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Joey Votto's Insult Comedy: One Star

By: Jason Wojciechowski

Carson Cistulli once did his very best to imagine Joey Votto shouting things in Italian. Last night, Joey Votto did his very best to wreck some fans verbally, albeit in English. The reality, it turns out, is that Joey Votto is vastly more Canadian than he is Italian, and thus his insult comedy stylings, when informed that the fan remembered when Votto used to be good, only went as far as “I remember when you used to be thin."

Here's the problem with this: There's no reason to think that Votto actually does remember when the guy used to be thin. Now, you know, maybe! Maybe this heckler has been Votto's antagonist for years, sitting there right next to the on-deck circle and trying to get a rise out of the best player his team has seen since Barry Larkin's heyday, all the while scarfing too many ballpark franks and six-way chilis and god knows what other concoctions are on offer out there in Ohitucky, the result being an excess 40 pounds in the middle area and nothing at all from Votto for an entire decade (outside of near-annual MVP votes). All of which adds up to Votto saving up this devastatingly true and accurate insult for years before finally unleashing it at the perfect time: May 22, 2017.

Alternatively, Votto has no idea who this guy is and goes with a mediocre form of humor to start out with (fat joke) wrapped in a flat-out lie ("I remember when"). A good insult tells the truth, or at least tells a plausible lie. This isn't a plausible lie.

It's also a poorly thought-out comeback because the parallel structure gives credence to his antagonist's commentary. That is, the inherent point of saying, "I remember when you used to be good" is the devastating implication that you are no longer good. By responding in kind, with an insult that is physically verifiable, you adopt your assailant's frame and acknowledge his argument. If he was thin, but is no longer, than you are accepting his statement that you, by the same token, are no longer good. If he was never thin, then not only have you lied again, you have implied that he also lied and that you were never good.

I believe that Joey Votto can do better. He will need our help, but he can get there.

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Cringing for Spider-Man

By: Patrick Dubuque

We approached the stranger’s door. My left hand held the hand of my daughter, Sylvie, clad in a purple Batman shirt. My right hand held the random department store toy, hastily wrapped. Behind that door throbbed the life force of fifty children, parents and acquaintances, none of which we knew, few we’d likely care to. OK, Dubuque. This time you’re going to do it. You’re actually going to repeat people’s names back to them. You’re going to ask them what they “do.” You’re going to be social.

Five minutes later, I found myself seated on a couch in a playroom, holding my toddler-age son as he yelled at a plastic duck. I spoke to no one, smiled amiably into the middle distance. The plan was working well enough. Until a Spider-Man appeared.

This Spider-Man was dressed in the style of the eighties, bright primary colors and and eye-covering mask. The fabric was cheap and skin tight, to his detriment and our dismay. Half the children, upon seeing him, quickly fled; one burst into tears and had to be carried out. The rest, being three-year olds, continued playing with plastic beads, unabated.

It was not the ideal setting; the toy-littered floors certainly added their logistical constraints. And yet it was soon evident that Spider-Man didn’t really have anything to do in this room, besides mill. He hadn’t brought along a villain, he didn’t have anything to climb or swing from, and didn’t unleash any of those snarky witticisms that I guess are a Spider-Man thing. I don’t know.

What I did know is that I, sitting on a couch two feet from this costumed man, shuddered with an intense discomfort on his behalf. As he stood there, entirely ignored, entirely red, I felt like he was a living symbol for me as an introvert at every party. It’s not even like he was a bad Spider-Man; I certainly had no constructive advice for how he could improve. But neither could I bail him out, or talk to him, or do anything. I just wanted him to go, to get away, to stop making me feel bad for thinking about how bad he must feel.

This ability of mine for discomfort is so powerful it can extend thousands of miles and project itself onto millionaire strangers. It welled up again in me last weekend when I watched this moment:

Jered Weaver, perhaps having thrown his last ever pitch, yields a base hit to a man with only two others in his professional career. But it’s the flip of his glove backward that kills me: a useless gesture, nowhere close to the ball, propelled by the same hope embedded into every pitch of his seven-run, 0.2-inning performance. He reached out that glove, started that game, donned that brown jersey out of an honorable shamelessness, despite the pitching metrics that aren’t exactly sure he’s even alive. And yet: I can’t help but take that shame on for him. My gesture is equally useless, and infinitely more pathetic, though if he were two feet away it would be the same.

“Are you Spider-Man?” my daughter, who is not an introvert, asked.

He looked down, gratitude shining through his faceless veneer. “Yeah, I am.”

“I don’t really like spiders. But they’re okay, because they eat other bugs.” She gestured to the infant in my arms. “This is my brother Felix, and this is my daddy, and this is my friend Ellie. Did you know, it’s Ellie’s birthday…”

It’s crazy how a lack of empathy can be so empathetic.

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Blissful Boredom

By: Nathan Bishop

Baseball’s antiquity of design grants it a pace unlike virtually every other modern American leisure activity. Recently I happened upon Pirates starter Trevor Williams’ journey through the Phillies order, and found it ripe with pause. As ball one to Cameron Rupp sailed in, Pirates’ announcer Joe Block took just such a pause, and used it for his own purposes.

“I'd like to take a moment here if I may to congratulate my wife Nancy on completing nurse practitioner school. It's a big step in her career, and Nancy we are very proud of you.

Breaking ball in on the hands for ball two.”

According to the team’s information Pirates announcer Joe Block thinks of joining the organization as a homecoming because he once “visited the Steel City as a teenager to cheer for its sports teams”, a charmingly liberal interpretation of the concept of Home. The same biographical snippet tells us his wife, Nancy, is from the area. Joe left the Brewers to join the Pirates in 2016, and I would venture a guess family and home had a large role in the decision. Now here, for just a brief moment, baseball allowed the space for a simple, heartfelt expression of pride and congratulations. I have no idea if Nancy Block listens to her husband while he's at work, but I'd like to think she does.

After the aforementioned wayward curve, veteran color man Steve Blass murmured his assent:

“Ah yes, good job. Congratulations Nancy.”

Blass’ biographical snippet on the team site makes special care to point out that Blass once shot two holes-in-one during the same round of golf, and that the odds of that happening are 1 in 67 million. There is no earthly reason for this fact to appear on Steve Blass’ bio for the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball club other than he damn well made sure that it was.

As a Mariners fan I don't much care how many games the Pirates win this year, but I imagine I'll listen to a few more games, and wait around for more of the pauses baseball so freely gives. After all, Steve Blass once shot two holes-in-one in one round of golf, and that sounds like a story worth hearing.

Thank you for reading

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Cincinnati-style chili only goes up to five-way, not six. Shoddy reporting...
Yes. Beat me to the punch. No claim of artistic license can forgive that.
What can I say except that I'm sad you haven't had the transcendent chili that I have. I feel bad for you.
The clearly better of Votto's ripostes was staring down the heckler after every pitch of a PA that resulted in a double. The heckler had predicted a strikeout. That needs no dissection.
High degree of snark . . . low degree of humor. You're better than that!