No Pepper Games: Small Talk
Post by Cincinnatus Van... on 4/24/2012 2:00pm
Scott Walker is a great guy.
Boy, would that be a stupid sentence to lead off this column with.
If I was writing this column in Waukesha, maybe I'd lead off like that. But I know where I live, among the tofu-eating, hemp-wearing, Che-quoting, drum-circling redistributionist collective People's Republic of Isthmustan.
There are things you can’t say here.
Ozzie Guillen and his big mouth have been fixtures around the White Sox organization since the days of rotary telephones. As player and manager, it was a news day when Ozzie didn't say something controversial. Last month, Ozzie declared his love and admiration for Fidel Castro in a Time Magazine interview. If Ozzie would have said that in Chicago, the city would have just shrugged its big shoulders.
Ozzie's not in Chicago anymore. He's the new manager of the Miami (nee Florida) Marlins. Hating Fidel Castro is as much a part of Miami as gaudy architecture and flip-flops as formal wear.
Ozzie apologized, of course. One always does. He served a five-game suspension. He's now back with the team, but that interview will haunt him the rest of the time he's a Miamian.
When they hired Ozzie Guillen, the Marlins knew what they were getting into. Ozzie is just now finding out what he got into when he went to Miami.
There are things you can't say there.
There is a fact I have learned in my many years upon this earth. The only people interested in your political opinions are the people who agree with you.
Sometimes in this life we have to talk to the disagreeable, and we need something to talk about. This is why the Good Lord gave us weather and professional sports. I am starting to think the weather has the advantage in this regard. You will never hear a cumulonimbus cloud spout off on how it feels about Fidel Castro.
I am adamant on this point. Politics and sports should not be mixed. They are like peanut butter and onions. Laurel and Costello. The views of the modern athlete on any topic not related to modern athletics should remain unexpressed.
This rule extends to Packers. The late Reggie White took a non-partisan invite to the state Assembly as an opportunity to proclaim God's views on homosexuality. He was not then in a position to know God's views. He is now much closer to God and can ask directly, but he is in no position to address the state Assembly.
Mark Chmura refused to go to the White House after Super Bowl XXXI because he didn't like the family values of President XLII. This turned out to be a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. Chmura's kettle was a hot-tub full of high-school girls.
When a pro athlete lumbers into the political arena, like a brontosaurus into LaBrea, the ripples go far beyond the locker room. They extend to every corner of this great land and poison that most everyday of interactions; small talk.
For example, you and I meet on the street. You are my neighbor. I wish to have a pleasant chat with you. Your politics may by risible and your religion heresy, but this is no reason why we cannot have some social intercourse that will cement our pleasant relations and reaffirm our common humanity.
I say, "I see the Marlins are starting Josh Johnson against the Mets tonight." You scream, "Marlins? Ozzie was oppressed! ¡Viva Fidel!" Then you #occupyMySidewalk, we both rush off to tweet about what a jerk the other is and a pleasant chat is ruined.
It does not take a rocket scientist to see that the art of small talk is going the way of the space shuttle. This is not inconsequential. The Paris Peace Accords that got us out of Vietnam were started by six months of negotiating over the shape of the table. It may seem silly to haggle over such a thing with troops in the field, but such small talk kept the conversation going. Small talk, in such a case, is better than no talk at all.
Why can't we return to the days of the pleasant, inconsequential conversation? When we've lost that, the ability to talk about the important things cannot be far behind. For the sake of civilization, we must get our heads out of the shiny distracting things we carry and look up and talk. For crying out loud, you can't even have a pleasant chat at a ballpark anymore.
Dear Old Fenway celebrated her centennial this week. Now, there's a ballpark where you have to get to know the guy sitting next to you. You're practically in his lap. So you sit, and you chat about what kind of year Beckett's having, and the fact that the middle of the order isn't hitting, and when Ortiz finally does poke one to the seats in right, you stand up, high-five the former stranger next to you and cheer.
Look at Marlins Park, baseball's newest, and you'll see where this mania for shiny distractions has led us. There's a... thing... in center field. When a Marlin hits a home run, the... thing... lights up. And plays music. And sprays water. And dancing birds and fish go round in circles.
This... thing... looks like Walt Disney and Lady Gaga had a love child and then vomited Jell-O shots on it. Somewhere in heaven, Liberace is looking down and saying, "It's TOO much, darling."
There is no conversation after a home run. There is no chatting with your neighbor. Everyone is too busy looking at the... thing.
For small talk to happen, people need to get their heads out of the shiny things. They have to actually talk to one another, they need to have something to talk about. This is where sports--neutral and apolitical sports--come in. I started this column with a statement that will get me toasted in half the state and tarred in the other. I will end it with a simple question. An icebreaker. A conversation starter, if you will.
How about them Brewers?
Talk amongst yourselves.