One Italian Mudslide, On the Rocks

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Among the bits of paper piled in loose heaps on my desk, which i’ve been trying to organize for months, i find a headline ripped from the Oct. 4 paper that drew attention from the boss as a Bad Example. Needless to say, i wrote it. But i’m keeping it in case i ever get a teaching job again, because i think it’s very instructive.

The head reads, “Italy mudslide toll climbs.” There was a horrible mudslide in Italy with loss of life; this was the “second-day” story, in which rescuers had found even more bodies. The boss insisted that that headline never should have made the paper — instead, he claimed, it should have said, “Italian mudslide …”

Somebody on the desk agreed with him (there’s always one of those), saying, “Yeah, like you don’t say, ‘France soldiers’; you say, ‘FRENCH soldiers.'” The truth is, and when i run a paper, i’ll tell all the copy-editors this: It’s a matter of ear. No, you DON’T say, ‘France soldiers.’ But you DO say, ‘U.S. soldiers’; in fact, we say it all the time. And G-d knows we say, ‘Newburgh police,’ ‘Middletown festival,’ ‘Ulster officials,’ etc., multiple times in every paper.

i say — and i say it often, with thanks to John Lennon each time — ‘Whatever gets you through the night.’ i would have had to come up with, in 5 7/8 inches, another way to say the same thing, or reduce the headline by about 5 points (the designers would have bounced that right back to me) to get ‘Italian’ in the place of ‘Italy.’ On deadline.

To me, an “Italian mudslide” is a dessert you’d order at a TGIFriday’s, or a drink at some bar in an Italian neighborhood in Syracuse. It would have espresso coffee in it, and Kahlua, and vanilla ice cream and brandy, and blackberry liqueur. (Wait here a minute while i retch, will you?)

There. All better. Anyway: ‘Italian mudslide’ just didn’t sound right to me, and it still doesn’t. What do you think?

Mets: Call me

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Did you hear that the N.Y. Mets have hired former player Mookie Wilson as their minor-league “Baserunning Coach”?? My immediate reaction was: PLEASE RE-THINK THAT, GUYS.

There’s no way i couldn’t do that job, and i’d do it for probably a tenth the salary they’re paying Mookie (… which would no doubt quadruple my current salary: a win-win!)

OK, i could never keep a secret: Below is exactly what i would do if hired. Here, my friends, are the 3 steps that every successful Baserunning Coach must master.

1. Wait till someone hits the ball. (With the Mets, this could take a very long time.) Anyway, the moment bat meets ball, leap from your seat and charge up the dugout steps, yelling, “Run, you bastard! Run!”

2. When a hitter arrives safely at first base, that’s when you really swing into action. Of course, there’s already a first-base coach there — whom the Mets are paying WAY more than they’re paying you, but let’s not think about that. Instead, think about The Signal you and the players have set up for this very situation. The Signal consists of you, the professional Baserunning Coach, “wiping your nose” in a secret and very clever way so as to hide the fact that you’re actually “pointing” across the field to the third-base coach — who makes more than you and the first-base coach combined, but let’s ignore that. The goal here is to remind your baserunner to watch the third-base coach, who will tell him how big a lead to take, whether and when to steal, and when and how far to run. In other words, he’s five times more important than you’ll ever be — and makes 20 times more money, but we don’t really care.

3. Go and sit down in the dugout again, looking very thoughtful and clapping your hands a few times. This makes viewers, players, and managment think you’ve done something.

And there you have it. Mookie, take notes and practice, practice, practice; you’ll get it. But meanwhile, i already have it.

So, Mets: If on second thought you realize i’d be every bit as good a Baserunning Coach as the Mookster, and quite a bit cheaper, just give me a call! I’m available.

Pro Bowl: Guilty as Charged

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It occurred to me after yesterday’s “game” that being selected for the NFL Pro Bowl is a lot like being selected for jury duty.

Your mind immediately rushes to what you’d rather be doing that day, how you can get out of it, and who’ll back up your story.

“February 3? It was an honor to be chosen, and i’d love to do it, but i’m going to have a death in the family that day.”

“Your honor, my family’s flying to Costa Rica the day before that, and we’re staying for a week. Non-refundable tickets.”

“My (wife) (girlfriend) is going into labor that day. Yes, we know it already. It’s one of those scheduled deals. She’s overdue already.”

Keep thinking. Keep thinking. You DON’T want to do this.

And yet, most invited participants DO show up, and it never turns out to be as bad as you thought. You even get your travel, meals, and parking expenses paid.

It’s just hard to imagine anyone paying to watch it.