By Ryan P. McGowan
They say celebrities always die in threes, such as my personal favorite celeb death trio: Jacques Cousteau, Jimmy Stewart, and Gianni Versace in June/July 1997. And since Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes died within one day of each other, if you’re an overweight, middle-aged black comedian, I’d make sure you are within an arms’ reach of a defibrillator over the next few days.
Apparently, celebrities get overexposed in the media in threes as well. Like George Costanza in velvet, I have ensconced myself in wall-to-wall coverage of Manny Ramirez, Brett Favre, and “Clark Rockefeller” over the past couple of weeks.
One of my earliest memories of the often love-hate relationship between Manny and Red Sox fans came before he was even a member of the team. During a historic 23-7 ass-kicking of the Cleveland Indians in Game 4 of the 1999 ALDS, Boston’s faithful (81 years removed from a World Series title) taunted Ramirez with chants of “Manny’s hit-less… Manny’s hit-less” as the powerful slugger suffered through a prolonged playoff slump at the hands of a Sox staff that boasted such stalwarts as Mark Portugal, Pat Rapp, and Kent Mercker.
Over 7 ½ seasons in Boston, Manny was often cantankerous, rebellious, bored, silent, gregarious, playful, brooding, insular, and sullen, but he was never boring. As a fan, it was a joy to watch Manny hit just as much as it was infuriating to watch him loaf on ground balls to the shortstop and casually ask out of the lineup on the days of big games against the Yankees or Angels. As a writer, Manny was a godsend. Whether he was talking to the media or on a silent strike, there was always something to write about with regards to Manny.
If it wasn’t him discussing his desire to play for in New York or espousing the virtues of ending his career in Fenway Park, it was him coming late to spring training because his grandmother had died for the seventh time in five years. If he wasn’t missing a game to become an American citizen and then running out to left field holding a miniature star-spangled banner the next day, he was high-fiving a fan in Baltimore while subsequently throwing out a runner at second base. He might have been hitting an absolute moonshot of Francisco Rodriguez to walk off with a win in the 2007 ALDS or robbing Miguel Cairo of a home run in Yankee Stadium, with Cairo so sure his hit was gone that he rounded the bases and slapped hands with Kenny Lofton, oblivious to the fact that Ramirez had basically leaped into the stands to snag the ball out of the air. There was never a dull moment with Manny.
It was sad as a fan to see the train wreck that became the last few weeks of the Manny Era in Boston, and it was interesting to see the legions of Manny Apologists (who had steadfastly defended each and every one of his seemingly innocuous but self-centered antics through the years in ways which became ever more ridiculous as time went on) gradually switch camps and come to the realization that the slugger had outlived his welcome in Boston. As much as the Apologists tried to spin the July 31 trade as another example of the Red Sox front office’s lack of loyalty to the very players who brought two World Series titles this decade, the sad reality was that Manny ran himself out of town this time. The team just couldn’t take his antics anymore. And when it was reported that Scott Boras, Manny’s agent, told the Red Sox that if the team rescinded the trade that Manny would promise to behave for the rest of the year, it became more painfully obvious that the long-standing love-hate affair between one of the most eccentric and talented ballplayers ever to wear a Boston uniform had to end.
I am not one to wish ill will on anyone, especially someone who never did anything wrong to me personally. As a fan, I was treated to 7+ seasons of Manny-centric entertainment that included four playoff appearances and two championships. That being said, somewhere (if karma and the baseball gods ever conspire to reward the selfless, team-first attitudes that all of us sanctimonious, holier-than-thou sports media types claim to espouse) a negative fate will befall Manny Ramirez. I’m just glad we got to soak him in during his prime.
Just when I thought I couldn’t despise Brett Favre any more, he pushed his way back into the spotlight with his ridiculous non-retirement retirement, a dynamic that we have seen in the outrageous precedents of Michael Jordan’s and Roger Clemens’ tantalizing ends to their careers.
