Oct 17, 2013

Ironic, Man

posted by killre

Someone needs to verbally slap Cal Ripken, Junior, silly-- as if he wasn't already silly enough.  Since none of the jock sniffers in his immediate orbit have the jock fillers to tell him he sucks grass as a broadcaster, I guess it'll have to be me.

Ripken, as most of you know, is a Hall of Fame former baseball player whose greatest claim to fame is playing in almost every game for eighteen seasons of a twenty-one year major-league career.  As many of you no doubt further know, he has recently joined the TBS broadcast team covering first the League playoff series between the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers and now the League Championship Series between the Dodgers and those Poo-holes from Saint Loo.  (I don't care that Albert Pujols is no longer with that franchise, I'm sticking with the name.)

In the broadcast booth, Ripken joins Ernie Johnson and Ron Darling.

Johnson is a solid if unspectacular play-by-play man who would rather be anchoring basketball coverage, playing golf or dressing as a clown and enticing people to honk his horn, but the baseball paycheck isn't bad and he's obviously giddy about doing the games with Ripken-- so much so that you'd think Cal was a twelve-year-old and Ernie a long-simmering pedophile with a pocket full of candy.  As for his attitude toward Darling, he acts like he wishes Ron would take a long walk around the concourse so he can have some alone time with Ripken.

Darling is also a former major-leaguer-- a starting pitcher who won 136 games in thirteen years, mostly with the New York Mets.  Since the end of his playing days, he has honed himself into one of the best analysts in baseball-- or any other sport for that matter.  Normally, coming from me, that statement would be damning with faint praise since I tend to have a low opinion of most sports analysts (I usually refer to them simply as "the dumb ex-jock"), but in the case of Darling the assessment is a sincere one.

Darling, in fact, is too good for his own good.  Most sports broadcast teams these days are built on the Abbott & Costello blueprint.  The play-by-play man is Abbott, the straight man; the analyst is Costello, the slightly addled, seemingly tipsy, semi-coherent yokel who can only half the time figure out who's on first.  Darling doesn't fit that mold.  So, to "remedy" the situation of not having a buffoon in the booth, the powers that be at TBS clapped headphones over Ripken's shiny dome and shoved him in the direction of a microphone with one quick lesson in analyzing baseball games on television:  "Don't be nervous-- you're a Hall of Famer... it doesn't matter what you say!"

All of which leads to the dynamic I described above, with Ripken by turns being a gilded hero to millions and also a twelve-year-old boy, and Johnson by turns browning his nose in a gilded cleft (drinking game: drink every time he says "Iron Man") and also trying to be the cool uncle by giving Junior his first beer.

A case in point.  Either Johnson or one of the producers thought it might be a laugh riot to have Ripken announce the defensive alignments before each half of the first inning.  This is akin to Johnson bringing a kid to his job as a locomotive engineer and letting the youngster blow the whistle... and having it cause a train wreck.  Thank the nameless technician who invented video graphics.  This is why they always make sure the guys in the radio booth can read.  Ripken managed to use the words "you got" six times in twelve seconds, which is probably a record.  He did name all nine Dodgers (although one of them is apparently named "Yaseel Peeg"), but the only defensive position he actually named was catcher.

Now that I've introduced the cast of the scenelet I'm going to portray, please bear with me while I wander over here a ways and flog a lame horse...

I find it ironic that the word ironic is so often misused.  I don't get upset about it; I just find it ironic.  See, most of the time when someone describes something as ironic, it isn't.  It's just strikingly coincidental, which is not what ironic means.

It is ironic that, according to some scholars, the word ironic isn't a word-- it's a bastardization of ironical.  The English language has always done this: morphed one word into another, until one becomes "the old form of" and eventually "the archaic word for" while the other grows into "why the hell do we call it that?"  Personally, in the case of ironical, I support our collective dropping of the last syllable, because it is a moderate move toward economy-- unlike the unnecessary s at the end of toward or the insistence of some people that impiousness is somehow the wave of the future when we already have a perfectly good word like impiety.

Furthermore, it is ironic that neither the word ironic nor ironical has a worthwhile dictionary definition (it is a very strained version of "see irony").  The next time someone tells you that you can't use a particular word to define that same word, tell them to look up ironic.  Of course, if you do that, they won't know whether you're being serious or... well, you know... ironic.

Of course, the classic, concrete definition of irony is: "A statement in which the intended meaning is the opposite of the literal meaning."  (Ironically, most people refer to this as sarcasm.)

Rather than delve too deeply into the other, more ambiguous definitions of irony, I'll simply list some of the key words.  In addition to opposite, we have contrast, incongruity and unexpected.

Incongruity.  For instance, it is incongruous that Cal Ripken, Jr. is best known for playing in 2,630 consecutive games between 1982 and 1998 when there were 50 games at the end of the 1994 season in which he refused to play.  That was the year, as many of you will remember, that the players' union went on strike roughly two-thirds of the way into the season and remained on strike throughout most of the ensuing winter.  There were games scheduled.  He refused to play.  Yet his record is unblemished.  Ironic.

Supporters of Ripken's record, of course, will cite the fact that his team, the Baltimore Orioles, did not play any of those 50 games, so they don't count against his record.  His supporters include Major League Baseball.  Ultimately, "Major League Baseball" means the very owners who were Ripken's opponents in the labor dispute that led to his refusal to play.  Ironic.  For those of you familiar with the film L.A. Confidential, MLB's treatment of Ripken is a little like the LAPD pinning a medal on Edmund Exley (played by Guy Pearce) to cover up corruption in the department.  Analogous.

Some things that were not ironic occurred Wednesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium in Game 5 of the League Championship Series...

Zack Greinke singled in the bottom of the second inning, driving in the Dodgers' second run.  That was neither ironic nor coincidental.  Greinke led all major league pitchers with 19 hits in 2013.  His .328 batting average was not just the proverbial pretty good for a pitcher, it was damned good for just about any other position, too.  What is coincidental is that in doing so he became the first Dodger pitcher to bat home a run in the LCS since Orel Hershiser --who threw out Wednesday's ceremonial first pitch-- did it in 1988...against the Mets.

What was even more coincidental --strikingly so-- was what Ron Darling revealed next...

Darling:  "You'll never guess who he [Hershiser] drove that run in off of."

Johnson:  "Is he [the pitcher in question] in the booth?"

Darling:  "Ha, yeah... he's in the booth."

Ripken:  "Which booth?"

The first line (it turns out) is ironic in tone.  The second line is rhetorical.  The third is jocular.

The fourth line?  Emblematic.

P.S.... Bud "I Would Love For James Cromwell To Play Me In The Movie" Selig must go.

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