Thursday, July 5

The Goddess of Divine Retribution

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

1. Nemesis.

In Greek mythology she was the goddess of divine retribution, the avenger of hubris, or, more abstractly, the notion that people will get what they deserve. In the Marvel Super Heroes role playing game, it was the power to counter any opponent's power (note to nerds: think of the sentinel Nimrod). And in Star Trek, it was a really lame movie, though maybe not quite as lame as the one with F. Murray Abraham,

And today, Nemesis is Joey Chestnut, and she is a civil engineering student from San Jose California.

Until yesterday, the legendary Takeru Kobayashi, the Japanese Eating Machine, had been unrivaled, undefeated by man, having lost only to a Kodiak bear on Fox’s Man vs. Beast. But no more. Kobayashi went down to ignominious defeat at the hand of Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, in the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Championship at Coney Island before a live crowd of 30,000 and millions more on television, including your Boston Red Sox, who were poised to take the field mere minutes after a “Reversal of Fortune” ended Kobayashi’s day.

But is Kobayashi less for having met his nemesis, for finally having succumbed?

In a way, of course he is. He is no longer undefeated and unrivaled. But in another way, a real way, the defeat has made him all the greater, because it enhances his narrative. Every Holmes needs his Moriarty; every Maggie Simpson needs the baby with the one eyebrow. The Red Sox have the Yankees. Roger Clemens had Dave Stewart. Mariano Rivera had Bill Mueller. Mickey Mantle had the bottle. Ali had Frazier. Thurman Munson had gravity. Chamberlain had Russell. Bird had Magic. Billy Martin had a bridge abutment.

And were any of them lesser for having the rival, for having met their match? Well, Clemens, who never got by Dave Stewart (note: or Jeff Suppan) but not the others. Nemesis is part of the heroic narrative (note: okay, technically it’s part of the tragic archetype, but give Jose a break, his nemesis is factual accuracy), and it is this very struggle of hero vs. nemesis, thesis vs. antithesis, that transforms the merely great into synthesis of legend. (Note: Yes, Jose is using the hot dog eating contest as dialectic.)

Rocky Marciano never met his match, but was he truly the greater for it? Who knows what heights he could have reached had he been pushed? This is America. And on this day after the celebration of our independence, we do well to recall that competition is at the core of our national identity. It is the competition of ideas, of men, of teams, of businesses that drives excellence, that creates brilliance.

So, congratulations to Joey Chestnut, and congratulations to Takeru Kobayashi. You need each other, you deserve each other, and you will transform each other from men into myth.

2. Halfway through the season, the Red Sox hold an 11.5 game lead over the second place Blue Jays and a 12 game lead over the third place Yankees, and they have 16 games remaining against the lowly Tampax Bay DRays. That means that for better or for worse (note: for better), the Red Sox’s ability to take the division will be determined largely by their ability to beat up on one of the worst teams in baseball.

While this is good news for the Sox’s chances to take the division, it is bad news for fans of drama and excitement. It is more anticlimactic than a night with A-Rod.

It does not follow an appropriate dramatic arc for the heroes to vanquish the lowest of the low in the last act. Did Return of the Jedi end with Luke Skywalker having a light saber duel with a Jawa? Nope. (Note: Though having the Empire go down to Ewoks isn’t that far off.) Having the Red Sox beat up on the DRays to secure an AL East title is like having a Goomba as the big boss at the end of Super Mario Brothers. It is like having the Hulk Hogan vs. Barry Horowitz as the WrestleMania main event. It is like having Spiderman 4 feature Rocket Racer or the Gibbon as the villain.

Anticlimax fever—catch it!

Tampa Manager Joe Maddon

prepares for 16 with the Sox

3. With fewer than eight hours to go, Hideki Okajima retains his lead in the election to be added on to the A.L. All-Star team, over Roy Halliday, Jeremy Bonderman, Kelvim Escobar and Pat Neshik.

Reports out of Detroit confirm that Jeremy Bonderman, in an effort to overtake Okajima, has contracted former Florida Secretary of State and Congresswoman Katherine Harris to work on the vote. Harris’ duties will reportedly include, disenfranchising Japanese voters, on the ground that they’re “furners” and hiring Diebold to ensure that any vote cast for Okajima is registered as a vote for Pat Buchanan .

In a related story, by participating in the election process, Harris replaces Julian Tavarez as the most batsh*t insane person associated with Major League Baseball.
Battle of the Titans: Who's Crazier?
I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE GAME.

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