Saturday, August 8

Back on the Active Roster

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

1. There is an old and prophetic saying in Uganda, in much of the Great Lakes region of Africa really, that is worth recalling in this, our darkest hour. Well, a dark hour anyway

“I will beat you.”

It is not a threat per se; it is a guarantee. It is an expression of certainty that the future is written.

What does a teacher say to a misbehaving student?

“I will beat you.”

What does a husband say to the man he has caught in bed with his wife?

“I will beat you.”

What does a humble social worker say to the family of a neighbor who has stolen from him as soon as he is absolutely certain that the thief, who might fight back, is nowhere in sight?

“I will beat you.” Well, not the family, the guy.

And what do the Red Sox say to the Yankees?

For eight games this season, it was “I will beat you,” but now for three games, who knows what they are saying?

“You can beat us now?”

“Please sirs, we can’t bear another thrashing?”

“I might beat you?”

“I will attempt to beat you?”

Whatever they are saying, it is not working.

Allow Jose to illustrate. Consider the story of a man who is sleeping with another man’s wife in the marital bed. The cuckolded husband returns unexpectedly to discover the indiscretion, and what does he do? Does he allow the fight to go on for hours without anyone scoring a blow? Does he concede defeat to a giant fat adulterer attempting to look skinny by wearing pinstripes? No, he declares simply, in cold and righteous anger, “I will beat you.” And then he does.

It is that simple. It is that brutal.

I will beat you.

I will beat you.

2. Among the difficulties of traveling to distant lands during the baseball season is getting the news of the day in the form of news of the month. For instance, Jose completely missed the Adam LaRoche era. Jose learned that the Red Sox had both acquired and dealt LaRoche at pretty much the same time. In a way, it’s like getting asked out on a first date and told there will not be a second at the simultaneously.

In the normal dating process, a couple (note: or more if you roll that way) starts by agreeing to go out on a date. Then each person gets nervous and maybe even a little giddy with anticipation. Each thinks about what to say, what to wear and where things might go. They have dinner or a drink perhaps take in a film and chat about whatever interests them. Then at the end of the evening, or perhaps even a few days after, they make independent decisions about whether the date was good enough to repeat. If both agree, then they proceed towards a future of some kind, but if even one rejects the premise of a second date, that’s all there is. You know, unless one of them is all stalkery.

But in the case of Adam LaRoche, for Jose it was like a date where a lady tells him even before the first sip of wine or bite of food, hell, as soon as the date is set, that it isn’t going to work. There’s no anticipation, no pleasant tingle, not even the chance for the exhilaration of success or the heartbreak of rejection. And what’s the fun of that? Oh that’s right, Jose didn’t have to watch Adam LaRoche take at bats for a team that is allegedly trying to contend. Very good.

3. Goma, Congo is a mad city. The streets are petrified rivers of lava, the houses are shanties of mud and tin and gorillas and guerillas dance cautiously on the side of a volcano. All of them, ape and man, terrorist and soldier, corrupt border guard and… other corrupt border guard live in fear that one day, one day soon, the conflicts and trials of life may be made irrelevant by a rain of molten rock.

Yet in this most hopeless of places, one man knows hope. Amidst the dust and debris, the chaos and the corruption, Jose saw a man brandishing a symbol of hope, a sign of all that is great and good. It was not a cross, begging the Lord for mercy, the Cross has done the Congolese little good. Nor was it the pale blue of the nations that are hardly united. Rather, it was a tattered blue T-shirt with the number 45 etched in fading red. Martinez, it read on the back. Martinez.

In this sad and struggling land, there was a reminder of something good, something decent in the world. Yes, there was a nice hospital and some good social programs, but damn it, this was a Pedro Martinez shirt, a symbol of all that was once good and can be again. And right then, just after he learned that $10 when given to a border guard can inoculate against yellow fever without an injection and just before a Congolese man decided to show Jose his penis, that shirt gave Jose just a little bit of hope for the Congo.

On the other hand, the Edgar Renteria Red Sox shirt Jose saw in Uganda signaled that the land of the crested crane is pretty much doomed.

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