Gary Carter died last week.
The Hall of Fame catcher is being remembered as a good teammate, a great catcher and an exemplary man. I was particularly moved by two of the remembrances. One was written by Jeff Pearlman, who once wrote a great book about the ’86 Mets. The other came from our friend, John, on his site, 200 Miles From The Citi, who mourns Carter as a baseball player and, more importantly, a vessel through which he entered the world of sports fandom.
Gary Carter’s passing didn’t hit me quite as hard. I liked “The Kid” when I was younger, but I was (and still am) a Yankee fan. I never felt a deep connection to him. He was, however, a key figure in an incident which, in many ways, cast the die for the rest of my life.
Here’s my Gary Carter story:
During the late summer of 1987, my parents went to see the US Open at Flushing Meadows. It was a Saturday night. My brother and I stayed home with a babysitter. I was nearing my ninth birthday. He was 5.
We woke up Sunday morning and went downstairs for breakfast as usual, but our parents had a surprise for us.
My dad had a huge grin on his face “Hey guys, guess who we sat next to at the US Open last night?” Obviously, we had no idea. My mom chimed in. “Gary Carter!”
WOW!!!!! We had so many questions. Was he nice? Did he eat ice cream? (Ok. We only had 2 questions. But, like I said, I was 8 and he was 5. Ice cream and smiles are about as far as we thought ahead.)
“Yes, he was very nice,” my dad said. Then, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. “Look, we even got you an autograph.” He handed the paper to my brother. This didn’t strike me as odd at first. Maybe my brother was standing closer to my father at the moment. Maybe we both looked down at the paper at the same moment. Maybe I was 8 and I didn’t yet realize how cruel the world would eventually prove to be.
Gary Carter had very nice handwriting. That was the first thing that struck me. My mind was elsewhere when I got to the second word of this message:
“Did you get one for me?” asked a not yet world weary 8 year old Justin.
“You don’t like Gary Carter,” responded my mother, “We didn’t even think to get you one.”
WE DIDN’T EVEN THINK TO GET YOU ONE!
I started to pout. Again, I WAS 8!
My father was having none of it. “Stop whining. We sat next to Michael Milken also. Did you want his autograph too?”
And that’s when I learned an important life lesson. There was a favorite, but it wasn’t Gary Carter.
(Don’t bother googling Michael Milken. He was an investor who made millions in the junk bond market before going to prison for securities fraud.)
AFTER THE JUMP: NIPPLES!!!!!!!!!!
Every January, Sports Illustrated starts including a box on the Letters to the Editor page, advising readers to contact the magazine if they don’t want to receive the Swimsuit Edition. For years and years, I’ve seen that box and thought, “what kind of stick in the mud priss would go to the trouble of contacting Sports Illustrated to say they don’t want the Swimsuit Edition to even show up in their mailbox?”
Now, though, I’m considering taking the magazine up on it’s offer. It has nothing to do with being offended by images of women in swimsuits. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. I’m offended that Sports Illustrated thinks I want to see this women wearing anything at all.
There was a time in my youth when I would grab the swimsuit edition when it arrived, run upstairs with it and begin my search for nipples. Oh, nipples. You were once so exciting. But, you’re time has passed. Thanks to the internet, I can see full boobies and other lady parts whenever I want. (In theory, I can do this in real life, too. In reality, that has not been my experience.)
The Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition has outlived its utility. All it does now is make my mail too heavy and take up space on my coffee table. I get it, throw it with the rest of my magazines then toss it out a week later, having never given it more than a cursory thumbing (Which, ironically, may also be my problem with the ladies.)
The Meaning of Pebble Beach by Michael Bamberger
This article is billed as a wrap up of Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods’ final round at the Pebble Beach Pro Am last weekend. Mickelson won, while Tiger struggled with his short game and finished out of contention. But, in reality, it’s a desperate cry for help from Michael Bamberger, one of a thousand golf writers who have staked his career on tracking Tiger’s domination of the sport but is now left flapping in the breeze as Woods struggles to regain his once dominant form. So, he writes an article about how Tiger is showing indications of improvement. But, he never mentions the fact that Tiger missed multiple putts during his final round flameout. It’s selective amnesia. Bamberger is like Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, looking for signs all over the place that what he believes to be true is actually happening. Dreyfuss got his aliens. Bamberger may not get his Tiger back.
The Best Damn Ball In The Land by Kelli Anderson
Anderson writes a piece on Big Ten Basketball, which is having a standout season. While the programs at Ohio State, Michigan State and Indiana are the headliners in this piece, I choose to focus on Penn State’s basketball team. Their first year coach is Patrick Chambers, who left Boston University after a short but successful run with the Terriers. He also seems like a good guy. Last week, he had his team hold the ball while up big towards the end of a game. That meant the Nittany Lions didn’t reach 70 points. And that meant students who attended the game didn’t get free Big Macs at a local McDonalds. And so, Chambers showed up at the McDonalds the next day and bought everyone Big Macs.
Variety Show by Michael Rosenberg
This is a profile of the #2 in the country Syracuse Orangemen. I’ve found it odd all season that Syracuse has been able to be so successful, with the Bernie Fine scandal seemingly hanging over their head. This article explains how that’s possible. It turns out, Jim Boeheim doesn’t really spend any time with his players. When he says the Bernie Fine situation affects him but not his players, he means it.
From Couch To Clutch by Pablo S. Torre
It’s Sports Illustrated’s Linsanity article!
By now, I should be jaded by Jeremy Lin. I should be tired about hearing about him. Neither is true. I find the story endlessly fascinating. It’s honestly like nothing the sports world has ever seen before. As far as I’m concerned, you can’t talk about it enough. And I’m obviously not alone. I work with some crusty old news guys. Nothing gets them excited. Every time anything happens, they act like they’ve seen it a thousand times before. Even they are excited about Jeremy Lin. That says it all for me.
The Little Ball of Hate by Michael Farber
Michael Farber profiles Boston Bruins troublemaker Brad Marchand. This quote sums up everything I hate about this article:
Despite getting mere snippets of power-play time, Marchand, a healthy +22, began the week with 19 goals for a team that has overcome a Stanley Cup hangover so severe it lacked only a tiger and Mike Tyson. After a 3-7-0 start the Bruins (34-17-2), with an NHL-best +64 goal differential, sit snugly in second place in the East, behind the Rangers. Boston bears watching in the second half, just as Marchand should be monitored … well, constantly.
First of all, the Hangover reference is forced and unfunny. That movie is now more than 2 years old. Find a new reference point. More importantly, though, is the reference to the Bruins being snugly in second place behind the Rangers. Why hasn’t Sport Illustrated written about the team in first place? How about a profile of Ryan Callahan, a steady young player whose offensive game has begun to peak midway through his first season as Rangers captain, all while leading an inexperienced team through a surprisingly dominant season.
The Legacy of Wes Leonard by Thomas Lake
Lake writes about a high school basketball player from Michigan who died on the court seconds after hitting a game winning shot. When I finished reading the story about Wes Leonard, I was left with one thought: Why bother? Leonard seems like the perfect kid. He’s athletic, friendly and personable. And what’s it get him? A dangerously enlarged heart that exploded before he turned 20. This article comes a week after SI wrote about the high school wrestling coach who led a seemingly righteous life, only to be struck with a debilitating disease. I’ve spent most of my day lying on the couch. I’ve done nothing that contributed to society. I’m perfectly healthy.
Point After by Roy Blount, Jr.
A column about how no one cares about the New Orleans Hornets. He’s right.