freely and without complaint.
13) Earl Weaver was 82 years old when he died early Saturday morning while on the Orioles Fantasy Cruise. He worked his way up in the game. His father was a dry cleaner, and so young Earl got close to the game by bringing in clean uniforms from the clubhouse and taking out dirty ones. He sold cars. He worked as a loan officer.
14) Dan Quisenberry’s father was a schoolteacher. He used to make Dan sit at the kitchen table working on fractions and angles, getting each one exactly right and showing his work before getting clearance to go play ball with the neighborhood kids. Dan Quisenberry was going to be damned if what he did for a living involved fractions, angles, or math of any kid. Which is why it’s so perfect that one particular angle — Dan’s arm angle — made him a Kansas City icon.
On Dead People and Broken Hearts, Specifically
15) In the moments after Joe Paterno died, it became common for people to write and say that he died of a broken heart. He did not. Joe Paterno died of lung cancer and the complications it caused. He did not die a bitter or broken man.
16) When Buck O’Neil died — and we’re closing in on five years ago now — there were people who believed he died with a broken heart. My own thought is that everybody who thought that got it wrong. Buck died of old age — he was almost 95 years old when he passed away in October of 2006. And the life he lived, the pain he overcame, the barriers he burst through, the joy he expressed for people and life and baseball, believe me when I tell you that you could not break that beautiful man’s heart.
17) When Len Bias died, many said it due to a broken heart because he wasnt drafted by his hometown Washington Bullets. He did not. Actually his heart exploded after doing enough cocaine to kill an elephant.*
More on Joe Paterno’s Heart
18) The last week or so was filled with pain and goodbyes, but even then Paterno did not falter into self-pity. In the last moment of his life, his son Jay recalled saying to his father: “You’ve done all you can do.” And then Jay saw his father’s shoulders shrug and his eyes close, and he stopped breathing. “My father did not have a broken heart,” his daughter Mary Kay says. “His heart was too strong. It couldn’t be broken.”
I asked Paterno at one point in that last month if he hoped that people would come to see and measure his full life rather than a single, hazy event involving an alleged child molester. “It doesn’t matter what people think of me,” he said. “I’ve lived my life. I just hope the truth comes out. And I hope the victims find peace.”
19) In these uncertain days, people wonder about Paterno’s heart. They wonder if it contains some hidden evil, some darkness he’s managed to keep secret for all these decades. Over coffee and fresh muffins baked by Joe’s amazing and ageless wife, Sue, I ask Joe about these wonderments. “My heart is too full to contain any darkness,” he told me. “Too full with love from every player I’ve ever coached and guided.”
More on Buck O’Neil
20) Buck was beautiful. Darkness to light.
21) Even in his last days, Buck had the thighs of a much younger man. Muscular. Compact. Strong.
On Role Models
22) [George] Brett drives to the ballpark. He drives home. He drives to his in-laws, the Davenports of Northland. He drives to Sports Authority to try out new putters. Finally, he drives to the Negro Leagues Museum on East 18th Street. He sits in the parking lot, contemplative. “You know,” he says. “What really rips me up inside is that none of the guys in that building were my role model. They should have been. But I was robbed of that chance by hate.”
23) Obviously, adults expect so much more from Danica Patrick. Obviously, Patrick expects so much more from herself. She has a chance this weekend — and next weekend and the weekend after that — to break ground and take checkered flags and sell web hosting by flaunting her attractiveness. But, through the eyes of an 8-year-old girl, she has already done enough to be a role model. She has made Katie’s sky just a little bit wider with just a few more stars.
Real Posnanski: 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18, 20, 23
Fake Posnanski: 2, 4, 8, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21, 22
* Courtesy of Arriaga Pizzoza