August 14, 2007

Back in the Game

It’s obvious that Rickey Henderson’s days are spent out-running golden retrievers at the park to steal their Frisbees in his mouth mid-flight, and his nights racing Deion Sanders in no-holds-barred, techno-thumping 10k fun runs through the mean streets of downtown Oakland (lined with underground gangsters and street thugs hustling to hold out cups of water and orange slices).

And it’s pretty obvious that Reggie Miller keeps a bottle of talcum powder and a peel-back shoe-sticker-grippy-mat-thing next to his front door at home, and rubs powder in his hands and gives his wingtips a little grip before he leaves the house each day.

But what’s most obvious of all is that old geezers don’t know when to quit. Personally, I think it’s great: I love Charles Oakley, especially if he turns out to be as big as the Radish Spirit in Spirited Away. He too should end up on the Celtics, so he can mentor Big Baby Davis in the ins and outs of using brute, gastronomical force (a.k.a. body-slamming opponents) towards effective rebounding and boxing out the lane.

I’m rooting for them because I also wish I could leave my desk job for another run at the championship (it’s the only thing that’s eluded my grasp). And really, I’m rooting for more guys like them to climb out from under their rocks and get back in the game. It doesn’t even have to be the major leagues. I’d settle for barnstorming. Hell, I’d even buy an old mystery trip school bus and some musical instruments and teach them all to play a few waltzes if it meant getting them back in the game.

We could stumble around the South and the Mid-West and New England, playing local teams by day and local taverns by night. I think we might even make decent bread from the gigs, enough to only have to sleep in the bus a couple a nights a week. So if I had to put a team together, here’s who I’d get (cue ‘getting-the-team-together’ montage music):

I’d start by floating out to the offshore drilling platform where that grizzled roughneck Gorman Thomas is hiding and name him my starting center fielder and fiddle player. Then Thomas and I would drive the mystery trip school bus out to the most lonesome roadhouse and convince Chuck Knoblauch that there’s still aim in his arm (we’d also give him pick of the litter for musical instruments and we’d hold back our snickers when he chooses the trombone). We’d bond over siphoning diesel out of the sleazy carnival-ride-towing eighteen-wheeler owned by Lance Parrish, and when Parrish comes out with his shotgun, we’d trick him into ditching the trailer for a mask, some pads, and lessons at an upright piano. The rest would be easy.

We’d lure Nolan Ryan out of his yard with a trail of Advil and he’d willingly learn the drums as part of his Stockholm Syndrome. Kevin Maas would join up based purely on our promise of a hot meal and a shower every night (and it would only be later that we’d learn he could hit a high G on the trumpet). Bobby Bonilla would join on a lark and then follow behind the bus in his Bentley, and though he sang with a feminine alto and knew quite a few standards by heart, his financially brilliant move with the Mets over deferred payment would cause fissures with the rest of the team and we’d have to ask him to leave; we’d get Ron Cey to replace him after ditching his graveyard shift at an all-night diner. Garry Templeton would join simply because he played a mean upright bass, Ruben Sierra would get sick of the high life and fulfill the urge to learn to read music, and Jim Rice would simply want to bash the ball out of the park again.

Miller, Oakley, Allan Houston—those guys can have their championship dreams, but they’ll be coming back as role players. More in the limelight as creaky-kneed anomalies, not superstars reclaiming the stage.

But a rag-tag team of all-stars on the field and a snappy nine-piece big band that rocks the house from coast to coast? Now that’s what I call getting back into the game.

No comments: