Wednesday, July 18

Are You Fitter Than...

It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE GAME.

1. It was at Jose’s gymnasium that he met his old enemy.

The 4x4 white oak tag card, stamped with the outline of a green apple, a granny smith, Jose supposes, lay there on the check-in desk mocking him.

Jose had known this day would come. Ever since he saw the signs around the gym asking “Are you fitter than a fifth grader?” he knew that conflict was inevitable. After 20 long years, across 34 countries on five continents, the President’s Physical Fitness Test had finally tracked Jose down like the furies of myth.

But its victim was a different Jose Melendez. The pudgy ten year-old with whom it had last done battle was gone. In his stead stood a man, stood a broad shouldered, well-pectoraled, moderate exercise machine. Jose took the measure of his old rival. 45 sit ups? Ha, Jose can do that after six or seven beers. 22 push ups? Even easier. +4.0 V Sit Reach? Jose has no idea what that is, but he’s sure he can vanquish it like a soft tossing lefty going through the Sox line up.

That’s when the troubles start. On mile run, 7:57 seconds. Hmm… that might be a problem. When Jose ran cross country in high school, he was the king of the ten minute miles—12 if he was feeling lethargic. Jose had only joined cross country to get in shape for wrestling, which he then quit upon discovering that wrestling mostly involved not eating, and had little or nothing to do with hitting people with chairs. Thus, he took a laid back approach to running. Also, he’s really slow. Could Jose pound out a 7:57 mile now? Maybe, but will he try? Hell no. His knees would rebel faster than Gary Sheffield at a clubhouse meeting.

From there, we move from the improbable to the impossible. There is no way Jose is doing six chin ups. None. These days he could probably do two or three, but six? He couldn’t do six if you gave him a week. The chin ups always seemed unfair. Even the best athlete in Jose’s fifth grade class, a fellow who shared a name with one of the Monkees couldn’t do it. It was a cruel and vindictive goal set by Ronald Reagan in order to shame the nation’s youth into a more aggressive stance towards communism. Jose’s couldn’t do it then, and he can’t do it now.

Thus, Jose must except that he is not fitter than a fifth grader, at least not fitter that this Nietzschen über –fifth greater that the President’s Council on Physical Fitness has pressed upon us like a crown of thorns or batting helmet of nettles.

But Jose will not be defeated. Rather he will stand strong, and in the finest American tradition, he will not yield to the unreasonable demands of lofty goals. No! He will insist upon the soft bigotry of low expectations. He will demand it. Prepare to limbo friends, because Jose is lowering the bar

Instead of offering this foolish “are you fitter than a fifth greater promotion” the problems of which begin with it referencing a Jeff Foxworthy vehicle and spiral from there, Jose offers a different question “Are you fitter than Curt Euro?”

Now there is a reasonable standard, fit enough to be a professional athlete, not fit enough to look good in a tight t-shirt. Even better, since Curt is a big supporter of the President’s perhaps he can get through to the increasingly isolated fitness guru in chief.

In order to meet this more reasonable standard, one would still have to pass five tests.

  • See your feet: 1 inch or more.
  • Strike out Wily Mo Pena in a simulated game: 2 or more times.
  • Write about baseball on line: 10,000 words in one hour.
  • Stay awake playing Everquest: 36 consecutive hours.
  • Fit into a suit for weird wine commercial: 1 time

If you can do all of those, congratulations, you are as fit as Curt Euro. The President salutes you, and invites you to enlist. If not, perhaps you can receive a lesser commendation for being as fit as Rich Garces.

2. A musical tribute to tonight’s Royals starter to the tune of “Oh Mandy” by Barry Manilow.

Come on, sing along! Cue up the youtube video and join in.

I remember in LA
You pitched great and came to play
You picked up 15 wins
Were on the All-Star team
2002 goes by
And slides into

Year 2003,
What kind of season will it be?
Your ERA got high
And you began to cry
Because you realized
How crappy you’re playing, Odalis

Well you give up home runs, we’re not taking
Pitches for strikes today, Odalis
Well you know that our bats, they are waking
We need you today, Odalis

You’re on the worst team in the game
Missing all your long lost fame
Caught up in a world of nickel and diming
Kaufman’s waterfall like tears
And nothing is rhyming, Odalis

Well you give up home runs, we’re not taking
Pitches for strikes today, Odalis
Well you know that our bats, they are waking
We need you today, Odalis

Well you give up home runs, we’re not taking
Pitches for strikes today, Odalis
Well you know that our bats, they are waking
We need you today, Odalis

3. Jose has a new role model. It’s Yi Jianlian, the Chinese basketball player drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the sixth pick in this year’s NBA draft.

What Jose loves about Yi isn’t his size, his soft hands, or his much celebrated ability to post up a folding chair. (Note: Bill Simmons has gotten a lot of mileage out of that joke, but he shouldn’t diminish the accomplishment. Beyond Al Jefferson, do the Celtics have any big men who could post up a chair? Jose is pretty sure that the chair would stuff Kendrick Perkins.) No, what Jose loves is that Yi is refusing to play in Milwaukee because there aren’t enough Chinese people living there.

Actually, Jose is amazed that there is anyplace without a lot of Chinese. Jose once had a friend who came from the Czech Republic near the border with Poland. Jose asked him if there were many Poles who lived in his town and his friend answered “No, but there are a lot of Chinese.” Anyway, someone should let the Czech leagues know that they may be a good fit for Yi.

Buy Yi’s defiance has gotten Jose thinking. Is it really appropriate for Jose to be devoting himself to the Boston Red Sox? Sure they have two Japanese and one Jew, but do they have even a single Japanese-German-Jew? And if so, does that person have a Puerto Rican alter ego? And the city writ large is just as bad. In his 30 years in the region, Jose hasn’t seen a single Japanese-German-Jewish American social club, ethnic festival or awareness day. Have you ever seen gefilte fish sushi with sauerkraut? Nope. This city does not have adequate representation for Jose’s ethnic group, and it is starting to piss him off.

So here’s an ultimatum. Find Mr. Matsu and Okajima some nice Jewish girls or get Youks a Japanese girlfriend and let’s get them banging or Jose is out of here faster than Wily Mo on three straight sliders.

I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.

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