Favre was starting to remind me of the pathetic guy whose girlfriend breaks up with him, but he keeps calling her and texting her and “dropping by” her apartment just to say hi because he can’t bring himself to cut a clean break and move on, like ripping off a band-aid. No one wants to be that guy, but sometimes we end up as that guy without trying to be. Brett was that guy last week.
My dislike for Favre and the national media’s “favre-llatio” that accompanies his every move has been well-documented on our Poor Man’s PTI podcast, so I won’t go into it in great detail here. However, I can’t be more delighted that the ol’ gunslinger ended up with the Jets, a team that desperately needed to make a big splash to avoid getting swept under the rug in the New York papers by the Other Team in Town that, oh, just managed to miraculously upset the mighty New England Patriots in February and ruin their near-perfect season.
The Jets-Patriots rivalry was getting a little stale, to be honest. It was at its height in the late 90’s, when the defection of Parcells, Belichick, most of the other coaches, Curtis Martin, and many other players from Foxborough to East Rutherford was the genesis of the so-called Border Wars of that era. The rivalry probably peaked in the 1999 season, and had been slowly deteriorating since, as the Patriots became the most consistently dominant team in the past decade and the Jets became the AFC East equivalent of the Washington Generals, save for a fluky win here and there, such as 2006 at Gillette Stadium.
So now all of a sudden, we Patriots fans have a new reason to become invigorated by the two-game series against our divisional rivals 200 miles south. When Vin and I went through the Patriots schedule on last week’s show, we agreed that the Patriots would win both games against the Jets this season. Now, with Favre at the helm, I’ll be even more motivated to suggest using New England’s fantasy defense that week and the 4-6 interceptions they are likely to pull against the Jets’ aging gunslinger.
So Brett, I take back all my criticism of your lame comeback attempt. Thank you for returning to the league and giving me another reason to bet next month’s mortgage on the Patriots, giving however many points Vegas wants me to give. Thank you for giving Jets fans yet another reason to hate themselves this season after you go 8-8 and put Eric Mangini on the unemployment line, unable to find any coach that will employ him after he backstabbed Belichick last year with the overblown, so-called “Spygate” scandal. (Memo to all: there was no “spying” involved. Everything that was scouted was seen in plain sight.) And most of all, thank you for giving us two douchebag quarterbacks in New York to make fun of.
If you don’t know who “Clark Rockefeller” is, you are missing out on one of the most bizarre stories you are ever going to read. I won’t recap all the crazy details of this chicanery (if you want to learn more, check both Boston papers for some great in-depth coverage), but the gist of it is that there is this guy who kidnapped his 7-year-old daughter and was caught in Baltimore.
Upon further review, authorities believe that “Rockefeller”, as he called himself, has had multiple identities over the years, ranging from “Christian Gerhardstreiter”, a German exchange student who arrived at a Connecticut high school in the late 1970’s, to “Christopher Chichester,” an eccentric blueblood who is a person of interest in the suspicious deaths of a California couple in the 1980’s. To complicate matters, “Rockefeller” claims that he has no memory of anything before 1993, and “Chichester” had claimed to have been a mute for 10 years in his life because of some traumatic event that happened to him.
I don’t want to comment too much on this story other than to say that you should read and absorb every piece of information you can about this story. It is absolutely fascinating. I have been filling my mornings lately with the latest Rockefeller/Chichester news, and it is unbelievably riveting.
My question is if anyone has ever seen Rockefeller and the lead singer of Weezer together in the same room? If Rockefeller can play the Roman god Mars for a local theater company, what’s to stop him from singing “Buddy Holly” at a college spring weekend?
I can’t wait for more details of this story to come out. Maybe it’s because Manny is gone, we in New England have to fill the void in our lives that is lacking stories of quirky, schizophrenic characters who fled Boston in a futile search for a better life. Maybe this whole Rockefeller frenzy was simply “Chichester being Chichester.” Certainly Favre’s antics can be explained away as “Brett being Brett.” It would certainly explain a lot.