Tuesday, July 13

The Man is Dead--Long Live the Joke

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

1. Jose is not sorry that George Steinbrenner is dead.

Of course, he’s not happy either.

For the most part, Jose feels what he does whenever any moderately below average human being whom he does not know personally dies—not much.

Sure it would be fun to rant and rave about how loathsome Jose finds the departed, how he was bad for baseball, a convicted felon and even, Jose has heard, a lousy shipbuilder. But that would give the man too much credit.

Instead, Jose prefers to reflect on the comments of an African man in a class for which Jose is a teaching assistant. As Jose mentioned to a friend that George Steinbrenner had died, the African interjected “He was a real guy? I only knew him from Seinfeld.”

To Jose that captures Steinbrenner perfectly. When one takes the measure of the man, sums up a lifetime of debits and credits, the sum, in this case doesn’t matter. The essence of Steinbrenner was neither philanthropist nor felon, industrialist nor instigator. He was a joke. He was a punch line ranting about eating a soup in a bread bowl for lunch every day on Seinfeld. He was the word David Letterman put before “sucks” to get a cheap laugh in the days before Joey Buttafuoco. He was someone who could be played by the tremendously unserious Oliver Platt.

Yes, Steinbrenner was bad for baseball. Yes, he did give a lot of money to the Jimmy Fund. But no, he is not deserving of much celebration or scorn as he returns to the dust. He was just a man, and today he is just a man who died. But the joke, the joke lives on.

I’m Jose Melendez, and that is my KEY TO THE ALL-STAR GAME.

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